All I Want
For Christmas

Bad Boys on Board


Caught in the Act

Duets 23



I Brake For Bad Boys

In Too Deep



Jude's Law

Little Miss Innocent


Murphy's Law


Say No to Joe?

Sex Appeal


Too Much Temptation

Treat Her Right


When Bruce Met Cyn...

When Good Things Happen to Bad Boys


Simon Says
by Lori Foster
(Berkley, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-425-21658-3
Highly readable, possibly flawed (depending on your point of view), this book is quintessential Lori Foster.

Simon Evans, former champion competitor and highly-regarded trainer in the Supreme Battle Championship, or SBC, is getting ready to make a comeback in the “fighting biz.”

Dakota Dream wants to meet Simon. But it’s not because she’s a die-hard SBC fan (although she is), or because she has some martial arts training herself (she does), but because her stepfather, Barnaby, has sent her to find the fighter. Barnaby claims that Simon is his biological son, and he wants to meet him.

Dakota loathes her stepfather, but he claims to have some letters written to Dakota by her estranged mother shortly before her mother’s death – and he’ll only give them to her if she delivers Simon.

When Dakota shows up at the gym where Simon is training, he’s intrigued by this “Barbie clone” who seems to know a lot about his sport. Dakota is intrigued right back by his shaved head, athletic body, and even by his suggestive single entendres.

When she finally gets around to telling Simon what she’s really after, he’s not interested. He’s got a wonderful stepfather whom he loves and respects, and the idea of meeting Barnaby has no appeal. Naturally, she refuses to tell him why she’s involved – not because she has a good reason, but because if he’s a nice guy, he’ll probably agree to do it just to help her out, and the author would have to find a more convincing reason for the story to continue.

This book is, in my opinion, very consistent with what I expect from Lori Foster. The writing is energetic and kept my interest. She does a great job of pushing the hero and heroine together in plausible ways that fit their characters and the situation. Her original and highly engaging voice is, I have no doubt, a huge part of her success. Her characters live in life’s day-to-day trenches, not in some rarified atmosphere of privilege, and her books have a powerful internal reality that’s enormously appealing.

The chemistry sizzles between Simon and Dakota, and both of them are likable and attractive characters, although consistency and believability vary at the convenience of the author. Simon is a charming knuckle-dragger – or diamond in the rough, if you prefer – but every once in a while says something really girly, which sounds more like the author talking. For example, he thinks a hot shower sounds “heavenly,” and resists a public display of affection with Dakota because they’ve “caused enough gossip.”

I usually like Ms. Foster’s heroines, who are feisty and stand up for themselves – Dakota learned self-defense so she would not feel so vulnerable – but I sometimes like them in spite of the fact that they’re not very bright with it. Dakota is one of those annoying girls who gets into trouble because she keeps insisting that she can take care of herself, even when it’s clear to everyone else that she’s not doing such a great job. Mostly those women disappeared from romance novels in the early days of the new millennium, and most of us said ‘good riddance.’

And she’s ridiculously coy about why she wants to get Barnaby and Simon together. Come on, girl, do you want those letters or not? Again, the author has made this choice primarily to draw out the story, so it’s very unsatisfying.

There’s a subplot in which Dakota’s life is in danger, which ends with her using her fighting skills to beat the crap out of someone. Now, I don’t want to get all Politically Correct and whatever, but I have to say I’m not crazy about this, no matter how much you think the bad guy had it coming. It wouldn’t be okay for a man to knock around a female character, no matter what she’d done to him, so, in my opinion, saying it’s all right for the female to beat up a man is just an uncomfortable double standard.

This would make a good beach book – although it’s spicy enough that you may want to read it in air conditioned comfort rather than sitting in the sun!

-- Judi McKee

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