Bad Boys Next Exit is the latest anthology in Brava Books “Bad Boys” franchise. Authors Shannon McKenna, Donna Kauffman, and E.C. Sheedy offer up three very different stories ranging from the very dark and earthy tones of “Meltdown" and the emotionally moving “Exposed” to the lighthearted romp of “Pure Ginger.” A chance encounter with a stranger changes the lives of each of the women in the stories and is the uniting basis for the anthology.
“Meltdown” by Shannon McKenna centers on an unexpected meeting between Jane Duvall, a professional headhunter, and Michael “Mac” McNamara, CEO of Crowne Royale Group. Jane, who uses her theater skills to ferret out information necessary for her job, goes headhunting at the Kingsbridge Crowne Hotel under the guise of doing a piece for a magazine, but ends up meeting with Mac instead of the man she is supposed to be trying to recruit. Their attraction to one another is instantaneous and explosive.
Jane tries to find a way to tell Mac who she really is without jeopardizing their tentative relationship, not knowing that he has already discovered her deceit. Both characters come with baggage from the past, and their relationship seems to be the catalyst to lancing the poison from past wounds. Their relationship is stripped to its most basic and is very primal and raw, bordering on cruel and violent. They seem to bring out the very worst and, in the end, the very best in one another. Not a comfortable read, but certainly a compelling and enthralling one.
“Two strangers on a train, heading nowhere.” This quote from Donna Kauffman’s offering “Exposed” sums up the heart of the story. Advertising photographer Del Hudson is on her way home to New York, looking forward to being alone over the Christmas holidays and photographing the city she loves. Austin Morgan, a successful photographer of cover models, is on his way home to Virginia to deal with the death of his father from whom he had been estranged. Stranded on a snowbound train on Christmas Eve, they meet when both venture out to photograph the storm from the back of the train.
What begins as the perfect train fantasy becomes something more for both of them. Stepping outside of their safe zones and taking a chance on love-at-first-sight is almost too much for them to handle. Their relationship is sexy, sensual, and poignant. Getting past their own barriers is tough and in the end they must decide if it is worth the risk. A very touching love story.
E. C. Sheedy’s “Pure Ginger” is a lighthearted romp between the sheets. Ginger Cameron is Ginger Ink, a local public relations firm. After being taken in by a married man, Ginger decides to change her look and her attitude. She tones down her flamboyant, hot look and begins to dress in baggy beige. Swearing off men, she devotes herself entirely to her advertising business. That resolve is tested three months later when she meets green-eyed hunk Cal Beaumann.
Opening his new theater, Cinema Neo, is taking all Cal Beaumann’s time and attention. Wanting to use a local firm for his PR, he calls Ginger Ink, but is disappointed by the pale, beige woman who represents them. He needs someone hip and edgy to help represent his venture and Ginger isn’t it. But Ginger bullies her way into another meeting with Cal and before long he sees the real woman beneath the baggy, concealing suits. Cal, on the other hand, tests all Ginger’s resolve of staying away from the gorgeous bad-boy type that has always attracted her and been her downfall. The final conflict between them is flimsy, but it is still a fun story and Ginger is an exuberant girl you can’t help but like.
Bad Boys Next Exit dishes up three completely different styles of stories that have little in common except solid writing and bad boy heroes. The variety in the stories ensures that there is something there for everyone to enjoy, but on the flip side, you might not like some as well as others. Still, if you enjoy one or all of the works, all three talented authors have more books for you to savor and enjoy.