Baddest Bad Boys
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Buy *Baddest Bad Boys* by Shannon McKenna, E.C. Sheedy and Cate Noble online

Baddest Bad Boys
Shannon McKenna, E.C. Sheedy and Cate Noble
384 pages
May 2008
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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As another romance anthology from Brava, it's fairly predictable what Baddest Bad Boys will be like and it is, although the three stories are surprisingly similar in execution: hero and heroine have known each other for a long time but haven't gotten together for various reasons; the woman is in danger and ends up somewhere remote with the hero. Sex follows, of course, and despite the initial agreement that it's just scratching an itch rather than a prelude to something longer term, our hero and heroine can't deny the special nature of their relationship. Each story contains a short scene where the heroine is in danger, but it's all sorted very quickly. I've checked the information on the back of the book and various marketing pieces, but nowhere does it say that the overall plots are similar; perhaps this is just an unexpected coincidence, one that does make the anthology feel rather same-y.

ANY TIME, ANYWHERE by Shannon McKenna
Jon Amendola is a cop who grew up in foster homes. He's a tough man who lives for his job but needs a break, having closed the case on the serial killer "the Egg Man." Robin MacNamara has always loved Jon while he barely noticed her; she's nine years younger than him and still trying to emerge from the shadows of her protective older brothers. When she hears that Jon is staying at her brother's cabin, she decides to go there to seduce him. Jon is surprisingly resistant, but she manages to wear him down. What they don't realize is that the Egg Man had an accomplice. That woman is out to get revenge on Jon and those he loves, and Robin might just be more important to Jon than he knows.

"Anytime, Anywhere" is a reasonable story with likeable characters. In the Brava tradition, there is a great deal of sex while the actual plot could have been bolstered a little more. The final scene where Robin is kidnapped feels unlikely - the perpetrator would probably have planned it out more efficiently. On the positive side, the dialogue between the characters works fairly well.

Tommi Smith, the heroine of this story, isn't particularly likeable. She's always been a siren, and her close friendship with Hugh Fleming caused his younger brother some emotional pain. Mac, the brother, is five years younger than Tommi and has had a crush on her since he was 13 years old. When Tommi is sent to stay with Mac at his remote house in order to avoid a dangerous man, she finds that Mac has grown up rather impressively. She's being stalked by a killer, of course, although this side of the plot seems pretty unlikely - as does the final denouement.

While this is a reasonable read, almost all the attention is paid to the sex scenes and very little to enhancing the plot or providing fuller characterization. Mac falls short of the depth of characterization found with Jon in the previous story.

Presumably the title of this short story is a nod to the overall book title, Baddest Bad Boys, which is probably wise - Mac in the previous story isn't 'bad' in the slightest (although Jon could be seen as such in the first). Still, Max DeLuca, the eponymous 'devil', isn't really very devilish: just another successful, rich, work-obsessed businessman of the type often found in this kind of story. He's carried a torch for Ellie McMann DeLuca, his brother's widow, for many years. Now his brother is dead, and Ellie owns some shares important to his company. He would like to do a deal with her for them - the deal is for seven nights of sensual pleasure. Ellie agrees and is whisked away to his private island, but some baddies are after her and the remote island might not be entirely a place of safety.

This story rehashes the plots of the previous two but with less attention to characterization. Rather unusually, it is told from Max's point of view rather than Ellie's most of the time, but I wasn't quite convinced by his thoughts. His tendency to answer his phone or dash off some work at vital moments is also unattractive, although that can't really be classed as devilish.

These three similar stories all have something else in common: they're nothing special. This line of books focuses strongly on the sex side of the story, but I can't help feeling that they would repay closer attention to the plots and the characters. For those who like this kind of story, however, Baddest Bad Boys is a reasonable collection.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Helen Hancox, 2008

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