Bad Boys Do Blurb:
Olivia Bishop is no fun. That’s what her ex-husband said. And that’s what her smart bob and glasses imply. So with her trademark determination, Olivia sets out to remake her life. She’s going to spend time with her girlfriends and not throw it all away for some man. But when an outing with her book club leads her to a brewery taproom, the dark-haired beauty realizes that trouble—in the form of sexy Jamie Donovan—may be too tempting to avoid.
Jamie Donovan doesn’t mean to be bad. Sure, the wild streak in his wicked green eyes has lured the ladies before. Now it’s time to grow up. He’s even ready for a serious romance. But how can that be when Olivia, the only right woman he has ever met, already has him pegged as wrong?
Bad Boys Do (September 2011, HQN) is the second book in the Donovan Brothers trilogy, contemporary romances set in Boulder, Colorado about three siblings who lost their parents in an auto accident some years ago, and are working together to grow the local watering hole established by their dad. Jamie, the youngest at age 29, is the gorgeous blond bartender. He’s trying to put his partying days behind him, but his big sister (Tessa, the heroine of Book 1) can’t see it, and keeps him pegged as the studmuffin in a kilt who can lure the ladies to the bar. (For the record, I had not read Good Girls Won’t, and had no problem jumping in with this book).
Jamie is pretty pessimistic when it comes to convincing his siblings that he’s ready to become a bigger partner in the business. The way his sister treats him — as a sex object — was wince-inducing to read. But he forges ahead, taking a business class at the local community college, where he meets Olivia Bishop. They are at completely different places in their lives, with Olivia just divorcing her overbearing, adulterous professor husband. She’s thirty-five, but because she met her older husband at a young age, her own career has been back-burnered and and is just now trying to figure out who she is and what she wants for herself.
The attraction between Olivia and Jamie is strong, and Dahl definitely knows how to write love scenes. To celebrate Bad Boys Do making the USA Today Bestseller list, yesterday Dahl posted an excerpt from a hot tub scene on her Tumblr. As always with Dahl, these scenes are not gratuitous, but develop the characters and the relationship. It’s wonderful to read about a very self-controlled, taken-for-granted woman loosening up with a man who appreciates her, and about a man who never took sex seriously, recognizing for the first time when a tumble means more than a moment’s pleasure. It’s only in bed that Olivia can really let her true affection show through.
Dahl captures academic life perfectly. Dear Author recently posted about difficulties in appreciating books written about your own professional field. Not only does Dahl get university life down, but she captures the specific experience of teaching and working as an adjunct at a community college, which is not the same at working at State U, or Ivy League U. I usually can’t read romances about professors having relationships with students (in real life, it’s usually a middle aged man throwing over the mother of his children for a younger grad student. Not romantic.), but Dahl finessed this perfectly: it’s a non-credit night class for professionals.
Jamie is pure gold, one of my favorite kind of heroes. He’s the sexy, confident guy with the bad boy rep who is ready to step it up, and has found the woman he wants to do it with. His fun loving spirit brings Olivia out of her shell, and it’s a delight to join them for the ride. His own struggle is really with his siblings. Jamie’s fights with Tessa and Eric are intense and believable. Not every romance family has to be the Bridgertons, and I am glad for it. I’ll be very interested to see how Dahl redeems older brother Eric, because he sure came off as a jerk in this one.
Olivia is guarded. She let her identity be determined by her father-figure of a husband, and it is going to take her a while to get over her self-image as a downer. Some other readers have had a hard time with Olivia’s obsession with the age difference, but to me, that was her character. She was told over and over that her only value was in serving as a helpmeet to her husband. It’s going to take her some time to develop a sense of entitlement to her own happiness, and throwing up ridiculous excuses (like the age difference) is going to be her coping mechanism for a while.
The only real problem I had with the book was Olivia’s ex. He was a bit of a caricature, and the subplot involving his own new relationship was undercooked. The main problem was that he kept showing up, and in such an intense, stalkery way that I viewed him as a potential physical threat to Olivia. By the end, I saw his character differently, but it strikes me that it probably wasn’t Dahl’s intention to make readers waste energy worrying that Olivia was going to be held hostage by her ex, which I did. Perhaps I’ve been so conditioned by reading other romances in which, if the ex is present, he is a violent nutter, that I over-interpreted the ex’s actions in Bad Boys Do. At any rate, I found the tone of that characterization off.
That aside, from the first scene, I was completely hooked on Jamie and Olivia, both as individual characters, and as part of a developing relationship. With Dahl’s characteristic attention to detail, funny and sexy writing, and true-to-life relationships and situations, it’s another winner from one of my favorite romance writers writing today.