I Break For Bad Boys
by Lori Foster, Janelle Denison, and Shannon McKenna; contemporary (2002)
Brava, $14.00, ISBN 0-7582-0417-5

Unlike I Love Bad Boys, which is a Braindead Virgin Showcase, I Brake For Bad Boys feature slightly more experienced if equally pathetic heroines. I can't wait for the next one, I Blow Bad Boys. Now that will be fun. All three stories here feature a similar theme: women swept away and dominated by men. It's the Apple Pie equivalent of sexual fantasies: have sex without any responsibility from the women's part. Yeah, I'm a woman and I've had a great time, but don't hate me, readers. I didn't make the first move - he did. I'm such a virtuous woman. Drape me in a Confederate flag and set me on fire, because I don't think I can take any more of these Apple Pie Values in a subgenre that's supposed to be all about the spankies.

I sincerely hope Lori Foster willingly gets a smaller cut of her share from the proceeds of this book. Her Drive Me Wild is the shortest, and that's before counting the pointless pages where the characters from the previous Brava novel/novellas of this author chew scenery. It is one thing to try to capture the attention of fickle-minded readers by chaining every freaking book one writes into one happy epic, but taking up precious space in a novella to do that at the expense of story and characterization? That is where I draw the line.

And besides, this story is so half-baked, the author probably dictated it to the editor via her mobile while taking her morning toilet session. Erica Lee, supposedly strong, on a dare from her friends has to look for a sex slave. This, people, is what series heroines do when they are not being bankrupted by lousy financial decisions or agonizing over how to conceive a baby once the magic 30 deadline hits them. What a lively lot. I say we ship them all to an atoll and test a nuclear warhead on them all.

Anyway, Erin's long time secret admirer Ian Conrad has had enough. He decides to woo her. By "woo", I mean he confronts her, calls her stupid - she is, I concur - and fickle and flirty and tells her that she is no longer allowed to see or sleep with anybody else but him. If a man says that to me, he's going to get his balls kicked so deep he will be swallowing them for breakfast. Erica looks at his powerful thighs and body and swoons. This is sexy, this is powerful.

After some pointless rambling, they do a shower thing that is lifted straight out of the author's last book, out last month, Never Too Much. Hmm, maybe this novella is conceived in between the author digging her nostrils and working over Never Too Much or something.

Silly Harlequin Blaze sex scene, extended a little longer to increase the duration of stupefaction it causes on me, and it's love, the end.

What an inspiring story. I'm going to sit on my toilet bowl tomorrow morning, take a notepad, and see what I can write during that time I need to um, do my thing. You reading this, Kate Duffy? Call me dear, I have so many half-baked crappy stuff you can fill the next twenty Brava anthologies with, I'm at my hotline 1800-OH-BITE-ME.

Jenelle Denison's story is pretty sexy, if one finds interoffice sexual harrassment sexy. Eric Wilde leers at his underling Jill Richardson and thinks lewd thoughts at her while she's all professional and all. He's a playboy. He gets into the same elevator as her, jams the elevator into stalling, blocks the emergency button, and asks her to have dinner with him.

Jill, that stupid girl, melts inside. This is so sexy! Let's have some after-office sex games! So here we have, lots of hot sex games, yummy yummy yummy. Then that stupid girl remembers just whom she has diddled with, and like so many braindead "Punish me! Punish me! I am a slut and I deserve to be Punished!" heroines around, quits her job, gives up her dreams of career at the company, all because she slept with the boss. You'd think she's the first person in this world to sleep her way to the top. Oops, did I say that? Sorry, Jill, you slept with the big honcho for love. Does that make you feel better?

An evil thought struck me then. If these authors are so intent on showing me how good women can only find fulfilment in lives via their husbands and perpetual state of breeding and housewifery and all, why don't these authors retire to take care of their hubbies and kids 24/7? Don't write these stories, we have people like Ann Coulter and Jerry Falwell doing a much better job at crappoevangelism than you lovely Apple Pie loving authors of the Silhouette "Our Heroines Rarely Suck, But Boy, Does Our Writing Ever!" Suckorama line, just go home and give your family a happy and loving home, just like Martha's.

I know: I'm so evil, I'm going to hell, yadda yadda yadda.

Shannon McKenna delivers the only genuinely sexy novella of the bunch, Touch Me. But this novella also disturbs me. See, I thought this author's grunting, mumbling, barely coherent hero in Behind Closed Doors is a character created for the context of the story. But after reading Touch Me, I would heartily recommend this author to try creating a hero whose language abilities will not make a grunting Neanderthal come off like Socrates. Seriously, Ms McKenna, it is okay to use commas and multiple subjects in one sentence. Work on those dialogues, please, because the hero Jonah Markham, between his obsession with his Granddad (whom he really calls "Granddad") and his barely Cro-Magnon speech pattern, that man is really channeling Norman Bates too much for my comfort.

What is puzzling though is that Ms McKenna doesn't hesitate to overuse italics and commas in her non-dialogue narratives. I don't know what to make of this author's style. The dialogues are barely better than gruntings or curt orders a little more sophisticated than "Tarzan want! Jane strip!", but there are reams and reams of internal monologues that have no problem going on and on and on.

Okay, the plot. Tess Langley just can't say no to her client Jonah Markham - she's a massage therapist - when he does a Pretty Woman thing and pays her to accompany him to a mountain hideaway of his. There, they have lots of sex in between gruntings and short, short exchanges passed off as conversations and a million ruminations of insecurities and all, but the sex is hot. The sex is very hot.

Tess is the typical insecure, hapless, whiny heroine whom one can only drag into a sexual situation by everything short of outright coercion. Jonah is a little better as the awkward guy, but thanks to the author's curt and barely functional way of writing dialogues, there is very little in her characters to interest me outside their bedroom. This is one novella where the sex is very well-done, but the author's technique could use some polishing. Remember, Ms McKenna, loose and periodic sentences are our friends, but they shouldn't be restricted to overdone mental babblings only. Dialogues are our friends too. And dialogues need loose and periodic sentences once in a while or they become painful to the ears and we all tune out.

I Brake For Bad Boys is infinitely much better than the previous brainpower-free Virgin Ninny Seduction thing that is the last anthology, but it is still a barely functional anthology filled on the whole with too much lazy writing, lazier plotting, and pathetic characterization. Shannon McKenna doesn't do too badly, but her grunting and curt characters have all the cheery disposition of a dyspeptic coupling of Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd.

All in all, a perfect anthology for series readers - and authors - to make pretend that they are grown-ups now writing or reading sexy stories for grown-ups.

So, when is I Blow Bad Boys coming out?

Rating: 47

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