|How much you enjoy MaryJanice Davidson’s Really Unusual Bad Boys is likely to depend on your mood. This single-author anthology is a book to read when you want the equivalent of a fun, frothy parfait. It’s not particularly filling, but it’s sweet while it lasts.
The first story, “Bridefight,” features Lois Commoner, a police detective who has been assigned to desk duty after being seriously injured. She is miserable. Lois’s mother died in a car accident, and Lois has felt bereft ever since. Now that Lois can no longer do the active police work she loves, she decides it’s time to commit suicide. Whatever is in the afterlife must be better than this.
Lois wakes in a strange land where a handsome man can turn into a puma. He thinks she is beautiful and wants to take her back to his palace. Lois doesn’t know where she is, but she decides to go with the man/puma. His name is Damon, and he is a prince.
There is no explanation for why Lois ends up where she does, and you’ll be frustrated if you require an answer. The story’s strengths lie in its witty banter and humorous moments, such as Lois’s belief that a Star Trek marathon is the perfect backdrop for her suicide. (I am a Trek fan, by the way, and still found this amusing.) “Bridefight” ends up being a four-heart story.
“Mating Season” is the second story in the anthology, and it features Damon’s brother Maltese. While he is at an outdoor pool, he wishes for someone he could love. The result is a woman named Anne Sanger falling into the pool. While she desperately wants to get back to her time period in World War II, Maltese is convinced that Anne is the woman for him.
Maltese is a sweet hero; he’s definitely the best part of this story. While he wants Anne to stay, he doesn’t want her to be unhappy, so he helps her try to return home. It’s unclear why he wants Anne, though, other than that she arrives just as he is wishing for someone. In addition, Anne’s sudden decision to stay is much too abrupt. A more in-depth exploration of her character might have made this transition more believable. Three hearts.
“Groomfight” rounds out the anthology, and once again, the hero is one of Damon’s brothers. This time, Shakar meets his match, Rica Callanbra. He wishes to be anywhere else, and he is instantly in an unfamiliar world, where he meets a woman named Rica. He stays with her for a time, then he starts feeling homesick. He wants Rica to return to his home with him.
Rica and Shakar fall in love quickly, almost too quickly. The conflict that occurs later in the story dealt with easily, making the resolution almost anticlimactic. Three hearts.
Don’t read Really Unusual Bad Boys looking for realism. It’s pure fantasy, and a number of points remain unexplained. Why does committing suicide lead Lois to Damon’s world? Why do some people get there by committing suicide, others by dying, and still others for no apparent reason at all? If you’re looking for a fun read and don’t look too closely at the details, you might enjoy this light, parfait read, too.