Bliss River

The Forever Kiss


Bad As She Wants To Be
by Thea Devine
(Pocket, $14.00, NC-17) ISBN 1-4165-2416-9
A nobody from small town Maine, Frannie Luttrell finds herself swept away by the decadent country club-set when she saves poor little rich girl, Marianne Nyland, from drowning. Grateful, Marianne decides to repay Frannie by introducing her to the right people, right clothes and right parties. Renaming herself Frankie, Frannie quickly divests herself of her pesky virginity and hits the scene of the idle rich.

The road quickly leads to Manhattan where itís one big party after another, and itís not a true party unless there is sex involved. A lot of it. But Frankie soon realizes that the only man she truly wants is handsome lawyer, Dax Ė who wants nothing to do with her. Marianne corrupts everything she touches, and Dax finds the fact that Frankie is so easily corruptible distasteful. Whatís the girl to do except console herself with every other man in the five boroughs?

The first 200 pages of this story revolve entirely around one sexual shenanigan after another. Itís very easy to lose track of just how many men Frankie spends time with, and how much sex she has on any given day. After a while, the whole thing takes on a distasteful, sordid air, although none of these particular encounters is very well written. Frankie has more sex than a sailor on shore leave in Thailand, but the reader isnít really privy to any detail Ė giving the encounters a cold, detached feeling. It also means the pacing is off.

With the first 200 pages devoted to Marianneís mechanizations, Frankieís failure to see them, and again, the glorious amount of sex Ė that leaves very little room for actual plot, which is crammed into the final 100 pages when a dead body shows up and Frankie becomes tabloid fodder. The actual resolution to this death is very over-the-top and vintage Devine, who gleefully excels in writing camp. That said, with this entire development only arriving in the final third of the book, that means less time is given to resolving character baggage, which is dashed off in the final chapters.

The writing style here is surprisingly reined in. Devineís previous historical releases for Kensington Brava were littered with convoluted suspense threads, one word paragraphs, and stream of consciousness head hopping that had a tendency to be very distracting. Here, with this contemporary New York setting, the entire affair is more streamlined and easy reading. That said, the constant bed hopping, multiple partners, and nary a condom to be found make for some squirm-inducing moments. One can only hope that Marianne has a clinic on speed-dial for her and her friends.

At its heart, Bad As She Wants To Be features a story as old as time Ė young girl from nowhere becomes somebody and gets everything she ever wanted. Itís a compelling storyline that unfortunately gets lost in the sleazy sexcapades. This is a perfect selection for beach reading this summer, just as long as the reader doesnít mind the largely unlikable cast of characters and the written sexual equivalent of a Bangkok brothel. More trademark camp from Devine, which will likely work for fans, but leave the rest unmoved.

--Wendy Crutcher

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