Viva Las Bad Boys!
by HelenKay Dimon
(Brava, $14.00, R) ISBN 0-7582-1476-6
***
Three stories set in the Berkley Hotel and Casino that happen simultaneously during a power outage form the framework for Viva Las Bad Boys!, a debut anthology by new author HelenKay Dimon. The premise is clever. As with many anthologies, it’s a mixed bag, with a few highlights and a few new-author bumps in the road.

In “Jackpot,” Jack MacAllister has come to Vegas for a weekend of gambling. He’s rather intrigued by the blonde woman who sits down next to him at the blackjack table, particularly since she’s wearing a white wedding dress. Laine Monroe is actually in Vegas trying to get some information out of Jack, and she borrowed the wedding dress to impersonate a runaway bride. She’s an accountant who has managed to “lose” a sizeable sum of money and is now out of a job. Laine figures that Jack, who is a partner of sorts with her former boss, must be part of an embezzlement scheme. Her plan is to seduce him, but drug him before they have sex so she can snoop around in his briefcase.

Why Laine thinks a businessman from San Diego would come to Vegas for the weekend and bring a briefcase full of incriminating documents with him is beyond me, but that’s a side issue. The plot moves forward only because Laine is a complete klutz and a terrible liar. She drops the sleeping pills all over the floor, manages to drug Jack only with a Midol-like cramp medicine, and ends up having torrid sex with him in his hotel room during a power outage. Along the way, her lies begin to unravel under her growing feeling that Jack isn’t a villain after all.

The story is a weak opener to the anthology. Forced plotting based on a clumsy, inept heroine doesn’t work too well, though the sex is fun. Two stars for this one.

In “Player’s Club,” hotshot chef Zach Jacobs can’t keep his mind off the new management consultant, Jenna Barrister. Jenna is completely unimpressed with Zach’s playboy image, rejects his advances, and regards him with the same bored gaze she might use on a dead insect.

Zach has supposedly slept with half the women in Vegas, but even the best of authors couldn’t redeem a man-ho of that magnitude, so it’s really all an act. It’s just his way of saying “screw you” to his powerful stepfather, who doesn’t approve of Zach’s chosen career and his hound-dog lifestyle. This motivation might have worked on a rebellious fifteen-year-old, but for a thirty-something guy, it just reeks of an adolescent who hasn’t grown up.

Zach and Jenna are trapped in his office when the power goes out, which leads to plenty of hot sex. Jenna, who is so cool and efficient toward Zach, can’t manage to tell her own secretary to button her blouse and cover her silicone-enhanced DD’s, or even to call Jenna by the correct name. This conveniently leads to a misunderstanding involving Zach, the secretary, and the aforementioned DDs.

In the meantime, Zach and Jenna talk. And talk. And talk. Most of it is in throwaway lines and sexual innuendoes that don’t advance the story, but take up page space. The sex might be inventive, but the romance played second fiddle. Two hearts.

The final story, “Two of a Kind,” features hotel critic Caroline Rogers and Berkley’s assistant manager, Alex Mitchell. Caroline arrives at the hotel a week early, due to a scheduling snafu, and the spa in the new wing isn’t ready yet. Our intrepid reporter doesn’t let that stop her, however. She bribes a hotel maid to let her sneak into the spa so she can soak in the whirlpool. Caroline is instantly discovered by Alex, who comes in to see why a woman is breaking into the spa. They argue and bicker for about ten pages, then the lights go out and they’re stuck.

Caroline has body issues, considering herself to be fat and unattractive. Alex thinks she’s nothing of the sort, but rather lush and sensuous. As things heat up in the spa during the power outage, Carolyn learns to let go and just enjoy. But when Alex discovers that Carolyn is really “Veronica Hampton” and is there to pick apart his hotel in print, you can guess what will happen.

Carolyn and Alex were both rather enjoyable characters. It’s nice to read about a female lead who isn’t a size two, and Alex comes across as genuine rather than as a playboy, so they are well matched. The predictability of the story line doesn’t lift this out of three-heart territory, though.

Overall, Viva Las Bad Boys! is an unexceptional anthology with flashes of real promise, and a difficult book to give a rating. Others may find this to be just the sexy trilogy they’re looking for. I found myself wondering what HelenKay Dimon would do with a full-length novel, and I hope I have the chance to find out.

--Cathy Sova


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