When Good Things Happen to Bad Boys
by Lori Foster, Erin McCarthy & HelenKay Dimon
(Brava, $14.00, R) ISBN 0-7582-0933-9
****
The trouble with many anthologies is that one or two stories are often quite strong while the others . . . aren’t. In the case of When Good Things Happen to Bad Boys, all three novellas are excellent, making it a book that’s easy to recommend.

Lori Foster opens the anthology with “Playing Doctor.” Libby Preston meets Axel Dean at a dinner party thrown by her uncle. When they go outside to the gardens, things heat up between them. But that’s before Axel knows Libby’s age and that she’s a virgin.

The story sounds clichéd, but the spin Foster takes with the characters makes them unique. “Playing Doctor” works mainly because of Axel — the man falls for Libby and he falls hard. There’s a 14 year age gap between them, but once he finds out how old (I should say young) Libby is, Axel considers the situation carefully before getting involved further. It helps that he doesn’t use his age as an excuse to boss her around, as is sometimes the case in age-gap stories. Four hearts.

Erin McCarthy’s “The Lady of the Lake” is the second story. In it, Violet Caruthers falls off her oblivious boyfriend’s boat. When he doesn’t return for her, she’s left to float until being picked up by Dylan Diaz. Violet isn’t heartbroken by her boyfriend’s defection. In fact, what she wants most is to have a child. And that’s something Dylan might be willing to help her with.

Not every author could make a story like this work, but McCarthy brings two characters together with her trademark combination of humor and emotion. They are so real that it’s believable for them to care for each other by the end of the story. Four hearts.

“Hardhats and Silk Stockings” by HelenKay Dimon concludes the anthology. In an intriguing role reversal, the heroine is a construction worker and the hero is an architect. Whit Thomas has had his eye on Hannah Bridges for some time, but it’s only when he lures her to a secret room that she admits her interest in him.

Hannah is pitch-perfect as a woman who conceals her body because of the field she's in and who conceals her heart because someone close to her has hurt her. She holds out emotionally just a little too long after Whit showed his feelings were genuine, but it made sense for her character with the story. Four hearts.

When Good Things Happen to Bad Boys is a strong anthology with three excellent stories. If you want to try a book in the long-running Bad Boys series, this is a great one to choose.

--Alyssa Hurzeler


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