Bad Boys Next Exit
by Shannon McKenna, Donna Kauffman & E.C. Sheedy
(Brava, $14.00, NC-17) ISBN 0-7582-0556-2
****
Another month, another Brava anthology; but just when I was about to give up on them altogether, Bad Boys Next Exit makes an appearance and slaps me in the face. While one of the entries comes off like a teenager playing dress-up, the other two are smokin’ hot enough to earn a recommendation.

Shannon McKenna starts things off with “Meltdown.” Jane Duvall is a frustrated actress working for a headhunting firm. Her latest assignment requires her to bag an employee already working for Michael “Mac” McNamara. When the employee in question fails to make their arranged meeting, it’s Mac who ends up giving Jane a tour of his hotel’s finest suite. But what will happen when Mac learns what Jane is really after?

Every now and then I read a story I know I shouldn’t like, but I just can’t help myself. Mac is Alpha to the point of being a Neanderthal, and he’s got this thing about liars since he was naturally screwed over by his dysfunctional parents. Jane tries to spill the beans right away, but golly, she’s too busy getting molested by Mac to say anything. What this story does have to redeem itself is the sex – hot, intense, naughty and never, ever pretty. God bless Shannon McKenna for giving readers sex the way nature intended – spontaneous and unchoreographed.

Donna Kauffman keeps the good times rolling with “Exposed.” Delilah “Del” Hudson is stranded on a train in the middle of a blizzard when she makes the acquaintance of a handsome stranger. Photographer Austin Morgan is trying to get home to settle some family business when he’s immediately taken with Del’s exotic good looks. Needless to say, these strangers don’t waste any time getting to know each other in the biblical sense. But will their relationship continue after they learn more about each other – like their names?

For anyone who has ever fantasized about hot sex with a hot stranger, Kauffman takes the idea and runs with it. It’s an intense, fast, and so darn hot I hated the fact that I was temporarily called away from finishing the story in one sitting. Austin is a photographer, so there are certain aspects of the couple’s sexual interlude that may disturb some – but in this reviewer’s opinion, “Exposed” is a near perfect fantasy wrapped around interesting people.

Last and certainly least is the dud of the bunch, “Pure Ginger” by E.C. Sheedy. Ginger Cameron is sick of love ‘em and leave ‘em men. So she decides to go on a man fast by dressing like someone’s 75-year-old maiden aunt. Then this P.R. exec gets a chance to land the account promoting the new movie theater in town – a theater owned by handsome pretty boy Cal Beaumann. Can Ginger keep her hormones in check and thwart Cal’s busy hands?

Someone needs to tell Ginger that in order to be taken seriously, a nice tailored suit and clean lines would work better than burlap and orthopedic shoes. Cal isn’t fooled by her dress-up act, and immediately starts putting moves on that scream sexual harassment instead of persistent would-be lover. Ginger continues to act silly for the whole story, and it’s capped off with an ending that features her trying out yet another persona. She’s like a 12-year-old girl playing dress up in her big sister’s closet. She doesn’t know who she is, and neither does the reader.

Ultimately, Bad Boys Next Exit works when the reader shuts off her brain and lets go to the fantasies that the authors’ spin. Despite the misguided entry by Sheedy, the McKenna and Kauffman stories more than earn my recommendation for sexy, fantasy driven reads for a hot day at the beach. This is one Brava anthology that gets off the ground.

--Wendy Crutcher


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