Beach Blanket Bad Boys
by Linda Lael Miller, Alison Kent, Lucy Monroe, Jill Shalvis, Susanna Carr, & Morgan Leigh
(Brava, $15.00, R) ISBN 0-7582-1094-9
****
I enjoy novellas. At their best, they tell an engaging story that’s easy to read in one sitting. Telling a story in fewer pages, though, runs a risk of minimizing character development. Some authors get around the short page-length issue by writing about characters who already know each other. That’s the case with several of the stories in this anthology. Most of the stories in Brava anthology Beach Blanket Bad Boys fall in the engaging category, making this an enjoyable summer read.

“Batteries Not Required” by Linda Lael Miller headlines the anthology. Told in first person, it describes Gayle’s return home after 10 years. She’s never gotten over Tristan, her first love, and he’s never forgotten her.

Reuniting after 10 years is so commonly used in romance that it’s become cliché. That issue aside, Gayle and Tristan generate plenty of heat when they are together. The story also includes several humorous moments, such as the scene where Gayle describes her vibrator as if it were her boyfriend. I wish “Batteries Not Required” had been longer, but it still feels like a complete story. Four hearts.

Longtime lovers Sara and Jax deal with some unexpected changes in Alison Kent’s “Sara Smiles.” Six months ago, Sara turned down Jax’s offer of marriage. Now, she’s changed her mind, and she schedules a weekend away with him so they can discuss the future.

The conflict in this story is unique and real, although it is drawn out just a little too long. One conversation in particular seems like it is unnecessarily postponed. However, Kent does an exceptional job of showing how the sex in this story reflects the state of their relationship. In addition, the ending is quite sweet. Four hearts.

In Lucy Monroe’s “Seducing Tabby,” Tabby knows that most men who try to get close to her really want information about her attractive sister. She therefore finds herself nonplussed to discover that handsome Calder is interested in her.

There are some nice moments in this story. During one of Tabby’s first conversations with Calder, she starts reciting facts about her sister because she is sure that’s why he spends time with her. Calder counters by stating things he’s learned about Tabby. While enjoyable, “Seducing Tabby” would have benefited immensely from 10 more pages that helped portray the transition from good chemistry to love. Three hearts.

“Captivated” by Jill Shalvis tells the story of Ella, an investigator who has gotten herself handcuffed to a towel rack. Luckily, James is nearby to rescue her. The fact that he is her soon-to-be ex-husband complicates matters. Their problem isn’t one of sexual compatibility. Instead, he believes she takes too many risks, while she thinks he is overprotective.

“Captivated” may be short, but it packs a lot of emotion in the pages as they discuss what went wrong and what they still feel for each other. This is the best story in the anthology. Five hearts.

Susanna Carr’s “Sister Switch” takes the anthology on a sharp downturn. Tracy convinces her twin sister to switch places with her for her wedding rehearsal. When she returns, she’s missed the wedding. Good thing the relationship is one of business, not love, a fact that’s made clear when she has sex with Nick, the best man and her former lover, on her supposed wedding night.

“Sister Switch” is evidently a comedy, and a few moments made me smile. But twins trading places for one’s wedding strikes me as distinctly unfunny. Tracy herself is difficult to like. She asks Nick why she should change her plans: “You’re asking me to give up marrying a guy who would give me all the power, money, and control I need. And for what?” Nick shouldn’t have replied, “For us,” he should have run far away from Tracy. Fast. He could have done better. Two hearts.

Morgan Leigh’s “Spencer For . . . Ever” concludes the anthology. Arden returns to her hometown to run a bed and breakfast and to win back Kip Spencer. But he is determined not to let Arden hurt him again.

Having the main characters know each other can help create an immediate connection between them. In this case, however, reading the story felt like walking into a movie theatre an hour after the movie has started. Yes, you eventually catch up and may even enjoy the story, but you still feel like you’ve missed something important. That’s the case with “Spencer For . . . Ever.” It could have used more background and dialogue. Three hearts.

Beach Blanket Bad Boys confirms my opinion of novellas: the best will be quite good while others can be problematic. The strength of the first four stories makes it worth seeking out and taking to the beach.

--Alyssa Hurzeler


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