With Royally Bad, author Nora Flite introduces her readers to the big, bad Badd family. The Badd clan – led by patriarch Maverick Badd and consisting of brothers Kain, Costello, Hawthorne and little sis Francesca – pretty much controls the seedy underbelly of Rhode Island. Oh, and they’re also royalty. Maverick’s older brother is the king of an unnamed country, which makes the Badd brothers not only rich and drop dead gorgeous, but also technically princes. Be still, my beating heart.
Twins Kain and Francesca are searching for a wedding dress for Francesca when they come upon Sammy Sage in her bridal boutique, jamming to the beat of Daya’s “Hide Away” and twirling around the room like she’s a real-life Cinderella. Francesca, of course, immediately falls in love with a wedding gown Sammy has designed, which sets the scene for Sammy to visit the Badd Manor the next day for a dress fitting. One things leads to another, and before the night is over, Kain and Sammy find themselves slaking their serious case of instalust by having amazing, bone-melting sex on the floor of Kain’s bedroom.
The next morning, Sammy tiptoes out of Kain’s room only to run into Francesca, who’s just fired her maid-of-honor for sending pictures of her vajayjay to Midas, the bridegroom. Francesca naturally asks Samy to step in for the maid-of-honor, and thus, two days after meeting the Badds, our heroine finds herself standing at the altar with a woman she barely knows and with the hand of the best man – Kain – cupping her ass. But before the bride and groom get to say their “I do’s”, they are interrupted by a swarm of cops searching for a cache of illegal weapons. In the ensuing melée, Sammy is arrested along with Kain and a parade of other guests.
At the police station Detective Stapler explains to Sammy that the Badds is a family of lawbreakers involved in all kinds of shady enterprises. This revelation makes Sammy more determined than ever to never see Kain again. However, as fate would have it, Sammy is attacked in her own home that very night. In her panic, Sammy hits the intruder on the head with a coffee mug, runs out of her house, and manages to throw herself into the street just as Kain is riding by on his motorcycle.
It turns out that the raid on the Badd Estate and the invasion of Sammy’s home was orchestrated by the Deep Shots, a rival gang resentful of the Badd’s stranglehold on the strip club business in town. With her safety compromised, Sammy has no choice but to move in with the Badds while the family tries to figure out the Deep Shot’s end game. But what she didn’t expect is for Maverick Badd to order her confined to the property, thereby making her a virtual prisoner of Rhode Island’s version of The Godfather.
In order to enjoy this book, one needs to suspend all disbelief and just go along for the ride. Descriptions and setups are kept vague so that the author doesn’t have to bother with maintaining any kind of consistency in the storytelling. This would have worked in a much funnier book, but not one in which most of the humor falls flat. The early scenes that are meant to be humorous– such as when Sammy tries to fix some broken blinds naked while holding a towel in front of her – feel too forced to tickle the funny bone. And don’t even get me started on the line that starts one of the chapters: “Have you ever smelled stripper ass?” Instead of being charmed, I found myself reciting the litany of Things Which Don’t Make Sense in my head – Why doesn’t Sammy put on some clothes in the bathroom before fixing her blinds? Why is Kain the only Badd arrested at Francesca’s wedding? Why is Midas never around and why does Francesca continue to live with her parents even after her marriage? Why doesn’t anyone in this story change their names to something that does not sound like they came straight out of a Monty Python skit? Why? Why? Why?
Sammy and Kain’s chemistry is combustible from the first moment they meet. But in keeping with the book’s theme of Cinderella-Meets-Prince-Charming, Kain’s the one who doggedly pursues Sammy while Sammy wants nothing to do with him. While this age-old setup has the potential to be very romantic, I found there to be too little build up to Kain’s feelings for Sammy for it to be believable. By contrast, Sammy does not fall for Kain until she becomes the Badds’ unwilling houseguest and gets to spend more time with him. I liked Sammy a lot for her gumption – she’s not afraid to stand up to Kain and his father – and there are a couple of moments shared between Kain and Sammy that are quite charming and well-written. I just wish that I could believe in their romance a little more, and not have this nagging feeling that Sammy is really just a victim of Stockholm syndrome.
In the end, the book concludes on a climactic action scene so chock full of awkward turns of phrases that I had to re-read it several times to figure out what happened. When Sammy “chucked something at his[the villain’s] head from inside of her backpack”, I spent a good twenty seconds wondering how Sammy got inside her backpack in the first place. Yet, the book is not completely devoid of charm. There are some tender moments between Sammy and her mother that brought tears to my eyes; and I found myself mildly intrigued by the few glimpses I had of Costello. I figure that if an author can get me interested in a character named Costello, that’s got to save her from D or F territory, doesn’t it? Anyway, in a nutshell, Royally Bad is comprised of a string of over-the-top scenarios occasionally interrupted by quieter and more introspective moments. People who can shut off their brain while reading may enjoy this book, but others need not apply.