Bad Boys Do
Bad Boys Do is precisely the sort of contemporary I enjoy. Genuine characters, believable conflict, great love scenes. And not a small town sheriff in sight! Why exactly have I not read Victoria Dahl before?
Olivia Bishop has resolved to have a little more fun. She starts her wild and crazy new life by going to a book club for the first time, but discovers when she arrives at Donovan’s brew pub that she’s the only one who’s actually read the book; everyone else is really just there to ogle the hot bartender, Jamie. Olivia is still adjusting to her divorce from Victor, a controlling man twelve years her senior. Even though Jamie gets her to try (and like!) beer, and even though her friend Gwen insists Olivia should “hit that,” she knows it won’t be happening. Jamie’s too young for her, and why would he ever go for a plain Jane type?
But then he shows up in her restaurant management class at “the U.” (Side note: This book is set in Boulder, CO. Evidently, Olivia and her ex husband both teach at CU. At first, I thought Dahl was blissfully unaware that no one ever calls CU “the U.” Then I realized that she is from my neck of the woods, and could not possibly be unaware of this fact. So it’s more in the tradition of a character going to _____shire.) Jamie has grand plans for expanding the brewery business into a restaurant. He’s taking the class to test the practicality of the idea and perhaps get some advice. He’s thrilled to see the cool and collected Olivia as his instructor, and he asked her out.
Initially, she says no. He’s younger than she is (only by six years) and she’s his teacher (though it’s a community outreach class, and he won’t be getting a grade). But she changes her mind when she finds out Victor will be attending the same faculty party she’s going to. She’s sick of him parading his young bimbos in front of her, and decides to give him a taste of his own medicine. It works very well, and she even has a good time. She and Jamie decide to kinda sorta date. He’ll show her a good time and how to loosen up a bit, and she’ll give him some restaurant pointers.
Of course, it all gets much more complicated than that. Olivia is accused of improper conduct at work. Jamie’s older brother won’t really take his plans for a restaurant seriously. And Jamie and Olivia develop unexpected deeper feelings for each other.
This may all sound fairly conventional. What takes it outside the norm is the complexity of the characters and their relationships – not only the relationship between Jamie and Olivia, but their family relationships as well. Olivia is a very sympathetic character. She has an ex from hell, but you can see why she fell into the relationship. She has a controlling (but not over the top) mother and a job she didn’t really choose on her own. She’s struggling to find her own identity, to define who she is separate from others’ perceptions. I liked her enormously.
But it’s Jamie who makes the book. He’s a favorite hero “type” of mine, and one you don’t see very often: The perennial screw-up. No one takes him seriously, and everyone believes he’s a piece of eye candy who just can’t be counted on. This colors his business and personal relationships with his siblings, particularly his older brother. While he’s earned some of some of his brother’s mistrust, much of it is also based on old family patterns and prejudices. It makes for a good, juicy conflict.
The result of it all is that Olivia and Jamie are better people for being together. Each has things to teach the other. That it’s sexy as hell is just icing on the cake.
Bad Boys Do is the middle book in a trilogy about the Donovan family. I haven’t read the first one, but that didn’t hamper my enjoyment of this book at all. But will I be reading the other books now? You bet. Victoria Dahl is too good to be missed.