Bad for Her
The first story in Christi Barth’s Bad Guys Gone Good series sets the stage for a set of romances about three brothers who, through a set of unconventional circumstances, find themselves in small town USA, specifically Bandon, Oregon. While the hero seems more of a bad guy in name only, Bad For Her is a fun, sexy and engaging romance.
Dr. Molly Vickers, an accomplished doctor, was abandoned by her mother and left to grandmother’s care at a young age. Although she left town to pursue her medical career, she loves being back home in her community. When a flat tire strands her outside of town, it’s the new mechanic, Rafe Maguire, who comes to her rescue. He, along with his two brothers Flynn and Kellan, might be the only people in town who don’t know about her past (yet). When attraction zings between them and Rafe makes it clear he’s on board for a friends with benefits relationship if she’s willing, Molly is quite happy to go along with it so long as they keep it a secret.
Rafe has good reason to be wary of getting in too deep with the sexy, spirited Dr. Molly. He and his brothers are on the run from the mob in Chicago and are living under the witness protection program WITSEC. Their location has already been compromised a few times, and this is their last placement – if they can’t keep themselves off the mob’s radar, they’ll be on their own. Coming from a big city, they’ve had trouble adjusting to the small towns they’ve ended up in, and it hasn’t helped that they have to stay on the move. Rafe can’t afford to get involved in a real relationship if he’ll have to up sticks again; nor does he want to bring trouble to the people he’s come to know and like. Will his past be a barrier to a new and brighter future with Molly?
In an interesting move, the author starts the book’s prologue with the end of the brothers’ last placement location, including their names in that place which are not the names used in the body of the story. In fact, it’s not really clear what their real names are, the point being that their old lives are meant to be left in the past. I haven’t seen this done before so kudos to the author for introducing her characters in a unique way.
One often sees this kind of plot play out in a romantic suspense novel, but this is decidedly more of a contemporary romantic comedy, and Ms. Barth manages this in several ways. Firstly, there’s an eclectic cast of characters. Molly is a sweet, friendly woman, who gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. This is noticeable in her interactions with her troubled teenaged nephew Jesse, who has come to live with her and her marijuana growing (all legal) ex-gunnery sergeant grandmother, Norah. Then there’s Colonel Mick O’Keefe, a retired military man who keeps his eye on the town and any newcomers. He recognizes that the appearance, out of the blue, of Rafe and his brothers is suspicious and takes it upon himself to let them know he’s aware of their presence. He’s the crusty old codger of the story, and he and Rafe become good friends. The author’s way of introducing each chapter is quite fun, with a location, time, and how Rafe is feeling at that particular moment. It gives a bit of insight into his character, but also makes for a good laugh.
Lying at the heart of the story is Rafe and his bad boy image. Because of the nature of the story, he can’t be too bad or he wouldn’t be hero material; so even though he was a mob enforcer in his past life, he’s probably the kind of guy you’d want to collect your blackmail money because he never killed anyone. He came into the life as a courier as a young boy because his dad was involved with the mafia boss McGinty, so it was something about which he never had a choice. When his father died, Rafe took on the responsibility for his two brothers. He’s a protective guy who would do anything for them, including making the decision to disrupt McGinty’s organization in order to get them out from under his thumb. In Bandon, he manages to rescue Molly with her flat tire, catch some thieves breaking into Norah’s shop, take Molly’s nephew on as an apprentice at the garage, volunteer his brothers to help out at the local cranberry festival, and any number of other ‘good guy’ deeds. He’s a bit too good to be a real bad boy.
Besides the other attributes that make Rafe quite likable, he’s a generous and talented lover, so it’s no surprise that Molly enjoys spending time with him. The sex scenes are steamy and well written and when Rafe isn’t seducing Molly out of her clothes he’s busy showing her his true character. With the romance firmly established, the rest of the story deals with Rafe and his brothers learning to fit in to their new roles, while also dealing with the ever present threat of their past. The suspense is minimal, and while there is a happy ending for Rafe and Molly, the overall story arc is not complete. There is destined to be more fallout and consequences for Rafe’s actions in getting himself and his brothers into the WITSEC program, and it’s sure to continue in the next story. Bad for Her is a solid start to this engaging contemporary romance series.