Never Been Good
I love a ‘Bad Boy Gone Good’ romance which means Christi Barth’s series of the same name was bound to get my attention. Having enjoyed Bad for Her, which featured one of three brothers in a witness protection program, I made sure to keep an eye out to find out which would be the next of the Maguire brothers to find a worthy partner. In Never Been Good, Flynn Maguire gets to make up for his ‘bad boy’ ways by playing rescuer to a damsel in distress with as many secrets as his own. It’s a worthy addition to the series and a fun and sexy read.
Flynn’s life changed irrevocably when he and his brother Rafe decided to turn themselves in to the witness protection program in order to provide testimony against McGinty’s mafia operation. Rafe heard that their boss was planning to make Flynn a scapegoat and figured it was their only chance to get out in one piece. For Flynn, having worked the legitimate side of the mob’s construction business, it’s a bitter betrayal. Determined that their younger brother Kellan, innocent of all the wrongdoing going on around him, wouldn’t suffer an even worse fate, they took their chances with the feds.
As their fifth placement, Bandon, Oregon is the end of the road. They either make it here, or get kicked out of the WITSEC program. For Flynn, this means doing his job as a bartender at the Gorse Bar and staying under the radar. Flynn works side by side with Sierra Williams, a pretty, quiet waitress who is as closemouthed as he is. When she’s injured in a fall at the bar, Flynn’s the one to come to her rescue. With no car and only a bike to get around, and the smallest house he’s ever seen, Sierra – who is herself a new import to Bandon – is clearly not flush with cash and is barely making ends meet. Flynn is intrigued by her – and attracted to her, too.
Sierra has gotten herself into a fine mess. An art student almost finished with her advanced degree, she discovered that her ex-boyfriend’s requests for imitations of paintings by the Masters was in fact the tip of the iceberg of a sophisticated art forgery ring that led to a murder she witnessed. On the run for the last seven months, her dream of teaching art is a distant memory. Even the idea of making money off of her art skills makes her panicky. She’s lonely, and while she and Flynn have had the occasional co-worker chitchat, it’s not until she lets him into her home and they share some actual meaningful conversations that their friendship moves forward. Flirty text messages, a solid and deepening friendship, and a steamy affair ensue. But will their pasts catch up to them before they get a chance to decide whether to come clean with each other and risk a real relationship?
I love the strong, silent hero archetype and that definitely describes Flynn. He’s one of those guys who likes to do things for others without expecting favors in return. He uses his construction skills to build a bookcase for Sierra when he spies all the books she has littering the floor; he makes special cocktails with people’s favorite ingredients. Plus, he’s handsome and sexy and skilled in the bedroom.
Flynn and his brothers have been directed by their handler to find a way to become part of the local community, a difficult task when you aren’t allowed to be honest with the folks around you. He really misses the big city life of Chicago (pizza included). He’s got to make nice with the locals, contributing to their local cranberry festival by (God help him) volunteering to help with the parade floats, while still keeping an eye out for suspicious activity in case they’ve been tracked down by McGinty’s men. It’s a lot of stress for one man and there is definite friction between him and his brothers. Not used to sharing his feelings, Flynn finds that as he becomes more emotionally involved with Sierra he also has the urge to come clean with his brothers about the guilt he feels that they ended up in this situation. The three of them have a complicated relationship and the author touches on all of their issues with a deft and empathetic hand.
Sierra and Flynn have quite a fun and sexy relationship once they proceed beyond the co-worker stage. Lots of flirting, steamy scenes and Flynn’s desire to make Sierra feel happy and safe (as he suspects something is not quite right) make for a delightful romance. Flynn, of course, feels residual guilt for not being able to really be up front with Sierra, especially when she spills the beans to him first about her past. The second half of the story has some more intensity and action-packed scenes as both of them confront some of the very things they’d feared would catch up with them.
Like all good small town stories, this one has its share of quirky and unique characters. There’s Norah who runs a coffee shop with a pot business on the side. There’s Carlos, the owner of the bar where Flynn and Sierra work who takes them in and gives them jobs and a listening ear. There’s Mick, the crotchety old veteran who treats them like a gruff grandfather. It’s a place worthy of calling home and getting a happy ending. For Flynn and Sierra, it turns out that the last stop on their runaway road is the best one.