Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review of Victoria Dahl's Bad Boys Do

Title: Bad Boys Do (Donovan Brothers Brewery #2)
Author: Victoria Dahl
Publisher: HQN Books          
Formats: Mass Market Paperback & Ebook
Source: NetGalley
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5
After a crazy week and a half of cleaning up after my dog and grading exams and homework, I’m finally ready to write a few more reviews, and I must say it is a huge relief. I decided to start with a sweetheart of a book, Victoria Dahl’s Bad Boys Do, which is the second book in her Donovan Brothers Brewery trilogy. I read the first book, Good Girls Don’t, when it came out, and Ms. Dahl’s writing was fun and engaging. Unfortunately the heroine Tessa was so immature and annoying I couldn’t stand her, but I liked Ms. Dahl’s style and the other characters so much I thought I’d give the second book a chance. I’m glad I did, because she writes complex and interesting characters, and the romance is sizzling! And since the hero, Jamie, is a natural charmer who occasionally dresses in a kilt, you know this one is going to be a winner! The only downside to the novel is that I seriously wanted to punch Jamie’s older brother Eric a few times. His book is coming out next month, so we can always hope that the heroine will whip him into shape, perhaps by removing the pole in his posterior and beating him over the head with it.
In Bad Boys Do, our sexy hero in a kilt, Jamie Donovan, runs the bar at the family owned brewery. He’s 29, and thanks to many years spent playing the field and goofing off, he has a reputation as a ladies’ man and has created some serious trust issues within his family. Olivia Bishop is a 35 year old instructor at the local college, and after divorcing her husband a year ago, she’s ready to try new things, including dating a younger man. They meet at the Brewery when Olivia joins friends there for what she believes will be a book club meeting, only to realize that the women are really there to ogle Jamie. When he shows up a few days later in her community class on Restaurant Development and Management, sparks fly. Jamie convinces Olivia to give him a try, and she offers to help him create a proposal to expand the brewery. But tensions mount within the family when Jamie tries to convince his older brother Eric that he’s not a screw-up and someone informs the college that Olivia’s dating a student.
The romance between Jamie and Olivia is the absolute best part of this novel. The two have great sexual tension, but they’re also interesting and intriguing people with problems you can relate to. Jamie has a natural charm and encourages Olivia to have fun, leading to lots of laughs. Seeing Olivia blossom is part of that fun and proves irresistible to Jamie. The age difference is an issue at times, but the way it’s resolved is really well-done, and absolutely pivotal to the development of the characters. I also like how it plays into Olivia’s problems with her ex-husband, since he’s an older professor dating much younger women.
As an academic and reader of romance, I enjoyed how the campus politics played into the conflict in the novel. Olivia’s ex-husband is a professor who cheated on her with graduate assistants, a big no-no, and, depending on the university, grounds for dismissal. Olivia’s relationship with Jamie, however, is acceptable, because the course she’s offering is not for credit – she’s not giving him a grade, and therefore there’s no conflict of interest. Jamie has a lot of fun with the naughty professor/student role play, which is very, very sexy. I loved Ms. Dahl’s treatment of the power dynamics with the various couples, especially since this does become an issue with Jamie and Olivia and in many ways reflects the conflict within the family. How Jamie and Olivia find ways to treat each others as equals is convincing and moving in how agonizing and ultimately rewarding it is.
The conflict between Eric and Jamie comes to a head at several points in the novel in painful and frustrating ways. Both Eric and Tessa discount Jamie, and you can really feel his frustration and helplessness at his perceived role of slacker in the family, despite his many hours of hard work. While at times difficult to read, in the end I found the family conflict to be one of the better parts of the book, because it is so realistic. I think we can all relate to how difficult it is to change how your family sees you, and a family-owned business must exacerbate the tension.
Overall this was a fun and sexy contemporary romance with a lot of humor and love, and I am definitely looking forward to reading more of Ms. Dahl’s work.

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