Bad Boys Do, by Victoria Dahl

>> Thursday, March 15, 2012

TITLE: Bad Boys Do
AUTHOR: Victoria Dahl

PAGES: 384

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: 2nd in the Donovan Brothers Brewery trilogy

Olivia Bishop is no fun. That's what her ex-husband said. And that's what her smart bob and glasses imply. So with her trademark determination, Olivia sets out to remake her life. She's going to spend time with her girlfriends and not throw it all away for some man. But when an outing with her book club leads her to a brewery taproom, the dark-haired beauty realizes that trouble—in the form of sexy Jamie Donovan—may be too tempting to avoid.

Jamie Donovan doesn't mean to be bad. Sure, the wild streak in his wicked green eyes has lured the ladies before. Now it's time to grow up. He's even ready for a serious romance. But how can that be when Olivia, the only right woman he has ever met, already has him pegged as wrong?
I'm posting my reviews of this trilogy just as I read the books: one after the other. It wasn't really intended that way, it's just that they were so good that once I started the series, I couldn't stop reading.

So, what's the series about? Being a lazy blogger, I'm just going to copy what I wrote in my review of the first book. So skip the next 2 paragraphs if you've read that one.

The Donovan Brothers Brewery series is about 3 siblings running a family-owned microbrewery. Eric Donovan was in his early 20s when his parents died in an accident, and he chose to give up the life he was building for himself and go back to the family business. His brother, Jamie, and sister, Tessa, were in their late teens at the time, and even though this wasn't the life Eric would have chosen for himself, he felt keeping the brewery alive for them was the right thing to do.

Some 12 years later, all three are still involved in the brewery, but there are issues. Things haven't been easy over the years, with Jamie often making bad decisions and Eric becoming increasingly rigid and dismissive with him, refusing to take him seriously when Jamie talks about taking on more responsibility. Faced with this situation, Tessa has taken on the role of peacemaker, manipulating things behind the scenes to minimise the conflict between her brothers, always afraid that if she doesn't, the family will fall apart.

In the first book, which was focused on Tessa, Jamie made yet another bad decision, and in spite of all Tessa's attempts to cover it up, Eric found out. Eric's opinion of Jamie's judgment has sunk even further, and this has only increased Jamie's feelings of being trapped by a bad boy reputation generated years earlier and of being increasingly alienated from the family business. His job there is to run the front of house, but he's got big plans to expand the business by adding food. Problem is, Eric won't hear of it. The last time Jamie raised the subject, Eric shot it down without any consideration. In fact, Eric is still running the business, which belongs to the three of them, as if his brother and sister were still teenagers and had no right to make decisions, and Jamie is sick of it.

Deciding to make a last effort to sell his plan to Eric before he just chucks it all in, Jamie decides to take a restaurant management class at the local university and pull together a proper plan, every issue fully explored and everything costed out. The class is as helpful as he'd hoped it would be, and even better, the teacher is the lovely Olivia, the newest member of the book club that meets at the brewery every month. Jamie likes her very much, and so asks her out.

Olivia's first reaction is to say no. Jamie's much too young and much too cute for boring old her. She's recently divorced from a real piece of work, an older professor at the university, who did a number on her confidence with his constant cheating and his insistence that it was because she was so boring. But she reconsiders Jamie's invitation when she's invited to a party where she knows her husband will also be a guest. He's developed a habit of parading his young trophy girlfriends before her, and Olivia can't resist the temptation to pay him back in kind.

Before long, Olivia and Jamie agree to a bit of a quid pro quo. She'll help him develop his proposal and he'll help her learn how to have fun. Which, obviously, turns into something more. And yeah, I know that sounds a bit ridiculous, and that the plot of a couple who start out an affair that is supposed to be just sex, but then they start wanting more is almost a cliché by now, but done well, I absolutely love it. And it was very well done here. Jamie's struggle to free himself from his reputation is also an issue here, as it's not easy for him to convince Olivia that he can actually be serious about a relationship, and her (and everyone's) assumptions that he wouldn't be even interested hurt.

The reason I enjoyed it so much was that in addition to having great chemistry together, Olivia and Jamie were really interesting people. Olivia is in the process of figuring out what she wants to do with her life, after a marriage during which she constantly gave in to what her controlling husband wanted and even molded her career into what would be most convenient for him. She wants to make a new life for herself, and her relationship with Jamie is the perfect way of getting started, including by giving her experience in the field of restaurant consulting.

And if I loved seeing Olivia figuring things out, I loved Jamie's family drama even more. There's some real angst there, a family who love each other, but who've created a very unhealthy dynamic, and Eric and Jamie, especially, can tear each other apart pretty efficiently. There is some resolution in this middle book of the series, with Jamie wresting a measure of control from Eric, but it's clear that there's still a lot of work to be done there to get Eric to move from a "disapproving parent" to a "brother who is an equal" position.

There's also some really interesting stuff to work out with Tessa. Surprisingly, the issue here is that Tessa's basically objectifying Jamie by promoting his "sexy bartender" thing on the brewery's twitter account, which often ends up putting him in uncomfortable situations, with women coming in purely to ogle him and flirt with him. This can be fun, and Tessa sees it as a harmless thing, but it's quickly getting old, and the theme of his grabbing back control of his own life and freeing himself from an old reputation continues here as well. It was great.

MY GRADE: A very strong B+.


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