Lord help me, I like Thea Devine. Seductive was the first "erotic" book I'd ever read, and despite it's legions of problems, I found myself hooked on the decadent sex and over-the-top soap opera plot. When Devine is good (and she can be good), her plots are enough to make Aaron Spelling roll over in his grave. When she's bad (and she can be very bad), her books are unreadable. She tends to gravitate towards convoluted suspense threads and a writing style filled with stream of consciousness babble, italics and paragraphs that consist of one word.
It's that writing style that had me staying away from her more recent turn at contemporaries. I can get past that sort of thing when she's writing in Victorian England, but in contemporary times? Not so much. So imagine my surprise to discover that her writing style is reined in considerable in Bad As She Wants To Be. Is it perfect? Heck, no - but not nearly as "out there" as some of her Brava historicals.
There's actually an interesting plot here, but it gets lost in the execution and the indiscriminate sex that becomes increasing hard to overlook. Seriously, I hope the characters had a clinic on speed dial for penicillin shots - because "safe sex" really wasn't in the vocabulary here.
Frannie Luttrell is a nobody from small-town Maine until she pulls a drowning Marianne Nyland out of the water. Marianne, a poor little rich girl, wants to repay Frannie's kindness and decides to show her the time of her life. Rechristened "Frankie," she quickly dumps her pesky virginity and finds herself living the high life in Manhattan. Lots of parties, clothes, men and sex. Lots of sex. Seriously there is so much sex in the first 200 pages of this book I lost track of how many different men Frankie spent time with.
That said, none of that sex is particularly well written and treated rather superficially. Not a whole lot of detail folks. It all comes off as rather cold. Sex certainly doesn't have to be Sunshine Happy Rainbow Feelings, but here it's almost mechanical. The entire affair would have been better served had Devine cut these encounters by (at least) half and devoted more page time to them. Then there is the matter of the pacing.
Pocket has chosen to give away the entire plot in the back cover blurb (to be fair, I'm going by the copy featured on the ARC). A dead body shows up (not until around page 200!) and Frankie becomes tabloid fodder. It's then that she realizes she's only ever wanted one man, a handsome lawyer named Dax, who has little patience for Marianne's excesses or the fact that Frankie gets sucked in. Frankie wants Dax, but if she can't have him? Well she's going to have every other guy in the five boroughs. I'd say you go girl, except that Marianne is so obviously orchestrating everything around her that one questions Frankie's intelligence when she fails (or just doesn't want) to see it.
So how did I like this book? Well even as a Devine fan, I found the sexual excesses a bit "dirty" after a while. Hey, kink is one thing - but Frankie is like a sailor on shore leave in Thailand. I had the overwhelming urge to take a hot shower - with bleach - after every chapter. Not that it wasn't fun to read - but after a while - well it was just a bit extreme. Also, the entire plot seems to show up in the final 100 pages and the ending is abrupt. I really felt the character baggage wasn't entirely resolved. That said, the dead body thing is resolved in such an over-the-top way (Devine can't help, the woman has camp running through her veins) that the reformed soap opera addict in me loved it.
So final grade? I have the hardest time grading Devine because I see the problems in her books, but I always end up enjoying them on some level - so let's go with a C. If you aren't a Devine fan or you've tried and hated her books in the past? This one won't change your mind. It's pretty much par for the course.