REVIEW: Bad Girl by Michele Jaffe
Dear Ms. Jaffe:
I feel for you. I really do. You really, really must have made someone angry in the art and title department. Why else would they saddle your outstanding contemporary romance suspense book with the cutesy cover and an even worse title? I imagine that those readers looking for a fun cute read were sorely disappointed by the contents of the book and those readers who would have picked up a hot, sexy contemporary romance would have totally passed this by. I know I passed it by any number of times. I can’t recall if I finally picked up after a recommendation or what. But oh, what I story I had been missing. If you ever decide to give us romance readers another try, let us know.
Chicago “Windy” Thomas is the new head of the Las Vegas Metro police department’s criminalistics bureau and the mother of a 6 year old going on 16. She’s also very hot. One suspect wondered if she was a stripper. “Honey, you tell 'em to get these cuffs offa me and we can get the party started right.” To which Windy applies with much aplomb, “Mr. Ruiz, I'm Chicago Thomas,” she said. “I'm here to save your life.”
Dialogue is real and sparkling throughout the book. Witness the exchange between Windy and Ruiz.
The first thing Roddy noticed about her was the way she pronounced her name, ThomÃƒÆ’Ã‚ ¡s, with the accent on the last syllable, trying to act like she was Latino. Bond with him. Man, these cops must think he was dumb. He took her in, caramel-colored hair, light green eyes, and sneered. “You trying to get down with me, mamacita, saying your name all slick like that, act like from my 'hood? You think you're J. Lo? What part of Mexico you from, honey? You know, Texas don't count.” He winked, man to man, at the detectives but they just stared at him. Cop bastards.
“My family is from Chile,” the lady cop said. “But I was born in the States.”
“What kind of a name is Chicago?”
“The name of the city where I was born. What kind of a name is Roddy?”
“A sexy one.” Roddy winked. “They call you Chicago? Or just Chica?”
“My friends call me Windy.”
“No shit. I used to have a dog named Windy. On account of him farting all the time.”
Windy looked at him wide-eyed. “Really? You'd be amazed at how many people have that same pet. Now tell me about yourself. Where were you born, Roddy?”
“Man, I was born the day I saw you.”
Exactly the right bravado and come on by Roddy and exactly the right repressive response from Windy. Windy is smart. She uses her skills to solve crimes. I.e., when she read in the crime scene report that Roddy owned five pairs of underwear, all of them blue and white striped boxers, she makes an educated guess that the ones he has on right now are blue and white striped boxers, scaring the shit of Roddy when she is right. :)
You constantly surprise me in this story as you defy normal romance story conventions. For example, when Windy and Ash Langton first meet, Windy says something about how the head of Violent Crimes could really make a difference by getting people to work together. Ash is really the head of Violent Crimes. In normal romance stories, this setup is used to create a cute conflict and mini misunderstanding. In your story, however, Windy says that she knows who Ash is.
She said, “I know.”
He did not have a speech ready for that. “You know?”
“Of course. Why would I bother to say all of that to someone who can't do anything about it? Or would you rather I just complained behind your back?”
I’m only a few pages into the story and already Windy is my favorite contemporary romance heroine of all time. Ash is her worthy counterpart. Just as smart. Just as savvy. A little bent. Self-deprecating. Who can’t get Windy out of his mind (he goes home after meeting and plays Chicago’s Greatest Hits for two hours. “Oh brother, are you in trouble, Ash told himself.”) I could probably quote from this book ad infinitim, the dialogue is so stellar.
Ash inhaled the last of his Twinkie. “I'd rather talk about something else. Like what you know about Windy, for example.”
“Hey, look who dropped in. Its Mr. Subtle, long time no see, man.”
“Are you done?”
“Yeah, I'll catch up with him later. All right, dossier on Chicago 'Windy' Thomas . . .
The one caveat that I would have and it’s not one that I mind, but others might. This book is quite violent and contains graphic descriptions of the violence. The serial killer is killing families, entire families, and the recreation of the murder scenes is heartbreaking when it talks about the deaths of the children. This is a story not for the faint of heart but if gripping suspense is a reader’s thing (as it often is mine) this is a thrill ride not to be missed.
As with any great book, this story is more than just two people falling in love tied together with some suspense. Windy and Ash are both imperfect individuals. Ash tends toward emotionless affairs with no strings mostly with married women in motel rooms. Windy has issues with her dead husband and sought refuge in Bill, her fiancee. Bill wants Windy to give up her job, spend more time with him, seemingly realistic complaints. Over the course of the story, it is apparent that Ash and Windy are meant to be together. It takes Windy a bit longer to come to that realization but when she does it is wonderful. And as Ash said, he wants to be with her always, not just for the easy parts.
“There are things about me you don't know, Ash. Important things.”
“I toss and turn a lot in bed. Wake up at night.”
He kissed her forehead, her cheek. “Me too. We can tell each other stories.”
. . .
“Sometimes I can be immature.”
“Sometimes Jonah and I put on Bike Patrol uniforms so we can ride up and down the steps in front of the Venetian hotel on our mountain bikes.”
This book really does do a great job of showing the growing attraction between two characters balanced next to dangerous suspense thread. The romance slowly unfolds as Windy’s relationship with Bill falters and the attraction between Ash and Windy cannot be denied. Ash and Windy are shown utilizing detective skills (not just summarizing what they did to catch a killer) and acting like normal detectives (exchanging death humor). It was like reading about book about your two favorite CSI characters. The suspense existed up until the very end, even when you think you’ve clearly found the bad guy. I’ve re-read this book often for the sheer pleasure of the excitement of the dance between both the serial killer and detectives and between Ash and Windy. I’m thankful for awesome action figure heroines, self deprecating heroes and heart stopping suspense.
P.S. This book is widely available as an ebook.