am 29. Juni 2014
I am a big fan of Jay Crownover’s “Marked Men” series and I wasn’t sure I was going to like “Better When He’s Bad”, but damn, let me tell you, there is nothing about this book that I didn’t love. This book is very different from Jay’s other series and it shows how versatile her writing is and how much creativity and originality goes into her storytelling. And although my love for Rule and his guys will never waver, I must admit that with this book Jay Crownover has outdone herself.
“Better When He’s Bad” is a lot grittier, dirtier, raw and emotionally intense than “The Marked Men”. But I guess that comes with the story about a boy who is bad and not just a bad boy. There is nothing sweet or innocent about this story, no flowers and sunshine. And yet, it will manage to grip you right from the start, the characters will break your heart but in the end, they will glue it back together and make you smile like an idiot. At least this is how reading this book ended for me.
Dovie, a young woman who has been dealt a hard fate in life, is suddenly thrust into a world of crime, violence and betrayal when her brother disappears. All that she tried to keep away from herself, is now surrounding her, threatening to swallow her whole. Despite her difficult circumstances and upbringing, she is untainted by all of the negativity that polluted her young life. Instead, she is hell-bent on helping others, studying to make a better life for herself as well as kids that don’t have anyone else who fights for them. She is self-reliant, strong and yet extremely vulnerable. She feels very real, helped by the fact that Jay Crownover did not paint her as cover-magazine type of beauty, but a normal girl who has her flaws and yet manages to be beautiful in her own personal way. I felt very protective of Dovie and admired the strength she exuded, living her life by her rules, taking risks and allowing herself to feel what she feels. She realizes that life is there to take leaps of faith and if they turn out to be mistakes, to learn from them and move on. Especially with Bax barreling into her life, she manages to stand her ground and yet doesn’t stop herself from falling for him – accepting him for who he is and loving the good and the bad, without trying to change him.
And there is a lot of bad about Bax. Not only an ex-con, criminal and a thief, but also a man with a short temper and a taste for violence, Bax is bad, dangerous and destructive. He takes what he wants and doesn’t care what it might cost him or others. Having grown up with a drunk mother and no father, he turned to crime to make a living and to get away from the desolate surroundings he found himself in. But a life of crime doesn’t come without its price and he just paid it for five years – locked up in jail. Back out a free man, his freedom only extends to the bars he left behind. He is still a prisoner of his own personality – out for blood and revenge. He doesn’t do feelings or relationships, believing that no one can be trusted. The one person he believed in might be the person that cost him the last few years of his life, but to find that out he needs to deal with his friend’s sister, Dovie. No matter how much he might fight his attraction to her, knowing that whatever he touches gets tainted by the darkness he carries with him, he can’t stay away from her. Her loyalty, innocence and faith in him make him needy for her – and not only in the physical way. As he spends more time with her, he learns that there is more to him than his criminal life and realizes she is the one thing that is worth living and dying for.
As things come to a showdown, Bax and Dovie prove that in every bad man is a bit of good hidden and every good woman can be a little bad.
The dynamic between Dovie and Bax is incredibly emotional and at the same time very sensuous. Their relationship isn’t just about sex, although it tends to be a way for both of them to express the feelings they have for each other but can’t always articulate that well. It makes the sex between them very raw and gritty, a give and take, a push and pull that is incredibly erotic. Their growing relationship takes both of them out of their comfort zones, making them questions their beliefs about themselves and others. What made it especially realistic and so unlike many other books is that Dovie’s love didn’t turn Bax into a good guy with a legitimate 9-5 job and a house in the suburbs. No, he was still bad, he was still Bax. Just that he now thought about what risks were worth taking, as for the first time in his life he had something to lose. Their relationship didn’t change their personalities. They stayed who they were, just making adjustments to fit into each other’s life. I am absolutely in love with their story and their characters.
The fact that their life was tough and the place they lived was full to the brim with crime, violence and destroyed lives made their love even more extraordinary. There was no escaping reality. Jay Crownover didn’t water it down, making the town become better, brighter and happier. She had the courage to leave it as dark and dirty as it was and with that allowed characters like Dovie to shine brighter.
This is one of the best books I have read this year. Jay Crownover captured life on the wrong side of tracks extraordinarily well and brought it to live in this absolutely perfect story.
5+ stars aren’t enough.