The Bad Boy Is Back
Evan Downey needs a new beginning. Since the death of his wife five years ago, the brilliant tattoo artist has shut himself away in a prison of grief that not even his work can break him out of-and what's worse, Evan knows his son Lyon is bearing the brunt of his seclusion. Moving back to the lake town of Evergreen Cove where he spent his childhood summers is his last chance for a fresh start.
Charlotte Harris knows she owes it to her best friend's memory to help Evan and his son find their way again, but she can't stop her traitorous heart from skipping a beat every time she looks into Evan's mesmerizing eyes. Charlotte is determined to stay strictly in the Friend Zone-until a mind-blowing night knocks that plan by the wayside. Now, if they're brave enough to let it, Charlotte and Evan might just find a love capable of healing their broken hearts . . .
Charlotte, known as Charlie and Evan have been friends since their late teens. Charlie has always had a secret crush on Evan which she set aside when Evan fell hard for her best friend Rae. Rae and Evan married young and started a family but then Rae died unexpectedly. In the years since her death, Charlie has assumed the role of devoted friend to Evan and Aunt to Evan and Rae’s son Lyon. She has keep Rae’s memory alive for her son and often stepped in to give Evan break whenever he needed it.
Evan has been working through his grief, and struggling to make a good life for his son. He has built a career, first as a tattoo artist and now was an illustrator. He is struggling to create art for his next book (a sequel to a hugely sucessful children's book he wrote with his childhood friend and rockstar Asher. Evan is worried about his relationship with his son so he has decided it is time for them to move out of the home he shared with Rae, and back to the lakeside community he spent a lot time in as a kid. He has bought a house on the same secluded cove as Charlie. Seeing Charlie on a daily basis, outside of the home he once shared with Rae, makes him aware of many assets he previously had not paid attention to (mostly how hot she looks in a bikini). Evan is also finally aware of Charlie sexual intrest in him.
Evan showing open sexual interest in her and having him in such close and constant proximity is incredibly taxing and confusing for Charlie. She feels incredibly guilty about her desire for Evan. She wants to be part of Evan and Lyon’s lives, but mentally chastises herself for wanting it. Evan has to breakthrough her resistance, and try to understand her complicated feelings (most that she hasn’t quite figured out herself). For the most part I thought this was very well done.
Evan reassures Charlie of the fact that he isn't constantly comparing her to Rae or simply using her as convenient sexual partner. He consistently answers that those thoughts and feeling are her own insecurities. He breakdowns misconceptions she has about his relationship with Rae (He loved and she loved him but their marriage wasn’t perfect). He is patient with her, knowing that after years of carefully keeping boundaries out of respect for her friend and their marriage, desiring Evan feels transgressive. I really appreciated how Evan really had to learn to see Charlie, to see past her self-protective walls, to keep pushing her to recognize the life they can build together. Unfortunetly it eventually felt repetitive as Evan had to keep addressing the same kind of hesitations over and over. In the end I felt there was too much backstory, too much of familial baggage & past-relationship insecurity to deal with. I wish more of Evan and Charlie’s story had dealt with the challenges they will face living with each other, not just slaying the ghosts of relationships past.
There was also a lot extraneous stuff cluttering up their story, much that left a bad taste in my mouth. The secondary romantic plotline revolving around Evan’s good friend and co-writer Asher, a self-destructive rock-star,
Gloria, their agent and friend distracted rather than added to Evan and Charlie’s story. Both Asher and Evan & Gloria and Charlie’s played out a frenemy routine where they are constantly suspicions and jealous of each other that made them all seem off-puttingly immature.
I also rolled my eyes when a cartoonishly sour old librarian, still carrying a grudge about Asher and Evan's teen-age Penis Bandit days was introduced as a minor nemesis.
The worst moment for me however was when Russell, Charlie’s undermining and judgmental ex, shows up out of the blue, serving as walking info-dump-recap of all of Charlie’s insecurities and providing Evan with conveniently symbolic punching bag & triggering a breakthrough in Charlie and Evan’s relationship.
I had a really hard time with this book. At points I really loved it. Certain scenes and choices blew me away but just as many turned me off. I found the story very compelling, I like friends to lovers, and widowers finding love
stories but too often the story veered places I didn’t believe or like.
A review copy of Bringing Home the Bad Boy was provided by Forever (Grand Central Publishing) via NetGalley.
Release date: Jan 27, 2015