Once Upon a Bad Boy
by Melonie Johnson
In a world drenched in fame and fortune, Sadie has learned the hard way that not all that glitters is … well, gold.
Sadie Gold grew up with privilege, not that she had any choice of her own in that regard seeing as how she was born into it. She’s always had classic good looks and a slim figure, thanks to the happy mistake of genetics. Her family has always been steeped deeply in well-placed connections, that’s true enough … but what everyone has failed to see and accept is that Sadie is more than just a pretty face or a poor little rich girl. She has … well, she has actual talent.
Working on a soap opera for the bulk of her career has been grueling in more ways than one, and Sadie is tired of not being taken seriously. It’s hard for her to prove she’s cut out for the difficult and complicated parts afforded to the serious actresses of the world when her storylines include evil twins, returning from the dead multiple times, and cheesy love scenes with brawny (and oftentimes brainless) male actors. But Sadie has made the best of her time onscreen and has done what she could with the parts afforded her, always doing her damnedest to showcase her talents at exhibiting emotion and range … no matter the circumstance.
When a part opened up in a sure-to-be blockbuster film and she somehow nailed the audition, Sadie was at first exhilarated. This was finally her big break. This would be the movie that would take her from bit-part daytime actress and catapult her into major stardom. She would finally be respected in the industry, and nothing was going to stand in her way. The chance to rid herself of her rich-girl reputation was right within her grasp.
But when her stunt trainer showed up on set, all bets were off.
Bo Ibarra was more than just Sadie’s first love. He was her first … everything.
He was the first man to make her feel loved and beautiful … the first man to touch her body and give her chills that she felt in the deepest recesses of her heart. She’d grown up virtually ignored by her jet-setting parents, but Bo was a constant on the ranch owned by her family. Every summer was spent wrapped up in him, in more ways than one … whether racing horses across the fields or cuddled up together in the barn, the two were inseparable.
Sadie had never understood what had ultimately driven Bo away from her. He’d left her that last night back in high school with no explanations, and no answer had surfaced in the years since. As a result, Sadie spent a decade firmly packing Bo and the memories attached to him into the furthest chambers of her mind and soul, vowing that she’d never allow another man to get that close to her heart again.
But unfortunately for Sadie, time has only made Bo even more irresistible.
His gawky stature and long, lanky limbs have been replaced by hard-earned muscle and sinew. His baby face has been transformed by a manly beard over a strong jawline. His once soft hands have been calloused from age and work.
But Bo’s eyes are still the same … depthless and full of desire.
Bo nearly lost his breath when Sadie walked into the room. He’d almost forgotten he was there to work and not to gawk. The years had been good to her, but that was no surprise. Bo has been following Sadie’s career from the moment it began, tuning in each afternoon to watch her throw drinks on unsuspecting villains or fall into bed with the flavor of the week. Still, keeping tabs on his first love hadn’t quite prepared him for what he would feel coursing through his veins when he was finally set face-to-face with her again. It all came rushing back – raw, unchained lust … unbridled passion … a flood of memories that involved her warm body, her soft kisses, and … the pain in her eyes when he’d broken her heart.
He’d had to do it. They’d had no future. He was a no one, born to a family that was indebted to hers and whose every dollar was made by working for the Gold family. Bo had known he had to distance himself from Sadie for the good of them both. He’d had to forge his own future, and to do that he had to let go of the dreams he’d spent his entire childhood and adolescence building for the two of them. She deserved better than the son of ranch worker and horse handler, and Bo was determined that he should find a way to be the curator of his own path.
But Sadie … Sadie, Sadie, Sadie. She had a way of getting under his skin the way no other woman ever had since the day he walked out of her life for good.
It doesn’t take long for both Bo and Sadie to fall back into each other’s arms, but unfortunately for the couple, the problems they left behind a decade ago haven’t vanished completely. As they both struggle to make their way, problem after problem is thrown in their path. The duo has to decide in the end if love is really worth fighting for, or if some things are just not meant to be.
Once Upon a Bad Boy is the third in a contemporary romance series called Sometimes in Love, but can be read as a stand-alone novel. Penned by self-proclaimed “Drama Mama” and fiery redhead Melonie Johnson, the novels in the series (so far) follow tenacious, independent women and their tumbles into love.
Okay … so on to the opinion part:
I LOVED THIS BOOK. Seriously, I did! I spent a good few years blissfully drowning in the rom-com/contemporary romance ocean a long time ago … you know, those books that you can sit down and read in a day or two … books that always have hot sex and predictably happy endings. But after those couple of years of churning through book after book, I think I got burnt out. There are only so many of those types of stories that you can read before they start to all sound the same. More often than not, the characters and their path become stale about halfway through, and since you already know how it will end – why bother?
I own the other two novels in this series, and haven’t gotten to them yet. Maybe because I’ve been avoiding the genre? I don’t know. But I was slated to write a blog for Once Upon a Bad Boy as part of a pub-tour and so I had to pick it up and read it. I was SO PLEASANTLY SURPRISED that I immediately added the other two to my July TBR and am doing my best to fly through my last books of June so I can get to them.
Let me tell you what sets this book apart and makes it fresh:
The characters. Sadie is a badass, independent woman … but author Johnson is generous in showing you her softer side. Sadie has scars but she doesn’t allow them to define her. She also has a few things she hasn’t dealt with, but when she chooses to finally address them and apply some closure … man, does she do it with grace and style. Sadie is determined, fiery, and spicy without being off-putting or abrasive. And Bo? Man. Talk about sex on a freaking stick. My only negative reaction to Bo’s character was that he first appeared to be very sweet and almost innocent, and then very abruptly it was a full-on showcase of his bad boy side. Not that I was complaining, it just felt as if Bo transitioned into a completely different person on a dime. He was in touch with his emotions but not overtly so, and although he made a load of mistakes … it was his honesty and effort to give Sadie appropriate space that redeemed him in my eyes. He was a romantic without being cheesy, and his was 100% masculine energy. The side characters were strong without being overpowering, and I am very curious in particular to see if Bo’s sister gets her own story.
The setting and atmosphere. I could vividly *see* the surroundings and that was something I enjoyed. Oftentimes romance authors forget to include the setting as part of the build up. I was as attached to the ranch as I was the characters; it was big enough to have its own role in the story as it was the place that Sadie and Bo fell in love and … well, I won’t spoil it.
The humor. When it’s timed correctly, humor can be the turning point in novels like this and really make me fall in love. Johnson got it right every.single.time. and I was endeared over and over again.
The romance. It was sexy without being gross … if that makes sense? Sometimes romance novels can go a little too far and it can become monotonous. I don’t need sex scene after sex scene … what I do need is important encounters that make sense to the story. Melonie Johnson delivered on all accounts. It was hot without being inappropriate. It was vital to the story without becoming the story. THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE WRITTEN … so take notice, romance authors! It was all like a shade below Colleen Hoover, and that is a huge compliment in my opinion.
I just genuinely loved this book, and I cannot wait to read the others in this series. And hello, take a look at that beautiful cover. Sadie and Bo are amazing and their shared vulnerability was so special … this novel was truly a cut above the rest.
4 stars to Once Upon a Bad Boy, and cheers to Melonie Johnson for giving me a fresh new love for contemporary romance.