J. D. Steele was a military sniper who was stationed in Iraq. When an unauthorized mission based on faulty intelligence went bad, leading to the death of his best friend and spotter, Steele took a pot shot at his commanding officer in anger. Now serving a lengthy sentence in Leavenworth, his only chance for redemption is a job offer from the Bureau of American Defense (B.A.D.), a covert black-ops government spy organization.
Sydney Westbrook, the agent with whom he'll be working, believes he'll be the perfect person for a difficult job that is also time-sensitive. The agency needs him to pick off an assassin before he or she has the opportunity to kill a foreign head of state who will be visiting the U.S. within the week. The success of this counter-terrorism mission is crucial to preventing all-out war between the two nations.
Steele and Syd are instantly attracted to one another, which only complicates their mission, especially when their lives are on the line. After losing his best friend, Steele doesn't think he could handle also losing the woman he's falling in love with.
It's been ages since I read the first three novellas in Sherrilyn Kenyon's B.A.D. Agency series, almost eight years to be exact, a shocker when I looked it up. I enjoyed those stories, but I ended up putting them on the back burner in favor of reading her Dark-Hunter series instead. I decided it was finally time to give the B.A.D. agents a chance again, and with Bad Attitude, I had another positive reading experience overall. I seem to recall those first stories were a littler lighter and perhaps a tad cheesy but in a good way. This one takes a little more serious approach and is definitely a romantic suspense. It has great action and is a fast-paced story that kept me engaged. It does have some weaknesses, mainly in it's characterizations and relationship development, which I'll address as I go along, but otherwise I'd recommend it for anyone who enjoys high-octane adventure and virtually non-stop action. It was a little like watching an action/adventure movie in my mind's eye.
I did like both the hero and heroine, but I felt like Ms. Kenyon could have dug a little deeper with their characterizations. Steele (aka J.D. or Josh, but almost everyone calls him by his last name), was probably the best defined and he has an interesting backstory. His father was an Army sniper who taught Steele everything he knew, but he was also a hard man, who insisted Steele had to follow in his footsteps. Steele also became an Army sniper and went to Iraq, where he ended up taking a pot-shot at his CO after his best friend and spotter died right next to him in a mission gone bad that was based on faulty intelligence. As one might expect, he's serving a lengthy sentence in Leavenworth for his misdeed, while his family has basically disowned him for it. Then B.A.D. (the Bureau of American Defense), an agency that works outside normal parameters, flags him as the perfect candidate for a sensitive mission that requires his skill set. After much persuasion they bring him in and throw him right into an undercover job that requires him to get hired by a security group that's a front for paid guns for hire, whose employees are about to assassinate a foreign dignitary. Steele is a smart guy, who knows what he's doing, but he prefers to be the one calling the shots. It's not out of a sense of arrogance, but because after what happened to his friend, he trusts his gut more than other people's intelligence. The one thing I liked about Steele is that he realizes pretty quickly that he's lost his stomach for killing. There were a lot of things in Steele's background that would have lent themselves well to the emotional development of the character, but unfortunately, we don't get much of that. He's kind of a what you see is what you get kind of character, who rarely shows a more vulnerable side. I liked him, but he didn't necessarily stand out to me in a strong way.
IMHO, Sydney was even less developed than Steele. She had a pretty normal, stable upbringing with a dad in finance and a mom who left a successful career in the business world to raise her kids. As such, the thing that really drove Sydney into her line of work as a spy was her brother-in-law and nephew being killed by an ecoterrorist's bomb. She wanted to make sure no one else would be hurt by terrorism of any kind, so she's a dedicated agent, who prides herself on getting it right the first time. Syd is described as being on the short side, with a plump curvaceous body and a face that could double for Angelina Jolie. She's attracted to Steele almost from the moment they meet, and given that she apparently had a former relationship gone bad, she comes to trust him a little too quickly. I would have preferred a bit more conflict in this area. Syd tends to play it close to the vest with her emotions, and much like Steele, rarely shows much vulnerability. Again, I liked her, but she wasn't a stand-out heroine for me, due to the lack of emotional development for her character.
The other thing I felt was weak is the romantic relationship. Steele and Sydney are pretty much in lust at first sight. They share some intimacy only a day after meeting and have sex after only two, which was a little quick for me. There's not much build-up to it and since their individual emotions aren't brought out very well, there isn't a whole lot of emotion in the love scene either. The entire story spans less than a week with most of the action taking place in the first three days. After the case is closed, the narrative fast-forwards six months to show where the couple is in their relationship at that time, and the I Love Yous don't come until then. On the one hand, it would have been unrealistic for them to fall in love in only a few days, but on the other, having it wait until the very end left a little something to be desired. Also since there wasn't a lot of relationship development in the main part of the story, the things that happen in the epilogue didn't carry as much weight for me.
Overall, Bad Attitude was an entertaining read for the action and adventure. If the characterizations and relationship development had been better, I could easily have seen it having the potential to be a keeper. As is, it was still a good read. It's been so long since I read the original three novellas, I can't recall if there are any common secondary characters other than Joe and Tee who I remember pretty well. They're an entertaining pair who really should get their own book, especially since Joe is very sexy to me and they almost act like a married couple already just without the mushy stuff.:-) Considering the sheer number of secondary characters present in this book, I was surprised to find that only one, Carlos, goes on to get his own book (Whispered Lies), unless others are featured in the remaining novellas. Bad Attitude is the first full-length book of the B.A.D. Agency series. All the rest of the full-length books and at least one of the remaining novellas was co-authored with Dianna Love, so I'll be interested to see if that in any way changes the style of the stories from here on out.
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