I liked this book. That said, I’m an old cranky bitch who likes to find things to complain about and picky as hell. I’ve liked the books Kelly Hunter had written for Harlequin Presents in the past. Going into this book, I had some expectations, but I bore in mind that it had a few black marks against it, too. Pro: Kelly Hunter book. Cons: ugh. 1) It’s a Christmas book and I hate holiday-themed books; 2) it’s a trilogy which features three successful, ridiculously handsome, hard-to-pin-down chick-magnet brothers, each with their own books, and this is the 3rd book; 3) the dialogue and bantering could be a little much that even Diablo Cody is rolling her eyes (seriously, who talks like this?). I read the first few pages of the first chapter and groaned. The hero’s name is Cutter and jokes about having a nephew named after him? Cutter Joe Jackson, is it? Cutter Joe Jackson. They got ‘em there in Australia, too? This is going to be a looooong book.
Keep in mind that I prefer to read about billionaires who live in Italian castles and own five yachts, a private jet, a couple of helicopters. I think the Jacksons might be a little… blue-collar in comparison.
Your hero: Cutter Jackson is the oldest of three brothers (or so he thinks, but more on that later). I haven’t read the two other books (no worries, I’m on it!) about Caleb and Eli (relatively normal names) but unless he had undergone a complete personality change between Eli’s book and this, I don’t understand why he warrants the title of “Bad Boy.” He doesn’t overindulge in liquor and get into fights, seems to genuinely love women (is even protective and indulgent of his sisters-in-law), is a man his brothers can count on, and a smart, hard-working fisherman who’s been trusted to look after the family business now that their dad is semi-retired. He seems to be an all-around great guy. I fail to see what’s “bad” about him. Does he leave the toilet seat up? Drink straight from the juice box and leave the empties in the fridge? There’s a Kim Ki-Duk film called “Bad Guy” and that dude is…really bad. Cutter is the Virgin Mary compared to that guy. Yes, Cutter is actually quite the catch. No baggage, no issues, no drama. He’s a responsible adult, a good businessman flush with cash, and apparently, quite a legend in the sack. (I meant to make a potato sack race joke here, but couldn’t make it work.)
Cutter’s life, within the first few pages of the novel, is almost idyllic and a little too hard to bear that I found myself thinking stuff like, And then the fuselage of a plane that exploded mid-air crashed on the roof of Cutter’s houseboat, instantly killing him. Or Cutter could admit to himself now, with only a trace of bitterness, that he got hit by a dump truck because he hadn’t been paying attention when he stepped off the kerb. In just a couple more pages, however, Cutter’s life is about to change.
Up to this point, Cutter has had it pretty good: awesome parents, awesome genetics, women who looked at him as though he were the second coming of Fabio, and a life straight out of the summer collection of the L.L.Bean catalogue. On the day his life changes forever, it starts just like any other: he says good morning to the butcher, the baker, the grocer, Mrs. Archer and her twin boys, the librarian, the milkmaids, the seagulls, and the fish as he walks through the town, oblivious to the spontaneous song-and-dance number he inspires in his wake, extolling his manly virtues and heavenly good looks. He waves and bestows his smile as though it were noblesse oblige. When he gets to the marina, he greets all his workers by name and congenially asks them about their families, sticking around to actually hear their replies. He walks on toward the jetty, jauntily whistling “Brandy,” stopping only to holler a hale and hearty good morning to those who call out to him. When he gets to his destination, he takes a deep inhale of the nippy ocean air, closes his eyes, and turns his ridiculously handsome visage toward the early morning sun, thanking the universe for his awesome, amazing life.
Moments later, it all goes to shit and Cutter feels as though his feet were cut from under him. ::snicker::
Your Heroine: Mia “You’re Gonna Love Me” Blake is the sister of a man who could be Cutter’s doppelganger. Having been born in a violent household with zero love and raised in the foster care system, she immediately forges a bond with Jackson Nash, who becomes her best friend, older brother, and protector. Nash has been in the system since he was four because he was taken away from his mother when she tries to sell him for drugs. Now living in Melbourne as an expert tattoo artist, Mia accompanies Nash as a support system when the latter finds his erstwhile unknown father after the death of his crackhead mother. The attraction between Mia and Cutter is instant, even as their personalities immediately clash and Cutter threatens to throw Mia in the water. Mia wonders how she could be so attracted to Cutter when he is physically the carbon copy of her pseudo-brother Nash, to whom she has never been attracted.
During her initial confrontation with Cutter, Mia gets her back up and impulsively blurts out that she is Nash’s sister, which means she could be Cutter’s sister, too. As she sashays away from the jetty with Nash in tow, her parting shot is: “Stop staring at your sister’s ass!”
“Just because she’s his sister, doesn’t mean she’s our sister.” Eli added his two cents.
Good point. Cutter was going to hold to that small but significant distinction, otherwise he was going to have to face the fact that he’d been temporarily and altogether unwittingly lusting after his sister.
The thick of it: Cutter is flabbergasted. There’s no point in denying that the guy is a blood relation; Cutter sees almost the same face in the mirror every morning. Since he also looks to be about the same age as Cutter, that would mean his father must have gotten two women pregnant around roughly the same time. Could his father have known about Nash and chosen not to do a thing about it? That was not the man that Cutter knew. His father may be as hot-tempered and stubborn as Cutter, but he was also responsible and lived under a code of honor. Cutter himself has read Bushido and–no, he hasn’t. Or maybe he has. I don’t know. Maybe Fishermen have their own version of The Way. The point is, Cutter is innately a really good guy and refuses to believe that his father could have known he’d gotten another woman pregnant and just abandoned her. Cutter calls his father who is in the U.K. and the old man is basically like, “Oh, shit. Let me talk to your mother first” and hangs up.
Meanwhile, Cutter has the major hots for Mia and it’s obvious she feels the same way. In fact, Mia is quite bold and makes no bones about wanting to get involved with Cutter. Even after he finds out that Mia isn’t related to him by blood, he is squicked out by it. This whole thing about having a long-lost brother they never knew about (and is all tormented by the ghosts of his pasts and has many issues and will probably get his own book) is already a clusterfuck of epic proportions without Cutter getting involved with Mia. On top of that, it’ll be Christmas in a couple of weeks and the storm season is coming, so they have to batten down the hatches (I’m almost sure that’s a metaphor for something).
After not hearing at all from his father and getting sick of being told “soon, soon,” Nash decides he’s tired of getting jerked around and sets out to leave for Melbourne, which is a good twelve-hour-drive away. Mia, of course, realizes she would have to go, too since Nash has been excuse for hanging around Cutter and now Nash wants to take off. Even though she’s fallen in love with the little fishing village and its people AND CUTTER (damn you, Cutter, just take a look at the girl), it’s not like the man has given her a reason to stay, so Mia has no choice but to go back to Melbourne.
Oh My Word: I was annoyed by the first chapter because it was too cutesy and had some wink-wink stuff I probably would have understood if I had read the first 2 books. Well, how was I supposed to know this was the third book of a series? Captain Crunch on a Cross, are stand-alone books not a thing anymore? Why do I gotta read about Eli and Caleb and Kai and Johnny and Ukiah to understand Cutter?
But once we get to Mia’s chapter, the pacing of the book vastly improves. Mia is a tough, strong, fight-or-flight chick who’s only had herself to count on since she was a little girl. She wants Cutter and isn’t ashamed to admit it. She’s not even really asking for much, just his attention. If only a little bit of his time is all he can give her, that’s okay, too. She’s taught herself over the years not to expect anything from anybody so she won’t ever be disappointed. She is strong, but secretly longs for a lot more than what she thinks she deserves. Nash tells her to value herself and ask for more. She’ll never know, he says, unless she asked.
Cutter is a fiercely loyal, easygoing guy who has always taken care of everyone and everything. He loves his family, the business, and the fisherman’s life. He has wonderful people surrounding him, so he’s never lonely. He’s a good-looking guy, so there’s never a shortage of women warming his bed. But lately he’s been thinking he should want more. Both of his younger brothers are settled with good women and married and his own parents have been happily married for several years. But all of a sudden, he’s NOT the oldest brother—that would be Nash—and his father, whom he’s always admired, might not be the man Cutter had thought him to be. And then there’s Mia, whom he wants more than anything and he can’t have her because… reasons.
There’s not really a reason for Cutter and Mia to be apart: they’re both single, super attracted to each other, not blood-related, and no one seems to have a problem with the two of them getting together. The pacing is quick and the main characters are likeable. As I said in the beginning, the witty bantering and dialogue got on my nerves at first, but after a bit, I caught the rhythm of the book and after the first two chapters, I didn’t even notice it anymore. A Bad Boy for Christmas (though the “Bad” in the title is debatable) is a nice, little holiday story where old wounds are mended, families are reunited, and friendships reforged. I liked the book enough to read the others in the series. And I hope Ms. Hunter writes one for Nash, too. I really liked him.
P.S. Having sex in the ocean? Gross. Little beasties, no lube, saltiness, awkward positioning… not fun.