“He’s running in my veins and beating in my chest.”
How do you know a book is a GREAT book? For me, there are several qualities that help me give a book a 5 +++ star review:
*Usually, I’ve read the author previously, and he/she has bowled me over with his/her books. This is DEFINITELY the case with Saffron A. Kent. Medicine Man was the first book I read by her, and she broke my heart with that beautiful story. That lead me to The Unrequited where she once again skewered my “ticker.” When she began posting about Bad Boy Blues, explaining that this was the most personal book to her, I KNEW I needed to get an ARC of it, so I could give it its proper due. And, once again, she does not disappoint with this book. Her books carry intentional messages related to societal topics. With this book, the big topic is bullying and the impact of learning disabilities on one’s sense of intelligence. She looks at it from various perspectives, and, as the reader, you feel the weight of these issues. I think this is the reason I love her books. I know when I read them I am reading more than romance; I’m reading about a relevant issue that surpasses the romance in the story. I love that depth of writing; hence, I love Kent’s books.
*The story makes me cry over and over again. I’m a sap. I love my heart strings pulled because it reminds me I’m human. If I read a book, and the story makes me cry in one chapter, then laugh, and then cry again in another chapter, I know the book has meaning. I am relating to the characters because I can empathize with their feelings.
Bad Boy Blues follows two characters: Cleopatra Paige (Cleo) and Zachariah Prince (Zach). Cleo is the girl from “the other side of the tracks” while Zach is the “prince” of the town in which they live. They are very different. They meet in school when Cleo is enrolled in the privileged private school where Zach attends. From almost her first day, Cleo is intrigued with Zach because she sees something kindred in him. Unfortunately, this seems off-putting to Zach, and he begins to bully her. Even more, he allows his friends to make her school experience miserable, and she lives the next several years of her life (after high school) in the shadows of that torment. Thankfully, for Cleo, Zach leaves school and town before graduation, and she gets a reprieve. She believes she will never see him again, but this proves wrong when he shows up a few years later. All of the torment and fear from her school days return, and she struggles every day as she worries he will torment her again. Through all of this, as the reader, you can feel her pain. When she encounters Zach over and over, you can’t help but want to protect her. Her pain becomes your pain. That is the power of Kent’s writing. Her characters are so relatable that you imagine yourself as them, and your heart breaks when their hearts break. And Bad Boy Blues embodies this.
*The characters of a book need to be redeemable. I love an “alpha-hole.” If you have read any of my previous reviews of other authors, then you know the redemption of the seemingly unredeemable male character is my favorite romantic trope. Zachariah Prince typifies this role, or seemingly so. With an alpha-hole, nothing is ever what it seems. This is true for Zach. Yes, he bullied Cleo in school. Yes, he continues to torment her on his return (even though this torture is much different than her youth). However, there is something that runs deeper in Zach’s past and his present that explains his nature. And this secret is the headiness of his character. It shows us his layers, and he becomes admirable and intriguing. His redemption through his relationship with Cleo is beautiful and the cornerstone of Bad Boy Blues. His growth along with Cleo’s awakening about Zach is constructed beauty in this story. It is what made me shed the most tears .
*The words of the story have to bear into my soul. If you read any of my other reviews of Kent’s works, then you know how much I love her style. Bad Boy Blues is no different. I have pages and pages of highlighted notes because her words are a melody of pain and love. The writing is fluid and helps you feel the essence of these characters as you read it. So much so, that you simply cannot stop reading her words because they feed a little something in you.
“I wished for someone who’d care for me. Someone who’d love me. Who would put up with me and all the destructive things that I just felt compelled to do. I wished for someone soft. Someone shiny and bright. But more than that, I wished for someone I could be better for. I wished for you…”
That is but a tidbit of the power of her words. There is more to this passage, and Saffron A. Kent’s words simply bite into your soul and leave an imprint.
Bad Boy Blues is a contemporary, enemies-to-lovers story that grinds at your heartstrings. It is layered with messages about bullying, learning disabilities, and overcoming pain while wrapped in a package of romance and $exual chemistry. Kent makes us question what it means to be soul mates. Is it the brutal hazing of bullying, or is it something more? What is bullying anyway when you feel a strong spiritual connection to another?
“I love you with all my soul. You’re the core of me. You’re in my fucking essence. And no one can take that away from me. Not even death.”
I absolutely could not put this book down because it felt necessary to read Zach and Cleo’s story. They are just like many of us, trying to move beyond the hurts of our pasts to find peace in our future. Thankfully for Cleo and Zach, their peace comes in a beautiful HEA, which should give us all hope for our own HEAs.
In love and romance,