REVIEW: “Bad Penny” by Staci Hart

Staci Hart’s “Bad Penny” is a rollicking fun, intense, and dirty, dirty romance – I Love It!  “Bad Penny” spins off of the “Tonic” novel and includes characters from that book.  The heroine is the titular Penny who is a tattoo artist at Tonic.  She’s a purple haired, pierced and tatted pin-up pixie with a “three dates and you’re out” motto.  Penny was burned by a manipulative long term boyfriend and learned from her mistakes.  The relationships must be brief or else someone will turn psycho; either the guy or herself.  And she doesn’t want to go town that rabbit hole again.  The hero’s a reformed chubby, awkward teen geek; he’s braces free and loaded with muscle.  Bodie’s a good guy who wants Penny he thinks he knows how to play the game to get the girl.  Or maybe not.  The key to character growth in “Bad Penny” is Communication.

Penny is accused of being “boy crazy” and she doesn’t see why that’s a bad thing.  She has a cardinal rule three dates and she bounces.  Usually on the third date the guy wants to propose, move in, or strangely expects baby talk.  They turn psycho.  If they don’t then she probably will; it’s happened before and it isn’t pretty.  Her high school boyfriend of two years lied to her, cheated on her, and treated her like dirt.  But he manipulated her into believing he was always right and she kept right on loving him.  When he broke up with her at graduation Penny went psycho.  She screamed bloody murder at the ceremony then blew up his phone with calls and texts.  Until she decided to move across the country from California to New York City to get away from the crazy.

On a hot summer day she and her two roommates, try to beat the heat with ice cream.  Penny is conversing with her friends when she uses a hunky blonde-haired guy as a visual aid.  While she has his gorgeous attention she decides to do some sexually interest grabbing ice cream eating to “window flirt.”  Penny definitely gets Bodie to notice.  He likes the adorable purple-haired pin-up girl and what she was doing to that cone.  Bodie just moved to New York joining his twin and their best friend.  They’re working together to finally reach their decade long dream of developing their video game.  Ultimately they want a video game company to take notice and buy in.  Bodie’s brother and friend take him to a club to introduce him to the City’s nightlife.  Coincidentally Penny and her roommates select the same club and she spots “Blondie” across the bar.

Both Bodie and Penny lock eyes and mindlessly their feet guide them to each other.  Penny and Bodie individually feel as though they’ve met before or already know each other.  It takes Bodie only a short time before he remembers Penny from high school.  Even after they kiss, leave the bar, and ravage each other at Bodie’s apartment Penny still doesn’t remember.  Finally Bodie tells her.  Penny can’t believe Bodie’s the chubby kid, with braces who hung out at her high school boyfriend’s band practice.  The manipulative guy gave Bodie and his twin the nicknames of Diddle and Dee Dee.  Penny can’t believe that same awkward teen’s the man who just did fabulously dirty things to her body.  Regardless, Penny tells Bodie about her three dates-no strings-that’s how I roll rules and he says he’s cool with it.  Secretly, Bodie’s planning to play a long game to win Penny’s heart.

Bodie understands Penny’s stance on relationships he had a ringside seat to the trainwreck that was Penny’s high school relationship.  He saw what she didn’t see and he crushed on her when he was invisible.  Bodie knows Penny and believes he can out last her cardinal rule.  He’s going to play it cool; leave the ball completely in her court.  If Penny wants no-strings that’s how he’ll play it.  She wants no attachments or expectations; he’ll give her none.  Bodie’s going to give her exactly what she wants; she’ll have no reason to push him away.  Meanwhile he’ll try to become indispensable to her.  The first round of sex is mind-blowing; in fact Penny believes she’s become “dick-notized.”  Penny can’t stay away and finds herself in Bodie’s bed the next day.  She starts to panic realizing the next time she sees him will be the last time.

Bodie tells her he’s fine with no-strings and no feelings; she can keep him around longer than her three dates.  They agree to promise to say if there’s a chance their developing feelings so they can part ways early.  His words work and their addictive sex brings them together almost everyday but never overnight.  But Penny brings Bodie to the tattoo shop to introduce him to her friends.  Totally out of character for her.  Penny’s been out of the dating scene for so long she doesn’t realize the outings she plans are actually dates.  She catches herself referring to Bodie as her boyfriend and it doesn’t freak her out.  But Penny worries she could go psycho at anytime.  So she entrusts one of her friends to be on-call in case of emergency.

Bodie’s never felt no-strings and his feelings have gotten to the extremely serious level.  However he’s afraid to tell her his feelings because she may run; so he says nothing.  But he thinks Penny may have deeper feelings as well.  Therefore he tries to convey his feelings through his actions and love-making.  Penny thinks she might be in love she thinks Bodie might love her too.  She’s afraid that if she tells him and he doesn’t return her feelings her heart will shatter; worse than before.  Even though they have Trust and Respect they don’t have Communication.  So when issues and Big Elephants enter their relationship, they haven’t communicated their feelings so things blow up.  Badly.  Between Penny’s rules and ghosts and the pressure of presenting their game to a company Bodie must prioritize.  Although it kills him; it’s best for his sanity to break things off completely with Penny.

“Bad Penny” has wonderfully colorful characters built with personality and complexity.  The storyline’s intriguing; how the past defines the present yet the past also can instigate big changes.  Penny’s journey exhausts her self-confidence and self-esteem; every weakness and doubt sabotages her mind.  Bodie’s Super Freaky in the sheets but his love for Penny can only carry him so far.  He’s drained and his will is shattered.  The rules and restrictions finally get the better of him.  Their main problem is that they fear losing each other so they simply don’t talk about their feelings.  Or listen for that matter.  Normally these characters’ behavior would have me wishing I could slap them up the back of their heads.  However, Staci Hart writes their reasons, fears, and emotions so well and explicitly that they are completely understandable.  I love these characters and this “world.”  I need to find and read more.

I’m giving “Bad Penny” 5 Lightning Bolts and a Hurricane Warning.

 

This novel was provided, voluntarily read, and honestly reviewed.

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