Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
When Baltimore police rescue diver Jamie Donnigan gets a call about a jumper off the Key Bridge he doesn’t realize that his carefully controlled life is about to change dramatically. What he thinks will be a routine call turns into something much more important as the man they are supposed to rescue is none other than Gavin Montgomery, the openly gay middle son of the most powerful family around Baltimore.
Gavin Montgomery and his friend Beach were on their way home from a party when Beach decides he is going to swim to Fort Carroll and the best way to start his swim is to jump off the Frances Scott Key Bridge. When Gavin tries and fails to keep his friend from jumping, he falls in after him.
While in the water, a SOS alerts Jamie to the location of the man he is searching for, and to his amazement he finds Gavin hanging onto an unconscious Beach, both in need of medical assistance. As the whole rescue operation turns into a media frenzy, Jamie finds himself at the center of attention and a guest of honor at a dinner given by Gavin’s father. There the attraction between Jamie and Gavin boils over and a sex only relationship is formed.
But keeping things casual starts to become a problem the more they get to know each other. Gavin and Jamie are more alike than they would like to admit, but when failure to communicate and poor assumptions are in play, will both men let down their guard enough to let love have a chance to flourish?
Bad Attitude is the third book in the Bad in Baltimore series and the first one I have read in the group. I don’t know how I missed the first two books as I usually gobble up everything that K.A. Mitchell writes, but after reading Bad Attitude I am certainly going to get the first two and start the series from the beginning. I enjoyed this book so much that I must see how and with whom Bad in Baltimore started.
One of the things I can always count on in a K.A. Mitchell story are characters that, while pretty, are full of attitude, extremely confidant, and a tad walled off emotionally from those around them. I love these type of characters and Mitchell’s are some of my favorites. They are snarky, competent, and oh so interesting in every aspect. Any way you look at it, these men are challenging, and so is their path to love.
Snarky and challenging are certainly words that can be used to describe Jamie Donnigan, the police rescue diver who is one of the two main characters here. I loved Jamie. He covers his vulnerabilities with tats and a smug attitude that shields him from the injustices and routine daily disappointments that life as a police officer dishes up. The words that flow out of his mouth match the attitude that his demeanor projects. This is how Jamie tells Gavin, he will be attending the party Gavin’s father invited him to as a guest of honor:
“Yes, but she— I’ll return the favor and be direct. I was sent to assure you of the family’s sincere wish that you feel comfortable bringing a guest if you desire and to help you with any concerns you might have.”
Jamie met that unnervingly steady stare without blinking. “In other, direct words, you all think that because I’m just a county cop from Dundalk with a high school education, I don’t know how to act at one of your fancy parties? The kind you and your buddy need Liquid X to get through?”
Montgomery took his hands out of his pockets and spread them, palms up. “We all have our crosses to bear.”
Jamie popped the door with his key fob. “I may not come with kennel club papers from the breeder, but I think I can manage to keep from pissing on the rug. I’ve been to a party before.”
“Whatever you say, Officer.” Montgomery turned, and Jamie saw the gleaming Bentley blocking in the bomb squad truck.
You can feel the arrogance and snark oozing out of Jamie in that scene. But Gavin Montgomery is more than a match for Jamie. Just from the interaction above, you can feel the charged atmosphere as the two personalities clash and their sexual heat flares up. Gavin’s attitude is smoother and certainly comes with a glossy finish but in every way it is as bold, cold and sure as Jamie’s. Mitchell supplies us with Gavin’s back story in little supplements along the way, from Gavin’s interpersonal relationships with siblings, father and stepmother to his commitments to a few friends and surprising interests. Both men are masters of the lowered expectation while still carrying within them the ability to be disappointed and hurt in the unsurprising actions of others.
The push/pull of their attraction to each other, their denial of their feelings and, a remarkable disconnect when it comes to communication makes this book feel realistic and at times, a little frustrating. Realistic because for these men to suddenly capitulate to each other in any manner other than sexual would be out of character but that certainly doesn’t keep it from being frustrating for the reader (and the couple) at certain points in the story. Bad Attitude is sometimes like watching two pieces of granite mate, lots of grinding, loud noises as the boulders smack together, looking for the perfect position and control.
Baltimore, Maryland and its surrounding locales act as a main character in the book and I assume the series as well. ”Balmer” is rich in its ethnically diverse blue collar neighborhoods, old rowhouse neighborhoods, historic buildings and parks. Throughout the story, Jamie and Gavin wander through the scenic upper echelon areas of Fells Point and Federal Hill to the beautifully restored Inner Harbor and beyond, giving the reader an intimate look at one of the Mid Atlantic’s liveliest and interesting cities. I don’t know if the author has ever lived there but it certainly has the feel of someone not only familiar with the area but who holds it in wry affection, foibles and all. How else would Mitchell know to have Jamie give directions to his friends house like this:
Jamie listened to Quinn give directions to the lost teacher with the weird name.
“Then don’t get back on 83.” Quinn’s voice held an above-average amount of irritation.
“Where is he?” Jamie asked.
Quinn moved the phone away from his mouth but didn’t cover it. “Towson. He got confused in the construction and ended up going the wrong way on the Beltway.”
“Put him on North Charles—” Jamie held out a hand. “Here, give me it.”
“Be my control freak of a guest.”Quinn handed off the phone, ignoring Jamie flipping him off.
Once Jamie figured out where the guy was, he got him onto 139, only one other turn to get him to Quinn’s. He handed back the phone. “It’ll take him longer, but at least he’ll get here. Hey, kid, we gonna eat or what?”
The other authentic element here is the water search and rescue units that abound in this area. From Baltimore to Washington, DC, all the local police squads have their own form of water search and rescue divisions. Whether you are talking about the Patapsco or the Potomac rivers,or the Chesapeake Bay, Mitchell plunges you into their cold and treacherous waters along with Jamie with her vivid descriptions:
Geist followed him toward the nearest bridge pylon, moving his hand light across the water. The shoring around the base was made up of head-sized rocks. Not easy to crawl up on, but if Jamie’s life was on the line, he’d have managed to haul ass up onto them.
There was nothing on the east side, south or west. Their hand lights fell short of the next pylon and shoring. Holding his light just below the surface, Geist stared at Jamie in question. Between the thrum of the boats and the chopper sending waves smacking against the shoring, they couldn’t have made themselves heard even without their regulators in the way. Jamie lifted his hands in a shrug and put his head back in the water, intending to sweep around the north side before following Geist back to their search pattern.
The waters around Baltimore were always full of sound. Stone and metal shifting and grinding, bass-deep or treble-whining motors, those were all familiar background to the bubbles moving past his ears. But there was something… rhythmic that didn’t sound like it came from a motor, a tapping that took on a pattern recognizable anywhere in the world. A pattern only a person could make. Three quick, three slow, three quick. SOS. Jamie let a little air out of his vest, sinking under the surface to get a better listen. Water carried sound, but it made direction hard to pick up. Geist swung his light over Jamie as he surfaced.
Jamie flashed his own light, then tapped his ears and indicated the pylons on either side of them. Geist pointed and they separated to search. Jamie put his head down and swam at speed, panning his light over the north side before making for the next pillar of cement supporting the bridge.
The rocks of the shoring were a dark, uneven lump against the black of sky and the shining black of the water. But as Jamie drew within twenty yards, he was sure that among the rocks, something was moving. Something not a cormorant or a heron, unless they had decided to wear a watch because one was reflecting his light from a hand and wrist that clung to a rock.
He’d found him.
The absolutely captures the caution, the excitement and, of course, the dangers of the divers search. Remarkable details conveying knowledge and a concise narrative that allows the story to move along smoothly yet still gain momentum. Just lovely.
My only issue here is that I felt the ending was a little to abrupt when you consider all the reader, as well as the couple, went through to get to it. I would have loved a little more resolution or perhaps an epilogue (not something you normally find in a Mitchell story). For those of you familiar with the other books, those couples can be found here in Bad Attitude as well. While Bad Attitude was clearly written as part of a series, it also works as a stand alone story. I highly recommend it for all the reasons mentioned above and for the combustible, sweat inducing sex scenes as well. Trust me, those are smoking hot.
Here are the books in the order they were written:
Bad Company (Bad in Baltimore #1)
Bad Boyfriend (Bad in Baltimore #2)
Bad Attitude (Bad in Baltimore #3)
Cover art by Angela Waters. I like the cover but where is my ginger haired cop?