Review: Bad Influence – Stefanie London
by Stefanie London
Series: Bad Bachelors #3
Also in this series: Bad Bachelor
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: February 26, 2019
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Annie Maxwell had her whole life figured out...until her fiancé left her when his career took off. If that wasn't bad enough, every society blog posted pictures of him escorting a woman wearing her wedding ring. To help the women of New York avoid men like her ex, she created the Bad Bachelors app. But try as she might, Annie just can't forget him...
Outside his stellar career, CEO Joe Preston has made a lot of mistakes. None was worse than leaving the love of his life when she needed him most. Now, he's ready for a second chance. He may still be one heck of a bad influence, but when Annie's safety is threatened by a hacker, Joe is the only one who can save her—and he'll do whatever it takes to win her back. But will their hard-won bond survive the revelation that Annie is the one pulling the strings behind Bad Bachelors?
I have very much enjoyed the Bad Bachelors series, and it’s bittersweet to be finally reading the last book. I have quite the thing for second chance romances, and reading about Annie, the creator of the Bad Bachelors app, and Joe, its inspiration, meeting again was absolute perfection. This is the third in the series, and while I think it could be read as a standalone, I think you’d miss some of the emotional impact if you haven’t read the rest of the series.
Three years ago, Annie was forced to make a choice. Go to Singapore as planned with her boyfriend, Joe, or stay in NYC with her mother, who was recently diagnosed with cancer. You can probably guess which she chose, and the resulting fallout led Annie to create the Bad Bachelors app, where women can rate and review their dates. Things have gotten a bit more out of control than Annie intended, and not only does Annie have to deal with threats against her due to the app, but Joe is also back in town, which she knows courtesy of a meet-disaster. Their attraction is still there, but is there any hope of mending the fractured relationship between them?
“I should have let you know I was coming home.”
“No.” She whirled around to face him, heat racing through her veins. “You shouldn’t have left in the first place. Then you wouldn’t have had to tell me you were coming home because you’d already be home.”
Annie is well-rooted in NYC, Manhattan where she lives now and Brooklyn were her family is. While self-sufficient, she’s part of a loving and rambunctious family that always has her back, and I loved them all. Joe’s relationship with his family is, well, dysfunctional. They don’t show affection, and part of taking the Singapore job – part of his ambitious nature – was to, hopefully, earn his father’s admiration (hint: it didn’t). While it broke Joe’s heart to leave Annie, his family had little sympathy for that as they always viewed her and her poor roots as a bad influence on him. For a good portion of the book I didn’t like Joe – what kind of hero leaves the woman he loves to deal with her mom’s cancer alone??? – but as we gradually came to understand more about his background and the events that led to the breakup, things made a lot more sense.
“Right then, it was like being in an alternate reality. One where he’d never left, where she’d never let her fear push him away. Where they had both been more mature and better equipped to deal with the curveballs that life had thrown them. Where they were exactly where they were supposed to be—together.”
I love second chance romances, and, besides the possibility of a do-over, which I think everyone wishes they have, I like how many times it becomes obvious that being apart has given both characters the opportunity to become better versions of themselves, people they couldn’t have been without that breakup. The root of their breakup was bad communication, and while I don’t generally like “one conversation would’ve fixed everything” books, this goes a bit deeper than that. While initially it feels like the blame should be on Joe for making her chose between going with him to Singapore or staying with her newly-diagnosed-with-cancer mom, it’s actually more nuanced. Joe’s issue is that she made her decision without his input. By the time she broaches the subject with him, there’s nothing left to discuss, and he feels like she’ll always put her family above him, while she had always been the first priority in his life. Without going into spoilers, this isn’t exactly true, though. While there’s been a lot of hurt on both sides, there’s also a decent amount of groveling (and Joe recognizes his actions hurt more than just Annie).
Overall, while I was initially out off by the hero, I found this a very satisfying conclusion to the series. While the first in the series is still my favorite, I’d recommend this one to any fan of contemporary romance who loves second chances!