All About Men
by Shannon McKenna, contemporary (2007, reissue)
Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-7582-1985-5


All About Men is actually a collection of Shannon McKenna's short stories previously published in Brava anthologies. Needless to say, I am not amused when I discover this only after buying the book. For this "review", I'll just cut and paste the reviews from my reviews of those anthologies the stories came from.

Something Wild, previously published in All Through The Night. Motorbike man Jacob Kerr meets this sexy woman one day in a bar, and starts stalking her until she gives in. This stalking takes place all across five states across the country. This is one sexy fantasy. Alas, heroine Annie Simon, nincompoop and burned-by-past-relationship before tool, demurs and demurs and goes all neurotic that I fall into a coma on my table.

Meltdown, previously published in Bad Boys Next Exit. It highlights what seems to be the author's trademark style by now: utterly, absolutely over-the-top alpha jerk heroes that come really close to being outright dumb and a heroine who can't seem to understand that one plus one is two even after six weeks' worth of remedial classes. In this novella, Jane Duvall is a headhunter who uses sneaky tricks to get past the receptionists to get to the employees that she targets her clients' job offers to. Her latest stint however is intercepted by Michael MacNamara who knows what she is up to. She doesn't know that her game is up, however, and she blithely steps into Mac's trap. Oops.

Mac is the kind of hero that exists only in romance novels - he makes ridiculously over-the-top judgment calls that, were he a businessman in real life, he would be homeless on the street after one month in the rat race. He immediately hates hates hates Jane because Jane is a liar and his parents were liars and all liars are liars and liars liars liars liars DIE LIARS DIE DIE DIEDIEDIE. Mac has no boundaries or perspectives whatsoever when it comes to his thoughts and emotions. At the same time he lusts after Jane too and they end up having mighty he-man king-kong sex all over his hotel rooms. All the time Jane wants to confess but her mouth keeps getting distracted by phallic-shaped plot contrivances, which only makes Mac's angry horny inner beast even more worked up.

The whole thing is ridiculous. I keep waiting for those two to self-combust from their overwrought, melodramatic, soap-operalike love-hate affair. This story isn't unrealistic in the sense that it is very possible for two people who don't like each other to have earth-shattering sex with each other, but the rushed happy ending however rings false.

Touch Me, previously published in I Brake For Bad Boys.

This novella also disturbs me. I would heartily recommend this author to try creating a hero whose language abilities will not make a grunting Neanderthal come off like Socrates. Seriously, Ms McKenna, it is okay to use commas and multiple subjects in one sentence. Work on those dialogues, please, because the hero Jonah Markham, between his obsession with his Granddad (whom he really calls "Granddad") and his barely Cro-Magnon speech pattern, that man is really channeling Norman Bates too much for my comfort.

What is puzzling though is that Ms McKenna doesn't hesitate to overuse italics and commas in her non-dialogue narratives. I don't know what to make of this author's style. The dialogs are barely better than gruntings or curt orders a little more sophisticated than "Tarzan want! Jane strip!", but there are reams and reams of internal monologues that have no problem going on and on and on.

Okay, the plot. Tess Langley just can't say no to her client Jonah Markham - she's a massage therapist - when he does a Pretty Woman thing and pays her to accompany him to a mountain hideaway of his. There, they have lots of sex in between gruntings and short, short exchanges passed off as conversations and a million ruminations of insecurities and all, but the sex is hot. The sex is very hot.

Tess is the typical insecure, hapless, whiny heroine whom one can only drag into a sexual situation by everything short of outright coercion. Jonah is a little better as the awkward guy, but thanks to the author's curt and barely functional way of writing dialogues, there is very little in her characters to interest me outside their bedroom. This is one novella where the sex is very well-done, but the author's technique could use some polishing. Remember, Ms McKenna, loose and periodic sentences are our friends, but they shouldn't be restricted to overdone mental babblings only. Dialogs are our friends too. And dialogs need loose and periodic sentences once in a while or they become painful to the ears and we all tune out.

In conclusion, this one is best for the author's biggest fans who haven't purchased the anthologies from where the stories came from.

Rating: 58


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