Standing In The Shadows
by Shannon McKenna, contemporary (2003)
Brava, $14.00, ISBN 0-7582-0453-1


Here's this for being contrary: I am distracted by Shannon McKenna's writing style, so much so that I actually can't get into the story well enough to enjoy it. I actually find it a typical pedestrian romantic suspense with a ridiculously tortured alpha hero and a heroine who is often too stupid for her own good, with the skank psycho quota kindly provided by the villains.

In this book, one of the zillion ex-FBI agents floating around Contemporary Romantic Suspenseville (I bet FBI must be really understaffed by now), Connor McCloud, is trying to protect the woman he loves even since she is sweet sixteen ("Young girl, get out of my head... you better run girl, you're much too young, girl!") from the psychos that almost killed her in the last book. But Erin Riggs has been offered a plum job studying mouldy old pottery and helmets, so she does not want protection. No! Get lost! Go - oomph! That's Connor, silencing her in the way the brutes always do.

Erin has baggages. I should know. The author spends eight pages of Chapter One regurgitating them several times as Erin mopes, whines, buries her head in her hands, laughs, almost suffocates her cat, and sighs over the man she has loved since she was sixteen ("Won't you wait for me some day?/Saving all my love for you...") The repetitiousness is a pattern throughout the book, and I often find myself fidgeting in my seat in impatience as I try to figure out how much I can gloss over without missing something important.

I also find the conversations a really weak point. I've noted this in the past and I'll say it again here: Ms McKenna's heroes may be alpha, but their conversation skills make me suspect that their vocal chords haven't evolved past Cro-Magnon. Connor doesn't seem to know any subtlety. He's not crude - he's horrifically socially inept. Some of the things he says here make me suspect that we may be talking about a man who will calmly unzip his pants in the middle of a party and, while waving the evidence at everyone's face, bellows that he is horny and he wants some patty-cake loving now. Connor may be good at doing the protective stint, but when it comes to fitting in with society, he's somewhere between Dumb and Dumber. I sometimes like my men dumb, hung, and silent, but Connor is definitely lacking in the "silent" department.

Overall, my impression of this book is that it is a modified photocopy of Behind Closed Doors - similar obsessive relationship, similar Neanderthally-linguistic hero with the baggages to complete the High Maintenance Boyfriend From Hell suite, similar sexually dysfunctional heroine that doesn't know whether to be clingy, terminally stupid, or helpless, and enough distracting repetitious merry-go-ground expositions and elocution-for-cavemen prose techniques to drive me nuts. I do find the Diana Palmeresque quality of the romance fascinating in a campy way, but all in all, I'm not enjoying myself too much Standing In The Shadows.

Rating: 72


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