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Shannon McKenna

REVIEW:  Fatal Strike by Shannon McKenna

REVIEW: Fatal Strike by Shannon McKenna

shannon mckenna fatal strikeDear Ms McKenna:

I guess I knew that Miles Davenport was going to get his own book but I wasn’t fully prepared for his transformation from skinny, nerd tech go to muscle bound alpha hero.  Unfortunately, when Miles went from a unique individual to barel indistinguishable from any other McCloud hero, it made him and by extension, his story, less interesting.  I did wonder how new readers responded to Miles who came to this story without any previous preconceptions. Alas, I am not a new reader but one who has followed the McCloud brother series since its first fabulous story “Behind Closed Doors.”

Miles has been affected by a psi-drug, a drug that enhances mental capabilities. Initially Miles’ psi enhanced powers renders him immune to the bad guy’s attacks whereas all the other muscle bound McCloud men are impotent.  Miles is able to rescue Lara Kirk who unintentionally communicates him via his mind.

Lara Kirk’s mother was a scientist who developed different mind enhancing drugs for the bad guy.  The bad guy kidnaps Lara and begins experimenting on Lara because it sexually and mentally excites him.  And because he wanted to beget children off her. She was young, beautiful and had powerful innate mental shields.

Lara has been kept for months and tortured both physically and mentally.  Despite this her recovery is remarkably fast and doesn’t take offense or isn’t frightened by Miles’ non stop erection around her.  Miles rescues her and they start getting it on what seems like seconds later (or they would have if they hadn’t been in the back of a van with others around).  Her immediate physical reaction to Miles and her capitulation just diminished the previous 100 pages of mental suffering we experienced with her in order to generate sympathy for her character.

During Lara’s captivity, she would retreat into her mind and have sex with a phantom lover – the Lord of the Citadel. I guess we are supposed to believe that her mental connection with Miles is so strong that once they are together in the flesh, her past torments would have no affect. Not the death of her parents; not the non stop torment.  I wanted to like her pragmatic approach to life post trauma but it was hard to buy into when it came immediately upon her release from imprisonment.

The psi-drug angle has been my least favorite component of these past McKenna books. The series started out with a traditional mortal villain but like Miles has undergone a transformation into this partially paranormal feel where people with enhanced mental capabilities control and kill others.  There’s a coldness to this storyline that keeps me from fully investing in the characters.

So much stuff goes on in their heads that I feel like I’m constantly being told what to do and what to feel without seeing corresponding motivations of the characters.  Even the action scenes seemed one part removed because so much of it is fighting on a metaphysical plane.  It works in movies like the Matrix but its much harder to be effective in text. Half the time I envisioned Miles sitting cross legged while he escapes into his mind and does battle with an avatar of himself against the bad guy (Greaves).

Had he not shielded himself telekinetically the instant he heard the gun, he too would be full of those shards. It had been a question of nanoseconds, or perhaps a touch of precognition. His telekinetic abilities could stop bullets, so he stood in the middle of the shattered window frame, in silent invitation.

And I found Greaves to be the standard issue megalomaniac with grandiose pretensions. “I’m going to transform the world with my ideas” (and frankly that really didn’t seem consistent with his thirst for power. Why infect others with psi-power if you wanted to be the most powerful person alive?)

It was a struggle to finish this book. I had a hard time seeing Miles and Lara as a couple. I felt their transitions lacked believability. The villain was a caricature and the action scenes were devoid of intensity.  I think I’m going to have to take a McKenna break until the psi storylines are done with. As much as I love the McClouds, I’m ready to close the book on them. D

Best regards,

Jane

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REVIEW:  One Wrong Move by Shannon McKenna

REVIEW: One Wrong Move by Shannon McKenna

Dear Ms. McKenna:

I love the feel of your romantic suspense books. While not every hero in your books have a law enforcement background, there is a certain paramilitary aspect to the heroes and your extensive knowledge of weaponry displayed through the narrative provides a believable basis for the hero’s competency. But beyond the suspense, I’ve always enjoyed the romantic archetype of your stories which feature a hero that becomes fixated on the heroine and devoted to her safety and well being within a short amount of time. One Wrong Move delivers on those two elements: the familiar romantic archetype and the suspense. Where it falters is in the believability aspect but if a reader can suspend her disbelief and enjoys the types of romances McKenna tells, then this will be a satisfying read.

One Wrong Move by Shannon McKennaWhile the back cover copy reads like McKenna is writing an erotic novel, it is not. Her books are sexy but I would not place them in the erotic romance category.

Alex Aaro is a cyber security specialist whose father is a giant in the Ukranian mob. He’s run from that lifestyle, moving to the US with his aunt, enlisting in the Army and serving in the Rangers where he met Davy McCloud. Since he’s been out, from time to time, McCloud would ask Alex to help him out but the last time, Alex made a big mistake which almost led to the death of his cousin’s wife, Lily. He wants to withdraw from helping others. It only results in tragedies. When Bruno calls him to translated a recording left on the phone of a friend of Lily’s, Alex refuses. He is on his way to see his aunt who is on her deathbed. She is the only woman who has ever loved him.

Nina Christie is accosted by her aunt Helga, injected with some kind of substance, and left with a frantic message in Ukranian. Shortly thereafter, her aunt slips into a coma and the only piece of evidence Nina has is the message.

The injection leaves Nina with strange images as if instead of a person’s face, she sees their true identity – evil, good, soulless. She begins to hear the thoughts of those around her and wonders if she isn’t going crazy.

I can’t recall when McKenna introduced the paranormal element into her books but it was in the McCloud brother series. Some people’s extra sensory powers are the result of a drug and in this case, Nina’s powers are brought on by a drug her aunt had been developing under duress. Once the message is translated, it is discovered that Nina was given an A dose of the drug and she needs to the B dose within 5 days or Nina will die like her aunt. The bad guys recongize Nina knows something and pursue her.

Alex gets dragged in against his will and for all his protestations otherwise, Alex can’t leave endangered Nina by herself. The two have a twofold goal: avoid the killer goons after them and find the B dose. Adventure ahoy.

Amongst the gruesome villianry, the romance provides comedic relief with Alex’s bluntly expressed attraction to Nina (and his initial terrible attempts to suppress that attraction) giving rise to a few laughs.

“What makes you think I’m so hungry for attachment”

“All women want attachment. Unless they’re damaged.”

“So do men.” She wasn’t even sure exactly what they were arguing about, but she couldn’t shut herself up. “Unless they’re damaged , too.”

“Right,” he said. “There you have it. ”

“So you’re telling me you’re damaged goods?”

“Duh,” he said.

****

“Want to know the wird part, though?” His narrowed eyes were fixed on her, hot with fascination. “My dick is hard as cement.”

She jerked back against the door. “Don’t talk to me like that.”

“I’m not usually this bad,” he said. “I mostly keep my trap shut. But I guess, once you’ve killed two guys, dragged a stark naked girl out of a bullet ridden closet and then gone through a drive by shooting with her, you feel entitled to skip the small talk.”

One of the more fun aspects of this story is that Nina is often saving Alex. He’s very capable but oftentimes put in situations in the story that place him in impossible odds and Nina, by being in the right place at the right time, is able to haul him out of danger more than once.

But in order to enjoy these books, one really has to stop thinking.  I didn’t love the ESP aspect.  I didn’t love the wildly improbably coincidences. The insta love between the characters might be a real problem for readers. But before there were self published authors like Kristen Ashley, there was Shannon McKenna whose messy, improbable, over-the-top romances are like candy to me.  C+

Best regards,

Jane

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