Standing in the Shadows by Shannon McKenna
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Oh man. Shannon McKenna is becoming like romantic crack to me. I am blaming my sister 100% for this. She is the one who raved about this author. It took me years to read her, but now, I am broken. I can't not read her. I have to get all her books! I have been blessed to get the last two releases by her as review books (and I freaking loved them), and now I just need to go back and catch up on the earlier books after Behind Closed Doors. In a fit of rebellion towards my stack or required review books, I picked this up this week, and couldn't look back (I need a love story infusion in my life).
I have a fantasy about a guy who is so in love with you, he's crazy about it. His feelings for your border on obsession. He's probably a bit too possessive. The song "Crazy in Love" conveys what I mean. My rational side says that sounds like a bad idea. Honestly, I wouldn't have time for a guy like Connor. I would need my space, although he's so adorable and cute about it, like my cat, who is fixated on me (which gets annoying at times). And in real life, that doesn't work for me. But McKenna understands how irresistible that appeal is in a fiction novel, where all bets are off. Where you can go with a story and feel safe, because it's just between the pages of a book. I'm a mature woman, and I know the psychology of a hero like this doesn't translate well to real life, and I leave those expectations at the door as I read. Even so, McKenna is not so dishonest an author, that she doesn't explore the implications of that sharp edge of intense love that boilers over into obsession. The appeal here is that this love is unselfish. Otherwise, it's not love. In a real life scenario, a stalker fixation is never unselfish. It's always about what the stalker wants and needs. With Connor, you see that he cares so very much about Erin's needs, even if he's rough and uncertain about how to show it. That's something you can learn. And in a mutual relationship, there is room for those understandings to develop with communication.
Gosh, this book hit me right in my marshmallow, die-hard romantic, sappy core. The mutual unrequited love that Connor and Erin had. That love pulled them back together, like two powerful opposite magnets. I think romance had me from the moment I read my first one, at twelve years of age. Since then, I've always been a sucker for a true love story (even the dark ones, maybe moreso, as long as it's a happy ending). I believe that love conquers all, and romance should convey this. Connor and Erin's journey is a bumpy road. They are both less than emotionally healthy, and they have a sick, twisted, megalomanical villain with no respect for boundaries, morals, or human life working to destroy them. Erin's father's fall from grace tainted her life, and Connor's as well. And Connor already had the baggage of a father who was far from emotionally adjusted. To my rather twisted imaginations, this was very fertile ground for a moving romance story. Love has a lot to conquer here. Add some very steamy, melt your fingers love scenes, and it's magic.
Yes, at times, Connor was a bit intense with his personality and his interactions with Erin (a bit grabby). Some readers might not like that. But I never felt like he would hurt Erin. I think he cherished her so much. Connor is like a huge grizzly bear with a teddy bear heart. So appealing to me, these kinds of big, strong marshmallow heroes! Erin was a very sweet, likable heroine. Very normal and that appealed a lot to me. While she was attractive, she wasn't drop dead gorgeous, but to Conner she was! I love when a hero is like that about the heroine. I found her steadfast love for Conner very appealing. He's a hot guy, but you could tell it wasn't just about lust for Erin. Even though the situation with her father went horribly pear-shaped, and it deeply involved Connor, she didn't blame him for it. However, I wanted to shake Erin a little near the end. I understand her uncertainty, but I believe strongly in trust, and she didn't show the trust I felt Connor deserved. However, the situation was a very strange one, with a villain who was playing some serious mind games with them both.
I'll be the first to admit I have no tolerance for kinky sexual stuff. This book isn't in any way kinky. Yes it has very descriptive sexual scenes, but nothing that I cringed about. At the same time, the love scenes are raw, earthy, and strongly sensual. The key is how much emotion is there. It's not just tab A into slot B and variations of that. I think that the author shows how much sexual congress can communicate between two people who love each other. She definitely shows the power of love in those moments as well as in other interactions between Erin and Connor. I would put this book down and sigh at night. That's a good sign for me.
I also loved the interactions between Connor and his brothers. They definitely have each others' backs, and for a family that has a reputation for being dangerous and crazy, there is so much love and caring for each other. They remind me of the GhostWalkers by Christine Feehan (which is a very high compliment). Similarly, Erin's close relationship with her mother and sister show bonds of familial love. You also see the importance of friends and how they add to your family.
Although some aspects towards the end frustrated me, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. You definitely get your romance time and money's worth with this author. I highly recommend her to fans of romantic suspense who love some steamy love scenes, and irresistible (and edgy) heroes who are head over heels, crazy about their heroines. I have a feeling I won't be able to put off reading Davy and Sean's books.
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