Behind Closed Doors
by Shannon McKenna, contemporary (2002)
Brava, $14.00, ISBN 0-7582-0318-7

I hesitate to proclaim Shannon McKenna an author to watch, because Behind Closed Doors, which a promising book, tends to go overboard with its own psychoanalysis. The characters spend more time looking at each other and launching into long, long internal monologues. Let's just hope Ms McKenna tightens the screws on her characters' internal exposition a lot.

Pacing isn't just this book's only problem. Like so many romance authors who believe that all you need to be a "sexy author" is to push a dimbulb virgin or near-virgin into various silly "Oops, I took my clothes off!" situations, Ms McKenna created a really wonderfully braincell-free heroine for this baby. Raine Cameron is thought by hero Seth Mackey as his enemy's mistress, but in truth, she's a refugee from your favorite Harlequin Blaze novel hoping for the big time by making taking off a little more of her clothes for the peekaboo show. Every time I manage to delude myself into thinking that maybe this dumb female-genitalia has maybe a brain cell or two, the author lets Raine do some really too-stupid-DIE-please nonsense that has me grasping for the bottle of aspirins for dear life.

Maybe there's an urban legend floating around the RWA get-published-quick seminars that romance readers love reading about big-breasted pea-brained heroines getting molested, but I still like to remain idealistic and think of myself as someone who has nothing in common with a horny old Britney Spears fan lecher.

Seth is spying on our villain's big, scary house because that villain murdered his half-bro. Of course, he also spies on our heroine, whom he believes to be baddie's moll. He has secrets, and so has she, and they both let me know in long, long, long and very, very, very tedious internal psychobabble about it. Pages can fly where our two characters just stand there or pretend to do something while they think, lust, whine, curse, bitch, and moan in their minds. Whoa, rein it in, Ms McKenna. This is an erotic romance, not some case study of Freudian proportions. It's okay to take off one's clothes and do the dinky-doink without analyzing every vein, pulse, inch, fold, drop, glide, thrust, rhythm, and fenestration. Like my mom will say, "It's just f**king, no?" Why must all these oversexed dude and dudettes also be the most miserable sons and daughters of female dogs? It's not right, people. Orgasms are supposed to be fun.

Strip away the mental babbling and our heroine's annoying Pure And Dumb antics and there's actually enough to make me wish that this book has delivered what it merely hints at being able to do. Seth is a silly fool who seems unable to master basic communication skills, but there's something rather adorable about this dumb, hung brute. He doesn't talk much, he's all thrusting pistons and pelvic muscles - he can't be any better as a perfect sex slave if he comes in a 13-inch felt box and Energizer batteries.

And the suspense isn't too bad also, from what's left after I've blanked out the mental hysteria permeating this book.

Maybe I find this book okay, despite its too-annoying dimbulb heroine and too much internal monologues. I just hope Ms McKenna takes a different path from Ms Schone, and creates a story when the caveman brute gets a woman who is really woman enough to handle him. Come to think of it, how about a dominatrix heroine? Screw the virgins, man, this is Brava, erotic romance, we're talking about. Bring on the Tallulah Bankheads!

Rating: 76

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