Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-234966-8
Romantic Suspense, 2015
Shattered features “bad boy” Jax Fontaine – if you have the misfortune to have had read Twisted, then you may recall him as the sneering meme that squats especially in the second half of the book and refuses to leave. This is his story, and oh boy, he’s such a creep that he will either thrill you or make you feel like girding your loins in disgust. His chief personality trait is to want to roger heroine Dr Sarah Jacobs even in the most inappropriate context. Oh, she’s been traumatized? He tells her that he wants to boink her. She’s sad? Boink! She ran over a nun and is now grief-stricken? Whatever, he wants to boink. Now. Any sane woman would probably end up cowering in terror inside a washing machine just five minutes after marrying him, but hey, romance heroines are a special breed sometimes.
In this story, we are back in New Orleans, and it seems like every serial killer in the country has moved there, because once again, another crazy homicidal maniac is going, “Mua-ha-ha-ha, let’s kill that whore! She looks innocent but I am not fooled!” Sarah, our heroine, is a criminal psychiatrist, and in the best tradition of tired fiction tropes, she’s messed up inside. You see, her father is a serial killer. He killed the boy who bullied her as a present on her sixteenth birthday, which is actually quite cool, but our heroine only likes crazy men that are designated as romance heroes, so she’s like, oh her daddy is a killer, so you will never believe how tortured and blue she is, so let her tell you that, no matter how sad you think you are, you’d never have her beat. That’s her only personality in this story – tortured and blue, with a big hole in her life that can only be filled by the hero’s big… heart.
Early in the story, Jax barks at her that they should have sex. She’s like, no, shut up, she’s secretly tortured inside and she’d like to dwell on it again, so come back in 30 pages when she’d be ready to put out. He doesn’t understand what “no” means, so he goes back to ask her whether she really means yes when she says no. It’s a common dilemma faced by men – Justin Bieber even made a song about it! It’s a good thing that he’s such a creepy stalker – it’s not just in this scene, he actually spends long hours just watching and following her – because she’s being choked by one of the kids of her father’s victims! (I’d wonder how it can be so easy for people to discover her identity as she was still a minor when her father made the news, but this is not that kind of story where logic applies to anything.) It is the start of the adventures of Jax and Sarah going wee and woo on his wee-wee, with scenes of suspense and angst showing up when these two need to catch a breath.
Jax is basically a walking meme. He would loom over the heroine, stalling the elevator and invading her space while telling her that they need to have sex, and then he’d ask, without any hint of irony, why she is afraid of him. He’d never hurt her, doesn’t she know? He’s that kind of hero with no coherent personality, just scenes of “bad boy” behavior copied and pasted from new adult books to get ladies on Goodreads to post animated gifs of people (usually Jensen Ackles or some cast from RuPaul’s Drag Race) reacting dramatically to his “sexy” moments when they are not posting quotes of him on the book page. Sarah is barely a character – she’s just created to react to Jax, to amplify the man’s so-called creepy sexiness to get this book flying off the shelves to readers who like this kind of guys.
To be fair, Sarah isn’t weak compared to the other heroines in this series, she’s just a woefully underdeveloped character who exists solely to complement Jax’s appeal. Jax is… well, Jax. Shattered is basically a calculated story written to allow the main characters to posture and strut rather than to behave naturally, and the suspense plot is predictably sewage material. If anything, it reaffirms that joke which states that the definition of sexual harassment hinges on the woman’s reaction to the harasser. If she finds him attractive, he’s only stalking and it’s all so sweet and dangerously sexy. If she finds him unattractive, then it’s misogyny and oh-god-creeps-are-everywhere time – off to Tumblr to write a long rant!