Shannon McKenna’s books rate as guilty pleasures. Her heroes are barely civilized sex machines, her heroines are nice enough but hardly memorable, and she can write some very nasty torture scenes. Also, her prose is deeply, darkly purple. And yet, I love her books and buy them in trade paperback. Extreme Danger is her latest, and I was glued to it from first page to last.
Becca Cattrell is a chef and a pleasant but ordinary young woman. She was engaged to Justin and looking forward to her marriage when her fiancé was involved in a most embarrassing accident. Seems he wrecked his car while another woman was giving him oral sex. Justin escaped with teeth marks, a bite on his member, and a few other minor injuries. When Becca came to see him, he had the nerve to blame her for his predicament. According to Justin, Becca wasn’t adventurous or sexy enough, so naturally when the other woman offered, he accepted. If that wasn’t enough of a blow, the press got word of the incident and soon it was all over the tabloids. Becca decides a vacation is in order.
Becca goes to Frakes Island off the coast of Washington where a friend of hers has a cabin. One night, after a few glasses of wine, Becca is ready to try something adventurous. There’s an estate nearby belonging to a millionaire who is not in residence. The estate has a beautiful swimming pool just beckoning her to try it. Adventurous women skinny dip – right? So Becca does and thinks herself quite the sybarite until she’s hauled out of the pool by a tall, dark and handsome man.
The owner of the estate might not be there, but someone is, and it’s Vadim Zhoglo, a top member of the Russian Mafia. The man who hauls Becca out of the pool is Nick Ward, an FBI agent who is trying to get into Zhoglo’s inner circle. Nick has a personal reason to bring down this particular band of the Russian Mafia – Zhoglo killed Nick’s friend, Sergei, and kidnapped Sergei’s 12-year-old daughter Sveti. At first Nick thinks that Becca is an assassin, but he soon realizes that she is an innocent and he tries to get her to safety. By then, though, Zhoglo has seen her.
Zhoglo thinks that Becca is entertainment for him and his men, but Nick persuades him that she is a cook. Zhoglo loves to eat almost more than he loves sex and Becca’s delicious food takes his mind off other matters, but not for long. Eventually Becca and Nick escape, but Zhoglo does not let anyone get away for long.
If you’ve read any of Shannon McKenna’s other books, you know what to expect. Nick is….well the word Neanderthal comes to mind. All he has to do is look at a woman and he wants to have sex with her. Nick has probably had more partners than a stadium full of heavy metal rock bands. But when he sees Becca – she becomes The One and he hones in on her like radar. Does Becca demur? At first. Does Nick listen? Hah! Does he have his way with her? Oh my yes!! The sex scenes in Extreme Danger are many and inventive. If Nick was a misogynist, these scenes would be distasteful, but McKenna shows us that like McKenna’s other heroes, Nick is, at heart, a deeply domestic man who wants a wife to love and cherish. So what if he spends some time as a caveman? Eh, I can live with that.
Zhoglo is evil personified. He has his fingers in vice of all kinds and is deeply involved in the black market in human organs for transplant. Sveti is one of the children he kidnapped for that purpose. The scenes where Zhoglo and his henchmen torment the children are hard to read at times, but he gets his in a most satisfying way.
The McCloud brothers, familiar to readers of McKenna’s other books, show up in this one to help Nick and Becca, and so does their mysterious ally Tamara. Tam is the most kick-ass female in romance novel land (I think she could defeat Eve Dallas) and is able to hide a formidable arsenal on her person while wearing an outfit the size of a postage stamp. Tam has got to get her own story at some point.
I’ve always preferred romantic suspense and mysteries that are more hard edged and dangerous rather than cozy and I love alpha males with marshmallow cores. Shannon McKenna’s books are all that, and I have a good time reading them. I’ll leave the tamer tales to others.