Jane Duvall is a headhunter, looking to score a candidate for one of her firm's biggest clients. With a background as an actress, she puts her skills to good use masquerading as a magazine reporter who wants to do a write up on a luxury hotel, while trying to get an appointment with the manager, intending to poach him for her client. However, when she shows up, things don't go as planned. The manager is out, and the colorful receptionist places her with Michael "Mac" McNamara, the CEO of the hotel chain, instead, who's more than happy to take her on a tour of one of their most expensive suites. At first, Jane wants nothing more than to get away quickly before her cover is blown, but Mac exudes a potent sexuality that calls to her. Soon she finds herself caught up in a whirlwind of sexual chemistry that's off the charts and agreeing to a date that evening. But can a shy girl like her manage the intense sexual appetites of a bad boy like Mac, and what will he think when he finds out who she really is?
"Meltdown" is the story of a headhunter masquerading as a magazine writer in an attempt to get a meeting with a hotel manager who she wants to try to lure away from his current position to work for her client. At the last minute, she's set up by the receptionist to meet with the CEO instead. After seeing how beautiful she is, he's more than happy to take her on a private tour of one of their luxury suites that includes far more than just looking around. They spend an incredibly steamy night together, during which they discover that their chemistry is off the charts, but when morning comes, they have to decide if that's enough to base a long-term relationship upon.
Jane tends to be rather shy and reserved, but during her youth, she discovered a passion for acting. Unfortunately, though, an abusive theater professor in college ruined both her life and her aspirations. Now she works as a headhunter, which pays the bills while allowing her to employ some of her acting skills, and in her spare time, she directs a community theater program for at-risk youth. Under pressure from her boss to close an account, Jane goes to the hotel seeking out the manager, intending to do whatever it takes to poach him, but she ends up meeting Mac, the CEO, instead. He's an incredibly dynamic man who attracts her from the start, but she still has some reservations regarding his overt sexuality. In some ways, I could relate to Jane, or at least to her shyness. I liked that she doesn't entirely let Mac get the upper hand, but after putting up a little token resistance, she almost always ends up capitulating to his wishes anyway. For this reason, I had a hard time fully respecting her, and I didn't really understand her attraction to Mac, but she was a decent heroine despite my issues with her.
Mac, on the other hand, was not my kind of hero. I've read two other novellas by Shannon McKenna, and between those and things I've heard about her work, I don't think she knows how to write any other kind of hero besides uber-alphas, which are not my cup of tea. After his dad died and his mom left, Mac learned to be the head of the family at a very young age. He runs the hotel chain with some help from his younger brother and sister. Everything about him is on overdrive and he does everything with an intensity that's simply a little over the top to my way of thinking. He's pretty egotistical and arrogant and doesn't take no for an answer. In fact, he behaves much like a predator. Through Jane, the author tries to tell us that Mac is actually sweet underneath all the bluster, but other than perhaps his grand gesture at the end, I just didn't see it. This is mainly because he doesn't really exhibit much in the way of vulnerability to make me genuinely like him.
This novella is pretty much all about the sex, which in and of itself didn't bother me, but the way in which it all went down did. Jane and Mac engage in sexual contact within mere minutes of meeting that would have gone much further right then and there if not for them being interrupted. So they continue it later that evening in the guise of a date that turns into a steamy all-night sex-fest. In spite of the rapid progression, this might not have been an issue for me except that numerous times throughout their encounters, Jane says things like, "No," "Stop," "Slow down," etc., but Mac never does. Instead he keeps pushing and insisting that he knows better than she what she really wants, which I thought was the pinnacle of arrogance. This all made me pretty uncomfortable, because IMHO, unless you're in a situation where safe words are being used (and they weren't here), whenever a woman says "No" it means NO. I don't care where a couple is in the love-making process, if a woman begins to express any kind of doubts, the man should back off immediately. Of course, like any good little bodice ripper heroine, Jane eats up Mac's dominant behavior and ends up loving it, but the way I saw it, what happened between them was at best forced seduction, which I don't care for in my romances. Several times, Mac seems to have regrets about his behavior, too, but it doesn't stop him from continuing. He doesn't really make apologies for it either. Also he can really dish out the dominant behavior, but when Jane employs her acting talents to get her own dominatrix on, he can't take it. On top of my issues with the sexual content, the idea that two people would be willing to make a life-time commitment after less than twenty-four hours together was definitely pushing the bounds of credibility as well.
On the up side, I can't deny that "Meltdown" was very well-written. The mechanics of the writing are quite sound, making the novella very readable. I was also surprised by how much character development Ms. McKenna was able to pack into such a short format. The emotional intensity of the love scenes, as well as some of the activities they engage in, were admittedly appealing, and if not for the way in which they were initiated, I would have found them to be quite delicious. Also if not for Mac's alpha jerk personality and possessive, predatory behavior, I would have very much enjoyed his grand romantic gesture at the end to win Jane over. Bottom line, romance readers who like super-intense alphas heroes and don't mind dubious consent will probably love this one and I could easily recommend it for that crowd. As for me, there were parts that I kind of enjoyed when I was trying to ignore the consent issues, but there were plenty of other parts that left me squirming with discomfort. So for anyone who's like me, you'll probably want to stay away. It appears that the author was setting up Danny and Robin, Mac's brother and sister, for their own potential stories. She did write Robin's story in "Anytime, Anywhere," which can be found in the anthology Baddest Bad Boys, but it doesn't look like she ever wrote Danny's. This many years after the fact, it doesn't seem likely that she will either. However, after three so-so novellas in a row and coming to the realization that I don't care much for Shannon McKenna's heroes, I doubt I'll be picking up that story or any other by this author in the future. "Meltdown" can be found in the anthology Bad Boys Next Exit.
Note: This novella contains explicit language and sexual situations, which may offend some readers, including some mild power play and dominant behavior, as well as dubious consent, which could distress sensitive readers.
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook