Tess Langley is a massage therapist who has the hots for her handsome client, Jonah Markham. Jonah seems to be attracted to her too and has asked her out three times, but each time, Tess politely turns him down. After seeing the claw marks on his back, she figures he's a playboy who only views her as his next conquest, and she has no intention of getting her heart broken again. When Jonah offers her a huge amount of cash to come to his vacation home for the weekend and provide private massages for him and his friends, she can't turn him down. The money could make it possible for her to finally open her own massage studio like she's dreamed of. Little does she know that Jonah is the only one she will be giving massages to this weekend, and he plans to fulfill all her sexy fantasies too, including some she didn't even know she had.
Touch Me was my first read by Shannon McKenna, and it left me with somewhat mixed feelings. I had heard that Ms. McKenna has created some serious alpha males, and I can see why she's earned that reputation. Her writing in many ways reminded me of Lora Leigh's with the stubborn alpha hero and lots of arguing between him and the heroine, which isn't really my cup of tea. The story started off pretty good, but the further I got into it, the harder it was to remain engaged. Practically all the hero and heroine did was eat, have wild monkey sex, and argue, including during sex, which wore thin after a while.
As individuals, I generally like Jonah and Tess. Tess has a troubled past and some fairly significant body image issues. She's petite but has a generous bosom and rear. This and several other "imperfections" in her appearance and personality earned Tess some pretty harsh criticism from both her mother and her ex-fiancé. Tess is also understandably reluctant to become involved with someone like Jonah whom she assumes, from the suspicious claw marks on his back, is a playboy who only sees her as his next conquest. All of this made her vulnerable, but the way Jonah handles her issues was a little odd to me. I loved how Jonah was a whiz in the kitchen and cooked Tess delicious meals, and I also loved how he pursued her and always told her how beautiful she was. However, Tess's issues were so deep-seated that sometimes him saying the smallest thing could set her off, and then he would just get angry right back at her for being too sensitive. I really didn't understand him using anger to provoke her during sex either. That seemed counterproductive to me, and in several of their sexual encounters both characters seemed to be using sex as a weapon, which was not romantic to me at all. I kept trying to make sense of it, but the psychology behind what they were trying to accomplish simply eluded me. Underneath his hard, sometimes arrogant exterior, Jonah had some mild vulnerabilities of his own in that he was afraid of losing his grandfather, even though the odd codger won't speak to him after Jonah turned down the opportunity to run his bank. In the end though, both characters' problems just seemed to magically melt away, which didn't entirely work for me.
Overall, Touch Me had some good points and other than being a little narrative heavy at times, the writing itself was pretty good. If Jonah and Tess had been more consistently nice to one another instead of going back and forth between gentler moments and intense anger, it would have been a great story. As is though, I simply couldn't become fully invested in their HEA when they were fighting almost right up until the end. There were things about each character that I related to, but the way the author handled their relationship, their stubborn resistance to openly communicating, and the way anger seemed to turn them on didn't really make sense to me. Touch Me was good enough to keep me open to trying more of Shannon McKenna's work in the future, but didn't really wow me. This novella can be found in the I Brake for Bad Boys anthology.
Note: This novella contains some mildly erotic content in the form of a little light bondage and dominant behavior, as well as a small amount of explicit language that is typically reserved for the erotic sub-genre.
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