passion rating: Hot
(the full review is published here--it's not a piece on AAR)
"Sometimes—in fact, lots of times--I just want a down and dirty bad boy hero who sweeps into town, throws the good girl over his shoulders and drags her off to a happy ending. This bad boy does and then gets the nice girl story has been done many times by Shannon McKenna, sometimes well (think Extreme Danger) and, unfortunately for this reviewer, sometimes terribly. It’s hard to find much to like about Ms. McKenna’s overblown Return to Me.
The hero, Simon, is a self-absorbed jerk whose behavior between the sheets is so aggressive it’s kinda gross. The woman he’s burning for, Ellen, he deflowered and then dumped seventeen years ago. But Ellen, an enabler if ever I’ve seen one, just lets him right back into her heart and other parts. I wish I could tell you why Ellen is such a pushover for Simon and his constantly feeling sorry for himself ways, but I can’t because Ms. McKenna hasn’t bothered to develop Ellen or Simon into in-depth characters.
Nor has she produced a coherent plot. As best I could tell, Simon left town after being accused of burning down a barn—we know he wasn’t really isn’t a bad guy because he did try to save the horses. Ellen stayed in town—and I mean stayed in town, it’s as if she has never been anywhere other than LaRue—and became the controlling owner of a bed and breakfast. We are supposed to think she’s sweet—as opposed to stupid--because she has an assistant who is terrible at all things bed-and-breakfasty but Ellen keeps her on, smiling benevolently when, yet again, Missy burns the muffins. Simon has come back to town because his uncle Gus shot himself and something about that just doesn’t feel right to Simon. That doesn’t stop him from constantly ruing that he’s returned to LaRue. (He feels he is brings bad luck to the entire town—yes, it really is all about him!) There’s a psycho villain who has disgusting flashbacks to Vietnam where he learned to enjoy setting others on fire. There’s an uptight guy, Brad, who was engaged to Ellen but really should be with Cora, a woman whose reputation he ruined. (Cora and Brad are actually much more interesting a couple than Simon and Ellen although that isn’t saying much.)
There’s lots and lots of sex and none of it’s very sexy. Both characters are described routinely as gorgeous, hot, and desirable, but given that neither of them were anyone I would ever want to meet, I found page after page of them moaning into each other’s mouth just plain out dull. Plus, the idea of this couple reproducing is so appalling, I kept worrying that one of the bazillions of condoms—Simon is a lot like the Energizer Bunny--they were using might fail. When Ellen and Simon aren’t in the sack, they spend way too much time feeling sorry for themselves. Ellen doubts herself for being with Simon, Simon doubts himself for being with Ellen. Halfway through the tale, I doubted myself for buying this book.
By the time I got to the incredibly bizarre scene where Simon and Ellen, escaping someone or something—it’s all a blur—, find themselves in a hidden grove filled with huge animal statues made by Simon’s dead mother, I gave up. I flipped to the end and was unhappy to see they appeared to having unprotected sex and planning a family. Hopefully, they and their progeny will never leave LaRue."