Shannon McKennaís 2003 release, Standing In The Shadows, is an erotic thriller which encompasses all the dark elements of human nature. Murder, conspiracy, obsession and cruelty are all part of the story, but are balanced by the powers of innocence, friendship, and love.
Erin Riggsí life has spiraled out of control into a downward cycle of despair. Her fatherís criminal acts have jeopardized many lives, including her own. Her innocence is shattered when she is rescued from a sadistic assassin, Georg Luksch, by Connor McCloud, the man she has had a crush on since she was a teenage girl. Her father, former head of an undercover FBI unit and Connorís boss, is convicted of being a traitor and a murderer.
In the fallout of the scandal, Erin loses her job as a curator at the Huppert Institute and is left trying to make ends meet by doing office work through a temping service. Her mother has fallen into a deep depression and spends her days in bed trying to escape the reality of the situation. Cindy, her sister, has lost her scholarship, dropped out of college, and run away with some lowlife boyfriend. It is left up to Erin to try and pay not only her own bills, but her motherís and sisterís as well.
Erin is fighting a losing battle trying to keep her family together and financially afloat. The only silver lining comes in the guise of a reclusive millionaire, Claude Mueller, who runs the Quicksilver Foundation and has asked Erin to authenticate some Celtic artifacts. He is her biggest client in her attempt to start her own consulting business, and his consulting jobs bring her good money. When Mueller requests a personal meeting and offers her another appraisal assignment, Erin begins to finally believe that her life is turning around for the better.
Connor McCloud has left his job as an undercover FBI agent. The betrayal by his superior that caused the death of his partner and resulted in Connor being in a coma and then permanently scarred is something he cannot put behind him -- especially since it cost him a chance at the one woman he has wanted for over nine years. By arresting her father, Connor has lost any chance with Erin Riggs.
All that changes when Connor gets word that Kurt Novak, one of the criminal masterminds behind the whole scandal, has broken out of prison with several of his colleagues, including Georg Luksch. Connor goes to Erin to offer his protection until Novak and Lukch are recaptured. At first, Erin fights against Connorís interference in her life, but soon her unrequited love for him overwhelms her and she is unable to resist the opportunity to finally be with him.
Both Connor and Erin are plagued by the demons of their past, and these frequently haunt them as they try and establish some kind of relationship. The darkness inside Connor spills over at times into their sexual relationship and one wonders if their tentative relationship can survive. Conspiracies abound as people are not always who they seem to be and peopleís motives are brought into question. Connorís sanity is questioned at times by everyone, including himself, but in the end he relies on his gut instincts and the support of his brothers to see things through to the very end.
Standing In The Shadows is a follow-up to McKennaís previous novel, Behind Closed Doors, but can stand on its own as you are given enough of the backstory to understand the characters and their motivation. It is a suspenseful and highly erotic novel that focuses mainly on the darkness of human nature. But Connorís determination to protect Erin, even to the detriment of himself and their relationship, and the deep trust between him and his brothers restores your faith in human goodness.
This novel is not as intriguing as Behind Closed Doors, but it is a captivating read that leaves you hoping for more stories about Connorís brothers. It ties up all the loose ends from the previous novel, giving the whole story closure while offering a provocative and compelling read in its own right. McKenna has no trouble navigating her way through the dark and erotic paths of human nature and her next book will certainly be worth a read.