>> Friday, April 18, 2008
I've at least enjoyed all of Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooters books, but I hadn't read them for a while, a long enough time that there were already three books out by the time I started to catch up. It's strange, I did the same with the three books after Gone Too Far. Why? I've no idea.
TITLE: Into the Storm
This is one of those rare Brockmanns where the main storyline is a thousand times more interesting than the secondary one. The heroine is Lindsay Fontaine, a former police officer who works for Troubleshooters Inc. (Tom's firm, for those a bit fuzzy on the details). She and her colleagues have been hired to participate in a training exercise for Team Sixteen, and Lindsay is in charge of coordinating stuff with Mark Jenkins, the SEAL appointed as liaison.
Lindsay is immediately very attracted to Mark. So is Mark to Lindsay, only the Troubleshooters Inc. new secretary is Tracy Shapiro, his childhood crush. Jenk used to be a pudgy little nerd as a boy, so now that he's a buff, sexy SEAL, he's quite tempted to get some validation by getting the dream girl who wouldn't have given him the time of day way back when, no matter that he has someone right in front of him that is clearly much more compatible with the grown-up man .
He's tempted, but his attraction for Lindsay is stronger. Only then, in the middle of the exercise, Tracy disappears and it's soon clear she's been taken by a scary serial killer operating in the area...
I LOVED Lindsay. She's funny and smart and very capable, and well aware of her own worth. She will NOT be the second choice, even if the guy doing the choosing is as gorgeous as Mark. And given how brain-dead Mark behaved at the beginning, I can't blame her for blowing him off when she did. Only for Mark, she's not the second choice. He quickly realises how immature his Tracy thing was and that he's fallen like a ton of bricks for Lindsay. He makes the reader believe it, and it was wonderful to read about him trying to convince Lindsay as well, with the added complication that with Tracy in such trouble, she must also be his concern. Even so, their romance is sweet and funny and sexy. I loved every minute.
The secondary romances I didn't love as much, but I did enjoy them. Sophia and Decker are still circling around each other, each determined to misunderstand each other (and though I'm not there yet, if they keep that up much longer, I'm really going to lose interest). And the foul-mouthed, outwardly sexist jerk Izzy develops a thing for the outwardly airheaded Tracy.
What I didn't like at all was the serial killer thing. I mean, I did enjoy the plot that involved the exercise turn into a search and rescue operation and the soul-searching this inspired in Izzy and how it affected Lindsay and Mark's relationship. But the thing is, the serial killer's actions were so disturbing that they gave me nightmares for days. All right, props to Brockmann for creating someone so disturbing, if that's what she was going for, but the thing is, I didn't think the book required something so awful and nightmarish. It didn't go well with the tone of the rest of the book and it was unnecessary to create fear for Tracy's fate in the reader. The one piece of good news there is that IMO, these scenes are not really integral to the book, so you can easily skip them if you know you can't handle this kind of thing. Just know that Tracy is in danger of having terrible things done to her, and you'll be fine and able to enjoy the much better rest of the story.
MY GRADE: It would have been an A read without the serial killer stuff, but as it is, I'll give it a B+.
TITLE: Force of Nature
With Force of Nature, it was exactly the opposite to Into the Storm. I kept wanting the main storyline to go away and leave me to enjoy the secondary one. Because Ric Alvarado and Annie Dugan didn't interest me much, while the secondary romance was the long-awaited happy conclusion to Jules' story, and I adore Jules!
Ric Alvarado is a PI and he's recently hired his childhood friend Annie Dugan as a receptionist. Annie is determined to become a partner, and convinces Ric to let her help in what seems like a routine case. Only the routine case results in them being drawn into the orbit of scary Florida druglord Gordon Burns.
So how does Jules come into it? It just so happens that the FBI currently has its sights set on Burns, as they suspect he might be involved in a plot to bring a dangerous terrorist into the US. They observe that Ric has gained entry into Burns' world, and knowing his past as a police officer, they suspect he might be able to help them. Jules is sent down to Florida to explore the possibilities.
And wouldn't you know, Robin Chadwick, now a major movie star, is in town as well. You'll definitely remember Robin if you read Hot Target, as the alcoholic and in-the-closet actor Jules almost had a love affair with. Burns happens to be a film-lover, so Robin, determined to finally, finally get a relationship going with Jules, forces his way onto the investigation and helps them out.
And between all the plotting and planning to bring Burns down, Ric and Annie and Jues and Robin are getting more and more drawn to one another.
Ric and Annie weren't bad. I didn't find the conflict between them at all compelling, but they were nice enough, both individually and together, and they did have chemistry. Maybe in another book I'd have been more interesting, but sharing pages with Jules and Robin? They could have completely disappeared and I wouldn't have noticed the difference.
Because the Jules and Robin story was everything I'd hoped for and more. Now their story involved a compelling conflict. Jules just knows they can't be together, that a relationship with an alcoholic like Robin would be toxic for him. Especially since, even though Robin does seem to have accepted his sexuality to himself (huge step, considering how in denial he was when they met), it would be career suicide to come out publicly. Being known to be gay, all chances of leading-man, A-list stardom are off. And a discreet, secret relationship is not a possibility. Jules is out and it's a point of pride for him to be out, given his career at the FBI. Although... if he were to have a hugely public relationship (and a relationship with a well known celebrity like Robin would definitely be public), he can kiss certain very possible, very huge career advancements goodbye. All in all, many, many good reasons why they should be apart rather than together. And yet, and yet... what's between them is too strong for all these justifications, however true and important they might be.
I'm amazed at how firmly Brockmann made me believe that they should be together, no matter what; that Robin had changed enough to be worthy of Jules. Because when I read Hot Target, I wasn't a Robin fan. In fact, I lamented "that this wonderful man [Jules, that is] seems to be such a sleaze magnet." But Robin, while still at heart the same person, has grown and changed from the other book. He did become a person I could root for -and I did.
This might be something of a spoiler, but for those who don't know, there is a HEA for Jules and Robin here. A wonderful one, which made me really, really happy after all the heartbreaking yearning and sizzling chemistry that had preceeded it.
MY GRADE: A B+. I'm averaging the A for Jules and Robin's story with the much lower grades for Ric and Annie and the background suspense subplot.
TITLE: All Through the Night
Right, I said that Jules and Robin get their happy ending in FON. So what is this book? I think the best way to describe it is to call it a celebration. It's a celebration of love, romantic and platonic, of friendship and of the fact that this is the 21st century and in certain parts of the world, at least, people like Jules and Robin can have a happy ending that involves wedding vows and the exchanging of rings ***.
There's a plot here, which starts with a kind of mutual proposal and then a very eventful preparation for it, complete with Adam (Jules' ex) interfering and a stalker skulking around. There's even a secondary romance between Robin's assistant and a journalist who's trying to score a scoop. But this wasn't the point of the book. It was the obvious and powerful love between Jules and Robin that held my attention, and the growth of their relationship. It was also seeing the developing respect and friendship between Robin and Jules best friends, Sam and Alyssa, who are just as doubtful about Robin as I would have been.
This might have been boring, almost like a long, sappy epilogue, but it wasn't. It was funny and sweet and heartwarming, and it made me happy to read it.
MY GRADE: A B+.
*** My own country, Uruguay, isn't one of those places, but I'm very glad to report we're heading in the right direction. Parliament recently approved laws legalising same-sex civil unions, making us the first Latin American country to allow it at a national level (Mexico city and Buenos Aires already did, IIRC). The first union took place yesterday, and according to what my dad told me on the phone today, one of the grooms was an actor who used to scare me silly as a child, when he appeared characterised as the sinister Professor Macchiavello in my favourite TV show. Squee! :-D