>> Sunday, February 26, 2012
As team leader of the popular personal security company Troubleshooters Inc., Alyssa Locke is no stranger to dealing with danger. Her next assignment, though, is supposed to be a breeze: teach self-defense techniques to an assemblywoman and her chief of staff after a political controversy generates a blizzard of hate mail-including death threats. But then, while in New York City, Alyssa and her squad of moonlighting Navy SEALs discover a dead body. And then another one. While investigating a suspect, Alyssa is ambushed and finds herself imprisoned by the deranged serial killer she's been after for years: The Dentist. Cut off from everyone, Alyssa must call upon all of her strength and skill to survive this confrontation with the sadistic monster, meanwhile trusting that her Troubleshooter teammates-led by her husband, operative Sam Starrett-will reach her before it's too late.The Troubleshooters series has followed the same path JR Ward's BDB books have: it's not straight romance any longer, it's a soap. Brockmann has always had a large number of different subplots and stories that develop over several books, but the main storyline (or rather, the "start-to-finish" romance) used to be be much more prominent that the one we got in this book.
In this book, Alyssa and her team are sent to New York for what's supposed to be a nice, relaxing assignment -an excuse for a bit of a holiday, really. Savannah von Hopf (who long-time readers of the series will remember as the heroine of one of the early books in the series, Out of Control) has asked them to help one of her friends, a local politician, who's been having some security issues. The idea, the Troubleshooters assume, is to firm up her security a bit and teach her some basic skills. Easy peasy, which is why Alyssa and Sam bring their baby with them.
What they don't know, but the reader does, is that the whole thing is a ruse by a very dangerous serial killer called The Dentist. The Dentist has become obsessed by Alyssa, who was part of the FBI team hunting him, and has engineered things to bring her to his territory.
What we get here is a lot on the suspense plot and the investigation (the Troubleshooters soon realise things are more dangerous than they seem), plus a a new romance, plus development of the ongoing relationships, the soap part.
The new romance involved Dan Gillman (Eden's brother), and Jenn LeMay, the politician's chief of staff. Jenn is the type who gets "friended" by every man she ever feels an interest for (they all fall for her gorgeous friends and become her best mates so they can get her help in their pursuit of the pretty girls), so she's very surprised when the very good-looking Dan makes a play for her.
In the past, Brockmann has left all sorts of things open with her continuing storylines, but every book has provided a HEA for one couple. Dan and Jenn's is more of a "happy for now" ending, much more open than usual. I would normally have been unhappy with such an ending, but I was absolutely fine with this, because, to be honest, I wasn't invested in Jenn and Dan's romance. In fact, I wasn't convinced they were right for each other at all.
That was because I thought he was a bit of an asshole and she was a bit of a victim. I can see what Brockmann was trying to do with Dan. His MO with women is that because he doesn't want the hassle of going out with a beautiful women (too used to getting their own way and will actually demand things from him), he'll go for "the chunky girl with the pretty friends". She'll actually be grateful he deigns to have sex with her, and won't complain when he leaves, because she was kind of expecting he would, anyway. That's exactly what he's doing when he hooks up with Jenn. It's cold and calculating and kind of made me sick to my stomach to read. The whole point, I guess, is that while it starts this way with Jenn, he immediately starts to feel things for her he hasn't felt before, and it turns into something more. But... I didn't believe it. Brockmann didn't redeem him in my eyes. At all.
What made it worse was that Jenn was so completely out of her league with Dan, and some of it was due to stupidity on her part. There was one scene that I don't think was supposed to be that important in the context of the book, but which moved her in my mind from an inexperienced but otherwise intelligent and sensible woman, to a total, willing victim. She's become kind of friends with a New York cop called Mick, who in the book has clashed quite horribly with Alyssa and Sam. In a scene earlier in the book, he'd felt slighted by Alyssa and made comments behind her back (to Sam, of all people, who he didn't know was Alyssa's husband), that she was a bitch and what she needed was to be gang-raped. When Sam reacted, he engaged in a spot of police brutality. When Jenn is told about this (including the gang-rape threat), her reaction just made me go WFT: 'Oh, Mick. Jenn sighed. "He can be a real jerk, but I'm sure he didn't mean it."' Ohhh-kay. Hon, you're on your own. A jerk like Dan is exactly what you deserve.
But even though the main romance didn't work for me, the book as a whole kind of did, because I enjoyed the other stories.
There's Izzy, still mourning his relationship with Eden. I've actually always liked brash, irritating Izzy, and this is a story I'm looking forward to read in the next book. There's also Sam and Alyssa, showing how two very alpha people can make it work in a relationship if they work on it and respect each other. There was a bit too much of Ashton, their baby son, in this particular storyline, but on the whole, it was really good. There's Jules and Robin being madly in love. And of course, there's the suspense subplot, the serial killer, which was interesting, but definitely not for the squeamish. The ending of it was a bit predictable, but I still enjoyed the investigation. So, all good.
What wasn't so good, however, was the constant preaching. This is something people have been complaining about with Brockmann for a while. I guess I have a very high tolerance for preaching when it's about something I firmly believe in (like gay rights, which is Brockmann's cause), but I thought in this book she went a bit over the line, even for me. The killer is a homophobe who believes all gay people have AIDS and are contagious. Dan is reading a book about a guy who was sent to one of those crazy religious camps that "cure" homosexuality, and Brockmann oh-so-unsubtly works in a plug for it (seriously, bodies are being found all over and everyone's running around in a panic and Dan is looking for his book, to give him an excuse to explain the story to the readers). And many, many more examples, some of which would be spoilers, so I won't go into them. It's all a bit much, and while it didn't put me off that badly, it did annoy me. I get it that Brockmann is trying to use her popularity as an author to further a cause she believes in, and I think she's completely right to do so, but a bit more subtlety would make it much more effective.
MY GRADE: A B.