>> Sunday, February 22, 2015
TITLE: Out of Control
AUTHOR: Suzanne Brockmann
SETTING: Contemporary US and Indonesia
TYPE: Romantic suspense / thriller
SERIES: 4th in the Troubleshooters series
Savannah von Hopf has no choice. To save her uncle’s life, she goes in search of Ken “WildCard” Karmody, a guy she barely knew in college who is now a military operative. She must convince him to help her deliver a cache of ransom money into the hands of terrorists halfway around the world. What she doesn’t expect is to end up in WildCard’s arms before she can even ask for his help.
WildCard has always had a soft spot for beautiful women. But when he discovers Savannah’s hidden agenda, he is determined to end the affair. But Savannah is bound for Indonesia with or without his protection, and he can’t just walk away. When her plan goes horribly wrong, they are trapped in the forsaken jungle of a hostile country, stalked by a lethal enemy. As time is running out, they scramble to escape, risking their lives to stop a nightmare from spinning even further out of control...
I decided to reread Out of Control after a run of a few books I had to push myself to continue reading. I wanted something that would engage me, and I remembered exactly just how much these early books in the Troubleshooters series had done that. I remembered that so clearly that I was surprised to realise I haven't reviewed this one. OOC has stuck in my mind enough that I was sure I'd reread it recently, but the first one in the series I have a review of is Into the Night, read in December 2002.
OOC does that typical Brockmann thing from that time of having lots of simultaneous storylines and moving between them constantly.
The main one is the romance between Savannah von Hopf and Ken "Wildcard" Karmody, a character readers of the series would have already known well. He's the off-the-wall, think-outside-the-box guy without a filter who's part of SEAL Team 6. As the book starts, Kenny is still a bit bruised after his girlfriend of over a decade left him. They'd had a long-distance on-again, off-again sort of relationship, very unhealthy and high-maintenance, but Kenny thought he genuinely loved her. Now he feels used.
When a gorgeous woman has a flat tire in front of his house and his offer of help turns into dinner by his pool and mind-blowing sex, he's in heaven. She's amazing and clearly wants him like crazy, so before long he's convinced himself he's madly in love with her. Until he finds out Savannah knew exactly who he was. In fact, she knew him (and had a huge crush on him) when they were in university, as she's a distant friend of Kenny's ex. She has travelled all the way to San Diego with the explicit purpose to ask for his help. Her favourite uncle has just called from Indonesia, completely out of the blue, asking Savannah to bring him a quarter of a million dollars. Savannah is understandably nervous, and thought she would approach Kenny, whom she knows is a SEAL, and hire him to escort her.
Of course, given what happened the night before, Kenny assumes she tried to manipulate him with sex and is majorly pissed off. (BTW, Brockmann makes it believable and understandable -though clearly a Bad Idea- why she didn't say anything at the time). He ends up agreeing to go with Indonesia, although making it very clear he despises Savannah. But as soon as they land in Jakarta things go wrong, and they end up stranded in the jungle in a faraway island, trying to avoid all sorts of armed bands and get to safety. And as Kenny spends time with Savannah and gets to know her, he begins to realise he might have misjudged her.
Also on the Indonesian island are missionary Molly Anderson and pilot and black-marketeer Jones. Jones is not the conscience-less, only-out-for-himself guy he tells himself he is, and Molly is the only one who sees it (and calls him on all his bullshit). After they begin a relationship they each realise they are crazy for the other, but it's a relationship that has no future. Molly is about to head to her next mission in Africa, and Jones has major baggage, including a very high price on his head.
Brockmann always included a WWII story, and the one here involves Savannah's grandmother, Rose, who is a huge war hero. She was a double agent and was involved in really influential missions, and she has now written up her story in a bestselling book. We get sections from it, as pretty much all the characters are reading it, and those mainly cover her relationship with Heinrich von Hopf, an Austrian prince who, we know from the start, became her husband.
Rose has quite a bit of influence, so as soon as it becomes clear her son, and then her grandniece, are missing, she makes sure she's involved with the American team trying to rescue them. And of course, which team would that be but Max Bhagat's, which includes Alyssa Locke. And SEAL Team 6 is involved as well, since Kenny's also missing, and Sam Starrett is there too.
We basically rotate between all these threads, getting a scene from each. I remember that with the early books in the series it was always the case that I was more interested in one of the minor threads than in the main romance. I don't know whether that was the case when I first read the book (I was pretty involved with the Sam/Alyssa relationship then), but this time it was Kenny and Savannah I kept wanting to go back to. Sam and Alyssa were interesting, but nothing much happens here. And Molly and Jones didn't particularly appeal to me this time. Their thread is fine, but I wasn't dying to get back to them. As for Rose's story, I did like that quite a lot. She's one cool woman, and I loved her resourcefulness and the way Heinrich adored her for it.
There's a lot of action, but also plenty of emphasis on the romance. I liked both elements and thought both were really well done and perfectly integrated. The book certainly kept me turning the pages like crazy. However, I had some issues with both, which I don't think were a problem when I read the book
On the action side, I got a bit annoyed with the rah-rah attitude towards SEALs. They're the bestest most wonderfulest people ever, and no foreigners can beat them. And they and the FBI basically go around taking over all over the world, because they're clearly so much better than the locals, that the latter can't but bow to them and let them run things. Sigh.
As for the romance, Brockmann is good at going straight for the gut. She still got me this time, but as I was enjoying it, I still found it ever-so-slightly cringey. Kind of in a similar way that JR Ward's book are cringey, but not quite (nowhere near as shameless!).
Still, I enjoyed the hell out of this book. I might well go back and reread the series from the start.
MY GRADE: A B+.