Above and Beyond
Several times during Above and Beyond, I wanted to dive inside the book and shake some sense into Kyla Stroud. Why did she stay with Trevor Rule? He indirectly caused her husband’s death, lied to her about his identity and contemplated exchanging sexual innuendoes with her best friend. And that’s only in the first 65 pages. Usually, I love a Sandra Brown read but, in this case, my dislike for the hero tainted the entire book.
Kyla Stroud is pregnant when her husband, Richard, is sent to Cairo with the Marines. On the night before she gives birth, Richard loans his bunk to his drunken friend Trevor, better known as “Smooch.” Predictably, a bomb explodes inside the American Embassy and bunk placement determines who lives and dies. You guessed it – Trevor survives, while Richard isn’t as lucky. To his credit, Trevor does feel guilty about what has happened – but by the time he’s recovered from his injuries, he’s yearning for a woman.
Bored with Penthouse and Playboy, he turns to more personal reading material – the love letters that Kyla has written to Richard. Through these letters, Trevor falls in love with Kyla. When he returns to the States, he moves to Texas, follows her everywhere surreptitiously and arranges a “chance” meeting at the local mall. Since Richard had corresponded to her about his friend and his womanizing ways, Trevor fails to mention he and “Smooch” are one and the same. While these actions are meant to make Trevor seem romantic, reading his dead friend’s letters smacked of snooping, following Kyla around seemed like stalking, and lying about his identity in order to woo his best friend’s widow was plain creepy. By this point, I didn’t like Trevor and was losing respect for Kyla, who seemed incapable of making an independent decision. She turned to others for advice on the simplest matters, such as choosing which dress to buy.
Of course, Trevor comes on strong enough that mousy Kyla can’t refuse him and, by following clues found in the letters, he manages to indulge her every whim. When he proposed to her on their fourth date, suggesting she’d be selfish if she didn’t marry him and move out of her parents’ house, I was ready to slam the book against the wall. But I kept reading out of morbid curiosity. I wanted to see if it could get any worse. Of course, it did.
There was that problem with Aaron, Kyla and Richard’s son, who was on the scene every time the plot called for cute-kid antics and disappeared whenever Trevor wanted to put the moves on Kyla. I was disappointed that more time wasn’t spent on Aaron – he was easily the most likable character in the book. The other secondary characters only existed as a back-up chorus to convince Kyla that Trevor was the man for her. When Kyla finally wises up and discovers Trevor’s deception, she is reconciled to it far too easily, leading to a pat, predictable ending.
And, why was Trevor so persistent in his jealousy of Richard? He fell in love with Kyla as a result of her love for Richard, so why was he so bothered that she still had feelings for her dead husband? Given that the two men were best friends, his jealousy also seemed out of sync with the story’s premise.
I really wanted to find something to like about this book, since Sandra Brown is usually one of my favorite authors. I know she can do better, and that’s one of the reasons I gave Above and Beyond a failing grade. It was written more than a decade ago, in 1986, and her writing style seems to have vastly matured since then. If you are new to Sandra Brown, please start off with Exclusive instead. While the hero in that book was arrogant, at least he was honest.