Desert Isle Keeper
There don’t seem to be too many people who feel lukewarm about Suzanne Brockmann; either you love her or you hate her. I love her; I think she’s the most consistently entertaining romance author around. That’s not to say that I think her books are flawless. Hot Target is a good example of a Brockmann book that I loved in spite of its flaws.
There is a whole lot going on in this novel. Like the earlier books in the series, it has three basic components: the A plot, a love story with a happy ending; the B plot, a secondary romance; and the C plot (which in this case is very minor), dealing with World War II; all played out against a backdrop of suspense. For me, the main love story was only okay, while the rest of the book is pure dynamite.
Jane Mercedes Chadwick is a filmmaker who had a freak blockbuster success early in her career. She hasn’t had a lot of success since then, though, and hopes to make a big comeback with the film she’s working on, American Hero. The movie is a World War II epic based on a true story, featuring a doomed love story between two (male) soldiers. Jane has been getting threats from a group of weirdos in Idaho who want to stop production of the movie. Her production company hires Troubleshooters, Inc. to protect Jane and the FBI sends agent Jules Cassidy out to investigate.
Enter Jane’s new bodyguard, Cosmo Richter, a Navy SEAL whose reputation as a stone killer precedes him. It’s instant dislike. Jane doesn’t take the threats seriously, and she is irritated at being surrounded by hulking thugs like Cosmo all the time. Cosmo thinks that Jane is an annoying phony. Labeled a has-been at 22, Jane’s way of getting attention (for her projects, of course) is to act like Britney Spears’s extroverted sister. I’m not sure if I buy that; an actor can indulge in exhibitionist behavior and create buzz for a movie, but as a producer, part of Jane’s job is to get people to invest money in her films. I’m not seeing how a tight dress and five-inch heels help her there.
But whatever. Soon Cosmo sees the vulnerable woman behind Jane’s glossy Hollywood façade. Soon Jane sees the sensitive man behind Cosmo’s cold front. They fall in love, and while this storyline is well-written and full of humor and sensuality, I was a tad underwhelmed. Jane is rather shrill, and suffers from the kind of tiresomely impulsive personality that frequently sends her into situations that could get her killed; far too many time spent by other characters urging not to dash off into danger. I liked Cosmo more – he’s a man who has a hard time expressing himself verbally, and I found his slightly-awkward silences endearing. I also thought his familiarity with show tunes was a nice touch, as is his affectionate exasperation with his mother. But increasingly as the book goes on, Cosmo is just too perfect. He’s too compassionate, too flawlessly patriotic and brave. Towards the end of the book, our previously-laconic hero is making page-long speeches about duty and honor, and again, I just wasn’t buying it.
In fact, the main plotline is completely and totally overshadowed by the secondary one: a complex, bittersweet, and incredibly intense love triangle that sucked me in completely. The protagonists are Jules Cassidy, a witty gay FBI agent, familiar to those who have read previous books in this series; Jules’s former lover, an actor named Adam; and Robin Chadwick, Jane’s brother, who stars in the movie. Jules finds Robin very attractive, but Robin immediately protests that he’s straight. Jules is still painfully in love with Adam, even though they went through an ugly breakup. Robin is a troubled alcoholic and a real dawg with the ladies; he likes Jules and wants to protect him from Adam. Then Adam gets cast as the other lead in the movie, playing Robin’s lover. This situation gets more complicated and more agonizing than I can describe here.
Are you thinking that a romantic storyline between men sounds sort of, well, icky? It isn’t. It’s riveting. I suppose you’ll disagree if you have a fundamental abhorrence to this sort of thing, but that will be your loss. For me, Jules Cassidy is the real hero of this book, far and away outshining the brawny Cosmo Richter. I found many of Jules’ scenes to be achingly romantic. There is an emotional intensity to this plot that wrung me out. My heart was thoroughly involved, and that kind of emotional reaction is what I read romance novels for. I love Jules’ self-deprecating humor, as well as the kindness and courage he shows in dealing with an undeniably painful situation. Those are the qualities Brockmann asks us to judge him by – not his sexual orientation.
If you’re one of those people who just doesn’t like Brockmann, I doubt this book will change your mind. If you’ve never read Brockmann, it’s not a great place to start – lots of secondary characters from previous books pop up, and if I wasn’t familiar with them all I’d have found it confusing. Also, there are readers who avoid novels about filmmaking because they don’t think they portray the industry accurately. I have absolutely no idea whether this book gives an accurate behind-the-scenes glimpse of movie making; nor do I particularly care. It seemed convincing enough to me.
When I read this book again – and I will – I will be skimming Jane and Cosmo. Jane and Cosmo are okay; I did not by any means dislike them, and if this were solely their story I would probably still give it a much-qualified recommendation. But when I reread this book, I’ll be in it for Jules. That plotline gets an A+ from me, and it’s the reason I’m giving this book DIK status.