Desert Isle Keeper
The Defiant Hero
If, like me, you’ve got a weakness for a man in uniform, Suzanne Brockmann’s latest single-title release The Defiant Hero should hit the mark for you. It’s chock-full of all the things she does so well: intricately woven multiple plotlines, ripping dialogue, intrigue, adventure, and three (count ’em, three!) love stories, past, present, and (I hope) future.
Former Foreign Service officer Meg Moore walks into every mother’s nightmare: her ten-year-old daughter Amy has been kidnapped, and it’s up to Meg to save her. Kazbekistani terrorists have snatched Amy (and Meg’s grandmother Eve) off the street; they tell Meg that she must help them in finding and killing one of their archrivals, Osman Razeen. This is a mother who will do anything, anything, to save her child, including walking into the Kazbekistani embassy in Washington and taking Razeen hostage, while she demands that the authorities find and bring her the only person she can imagine helping her, Navy Lt. John Nilsson.
“Nils” and Meg go back a way: they met a few years ago in Kazbekistan, when John and his SEAL team were engaged in an extraction mission. The attraction between them was instant and mutual, but nothing came of it, since Meg was married at the time. Now, though, her philandering rat of a husband has died, and she hasn’t seen John in three years, when they came close to making a big, passionate mistake. Nils doesn’t understand why she didn’t get in touch with him after Daniel’s death, and he jumps at the chance to see her again. But he never realized it would be under these circumstances.
A number of subplots adds to the rip-roaring adventure that is this book. In an attempt to keep her great-granddaughter calm, and to force at least one of their captors to see them as more than just hostages, Eve begins to tell Amy the story of when she was a teenager in England, and fell in love with an older man, Ralph (that’s pronounced “Rafe,” as in Fiennes). Eve looked a lot older than fifteen, however, and her reluctance to tell Ralph her true age led to a heartbreaking twist. Brockmann obviously has a tremendous respect for the people who lived through the events of the Second World War; the way she tells the tale of Eve’s participation in the 1940 evacuation of British soldiers from Dunkirk is just riveting.
Then there’s Starrett and Locke. Astute readers may remember laid-back Roger “Sam” Starrett and uptight Alyssa Locke from their brief appearance in The Unsung Hero. He’s still lusting after “Sweet Thing,” who will deck any man who dares to call her that to her face. When Nils takes off with Meg, Locke becomes convinced that Starrett knows where his pal’s gone, so she tails her nemesis. But Sam’s not a SEAL for nothing, and the tables are turned pretty quickly. Fire always melts ice, but a river of passion can freeze over again. Have a glass of ice water ready when things “click” for these two.
I’m a big fan of the Tall, Dark, and Dangerous mini-series Brockmann pens for Silhouette, but I sometimes chafe under the restrictions of category romances. In this bigger, longer book, she’s able to do so much more. There’s more plot, more action, time for more introspection and self-examination on the characters’ part. That does not mean that the writing suffers or there’s any padding. It’s like the difference between watching a champion sprinter and an Olympic long-distance runner: both are superb at the job they do, it’s just a matter of different tactics to reach the finish line. Plus, the distance runner always sprints at the end. And The Defiant Hero definitely picks up speed toward its conclusion.
One of the most immediately evident differences between Brockmann’s category books and her single titles is her use of much harsher, more realistic language in the latter. Here, she is no longer confined to vague references to vulgar language. If one of her characters feels the need to cuss, then by golly he (or she) cusses. This may be upsetting to some readers, but it didn’t bother me. One: I’ve heard, and said, worse myself. Two (and more important): the language rings true. Anyone who’s spent any time around a bunch of testosterone-driven males understands that they’re not going to speak like…well, I would say like librarians, but you should hear some of the librarians I know. There’s one especially effective use of the F word in a confrontation between Starrett and Locke: the dialogue gets pretty rough, but it’s absolutely dead-on accurate and heartbreakingly appropriate.
Quibbles? Minor ones only. I had a hard time connecting to Meg for quite a while, but given that she’s so totally focused on rescuing her daughter, I took that into consideration. I just wish she’d trusted John sooner. There’s also a scenario in which a male character takes advantage of a female who’s uncharacteristically drunk. This is a major turn-off for some readers; I really think you have to see it in context, though, before you judge. It made sense in the story, and for me that’s the ultimate test.
When is Hollywood going to discover Brockmann? Steven Spielberg seems just as interested in World War II as she is, so I suggest that somebody shop him either of the Troubleshooters books. I can see it now: big world premiere, red carpet, stars galore, and Suz with her big smile and infectious laugh. Until then, I’ll have to content myself with dreaming about it, and waiting impatiently for the next installment.