July 11, 2017

Review: Some Kind of Hero by Suzanne Brockmann


Source: Review copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Cover image description: a man wears his Navy dress whites and the background is a beach.
Have I ever told you how much I love Suzanne Brockmann’s books? I’ve been a fan for over ten years. The ride has been bumpy, but I still get so excited every time there’s a new release, and I always, always, manage to derive joy from them even when the characters are doing God knows why. And this book, oh, you guys, this book is a sight to behold! I don’t know how it manages to be so restrained and focused while at the same giving in to the worst urges.

The story reminds me a lot of The Unsung Hero, the book that launched the series all those years ago. It makes sense, because it’s not quite a spinoff like Do or Die was, but it features all new characters and only the smallest cameos by old characters. So it reads closer to book 1 in a series than to book 17. It has a secondary plot that involves a teenager, and although we do meet a bunch of new SEALs, there’s no obvious sequel bait in sight or the beginning of a romance that’s left dangling so it can be stretched forever and ever throughout books to come. The only thing missing is a World War II subplot, which seems weird because there’s enough groundwork there to make me wonder if it was originally planned or even edited out. The suspense subplot is inconsequential and it involves domestic white guys as villains, so I can’t even complain about the faceless, Fakestani brown terrorists Brockmann—and military romance in general—loves. The book stands alone so well, that I’d dare say it makes for a good entry point for new readers who don’t want to bother with a long series. When I say the book shows immense restraint, I mean it.


Our hero, Peter, is a terrible father who for some reason had a secret daughter he never mentioned to his friends, which is bizarre, because this is not a recurrent character whose background is in need of retconning, so what’s up with the secrecy? It is a painful subject for him, sure, but she’s not a secret baby, so as much as the book kind of tries to blame it on the ex, come on, dude! Other than that, I found him refreshing and charming. In a series (and genre) that fetishizes SEALs to the extreme and turns them into perfect, yet sensitive, superheroes, what a difference it makes to see a guy who decides to be an instructor and live a quiet, subdued life, and who is in over his head with the grieving daughter he barely knows. So, the part about him being an absent father aside, he gets my seal of approval. And when Shayla, the heroine, gets accidentally involved in his desperate search for his daughter, we end up with a lovely romance between two smart people who know what they want. There’s not much romantic conflict, but I was never bored by their relationship or had any doubt about the success of their relationship.

The problem is that Shayla... well, here’s where it gets tricky, because Ms. Brockmann writes great characters, and Shayla is pretty much that. She’s mature, experienced, and knows herself, so she’s delightful, BUT, and here’s where we lose the leash, she’s a romance writer going through serious case of writer’s block, and the author insertion is borderline obscene. Shayla is described as African American, but that’s the only thing that clearly and deliberately puts distance between author and character; there are some other minor differences, but the similarities are obvious and keep calling attention to themselves. The one I found the most grating and egregious is that Shayla has a book series that features a sassy, uber competent, gay FBI agent named Jules Harry as its main character.

"Shayla hit her brakes and leaned forward slightly to peer at him through her windshield, wondering if he’d been attempting to stop that one specific car in front of her, or if any old car and driver would do.
Bow chicka bow bow! Harry Parker’s irreverent voice-in-her-head now sang a riff that was supposed to imitate the porn-worthy wah-wah of an electric guitar.
Shut it, she told him silently since he was a fictional character and therefore invisible, and she wasn’t quite crazy enough to start talking to herself out loud. At least not yet."

This guy isn’t just some clever wink at the readers who love recurrent character and former series hero, Jules Cassidy, nope, this fictional man who lives in the heroine’s head, is an active secondary character that has a clever comment for each situation and full conversations with the heroine.


“This is what you wanted, right? Follow that car?” she asked as she jockeyed her way into the faster-moving left lane. Funny how that horrible word, missing, had magically turned him from too-hot-to-talk-to Navy SEAL to far more accessible worried dad. Hot worried dad, sure, but he needed both her help and immediate action, and accordingly her brain had unlocked. “Don’t worry, I’m a good driver.” 
She really is. Great. Harry, too, had gotten his voice back.  
Of course, the SEAL couldn’t hear him, thank God. “Glad to hear it,” he said as he grabbed for the oh-shit bar, which, yes, made his muscular arm do some very interesting and attractive things to his barbed wire tattoo. Maybe it would help if she imagined those strong arms holding a baby, except …  
Noooo, that doesn’t help at all, Harry said. 
Harry was married. Very married, to the man of his dreams, she thought pointedly. 
He laughed. True, but I’m also very not dead, so …

I wouldn’t mind it as much if Harry was just Shayla’s little character quirk that's used sparingly, but he is all over the book.

And then there's this:

Izzy laughed. “I’m sorry. Secret what?” 
“Baby,” Eden said. “The hero gets someone pregnant, but she doesn’t tell him about it, and then anywhere from one to twenty years later, surprise! The secret baby needs a kidney, and the hero and heroine reconnect to save her life and they fall in love and everyone lives happily ever after.” 
“Well, that’s intense,” Izzy said. 
“But the female character’s not surprised, right?” Adam interjected. “Because that’s the story I’d want to read.” 
“Whoa, me, too,” Izzy said. “Hey, what’s that stuck between the cushions of the sofa? Holy crap, I must’ve had a secret baby last night when I fell asleep watching Netflix!”
Adam laughed.
 
“Don’t mock it, boys,” Lindsey told them sternly. “It’s a popular theme in a very popular genre.” 

So much meta commentary! There are lectures about the disrespect the genre gets, rants about how romance isn’t porn, or about how in Brockmann's Shayla’s books a character will get with someone who isn’t right before finding their true love. Characters from previous books recognize Shayla and fangirl all over her, and maybe I should be glad that this time the heroine is a successful writer instead of a virgin in need of practical research, and obviously it comes down to personal taste, but to me it didn’t work at all. I’ve seen the book described as a love letter to the genre, and maybe it is, but it’s also awkward, clumsy and unnecessary pandering to an audience that already knows all that stuff.

Having said that, this book is the best the series has been in years, and I’m hopeful for the books to come (if they do come). There’s so much talent and potential that it hurts to see it weighed down with all the gimmicks and fan service. It still feels like a firm step in the right direction, however, so fingers crossed!

Grade: 2.5 but if I take out the Harry and the meta stuff, it would be a solid 4.
Purchase: Amazon



Navy men don’t come tougher than Lieutenant Peter Greene. Every day he whips hotshot SEAL wannabes into elite fighters. So why can’t he handle one fifteen-year-old girl? His ex’s death left him a single dad overnight, and very unprepared. Though he can’t relate to an angsty teen, he can at least keep Maddie safe—until the day she disappears. Though Pete’s lacking in fatherly intuition, his instinct for detecting danger is razor sharp. Maddie’s in trouble. Now he needs the Troubleshooters team at his back, along with an unconventional ally. 
Romance writer Shayla Whitman never expected to be drawn into a real-world thriller—or to meet a hero who makes her pulse pound. Action on the page is one thing. Actually living it is another story. Shay’s not as bold as her heroines, but she’s a mother. She sees the panic in her new neighbor’s usually fearless blue eyes—and knows there’s no greater terror for a parent than having a child at risk. It’s an ordeal Shay won’t let Pete face alone. She’s no highly trained operative, but she’s smart, resourceful, and knows what makes teenagers tick. 
Still, working alongside Pete has its own perils—like letting the heat between them rise out of control. Intimate emotions could mean dangerous, even deadly, consequences for their mission. No matter what, they must be on top of their game, and playing for keeps . . . or else Pete’s daughter may be gone for good.

Some Kind of Hero by Suzanne Brockmann
Ballantine Books, July 2017

4 comments:

  1. Really disappointed with this novel. Shay's talking to "Harry" was annoying and the story and characters lacked depth. It's really hard to learn to love new characters when there are so few previous characters in the plotline. How realistic is it that Izzy would ask ask BUD/S trainees to help?
    We didn't even get to find out whether Lindsey had a boy or a girl.
    I was looking forward to lots of Izzy and Eden, and got almost no Eden and very little of Izzy; the Izzy we got had so little depth. Based on their relationship, it's really hard to believe Eden would have told Lindsay she was ready for a baby, before she told Izzy. Everytime we have had Izzy's POV, he always deals with issues head-on or we see his thinking about the issues through his irreverent filter - but all that was missing this time.
    The lack of continuity is also annoying. Lindsey's miscarriage was presented as having happened in the first trimester originally; but in this book it turned into a 'late-stage' loss?? And Eden was also described as incredibly beautiful, but now Lindsey is on a par with her?? It's frustrating when the author cannot keep her story lines consistent.
    This book felt like, the author felt she should get on and write another book in the series but really couldn't be bothered putting alot of effort in

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My issue with Izzy and his friends is that they were never the best characters to begin with, his relationship with Eden in particular was pretty sketchy, but the series is so enamored with them that they keep being forced into new stories. So to me, it's hard to love new characters when the old ones are so present. When we fell in love with the original characters, there were no old characters to help us along, so why wouldn't that be the case now?

      Delete
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