SEAL It With a Kiss
by Rogenna Brewer
(Harl. Super Rom. #833, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-70833-5
****
Now and then a new author comes along who deserves special recognition. In Rogenna Brewer's case she deserves a salute, too. She's following in the footsteps of other romance writers who have past military experience. Lindsay McKenna, Merline Lovelace and others add realism to their military plots because they've been there. Add Ms. Brewer to that esteemed list.

Navy Lieutenant Tabitha Chapel is a woman with a mission. She's used her influential connections to conduct a study on the feasibility of women becoming SEALs. Her father, retired Navy and her brothers, active duty, have been her role models. As a young girl, when her brothers wouldn't let her in their tree house, she was going to use a hammer to dismantle it. Even then, Inequity bothered her. She's always remembered her father's advice: Break the door down. That's exactly what she's attempting to do by becoming the first woman SEAL.

Navy Commander Marc Miller is a man with a mission. There's no way that a woman is going to become a SEAL on his watch. He's determined that Tabby Chapel won't succeed. If Tabby is successful, her study will lead to Congressional approval for the admittance of women. Here's what Marc is advised to do.

":...do a counter-study. Address the issue from the SEAL perspective cold hard facts that can be presented to the committee . . . Congress can compare the male and female points of view."

Marc agrees to give Tabby exactly four weeks to prove her mettle, all the while knowing that he'll be working on his report, countermanding every argument she'll use in her defense. His respect for her does rise in a delightful scene. Tabby's just stepped into the shower for her first day of training. Too late she realizes that she's just been sprayed with red dye. With the help of another female, she lives up to the credo of "Don't get mad. Get even." Green dye, firecrackers, heavy metal music, flickering lights and smoke bombs provide a very satisfying, verrry humorous method of rebuttal.

Even though these two are at cross-purposes and each extremely serious that the outcome be to their advantage, this is a romance. Here's where the story takes a somewhat weakened approach. At the end of Tabby's four weeks, she's finished her report and, although she doesn't know it, Marc has finished his, also. These two have been attracted, but haven't acted on it. What do they do? Go across the border and get married. Tabby has begun to think that Marc is willing to accept her into the SEALS. Wrong. Their happy marriage has barely begun when she discovers his perfidy and runs back to D.C.

Well, Congress decides to give her another chance. She's going to be allowed to take the whole six months SEAL course. Marc again is her instructor. While their marriage isn't common knowledge, I did wonder about the ethics of this. This whole six-month interim is sexless. Learning about SEAL training was fascinating, but weak in the romance department.

SEAL It With a Kiss was an engrossing look into a subject of which I have very little knowledge. While I thought that Tabby and Marc were well-drawn, appealing characters, their seeming impasse was always in the back of my mind. Would he be able to accept a SEAL for a wife? Would she be able to give up Marc if she did become a SEAL?

The few secondary characters who stand out give us some background into Marc's past and insight into the man he is. There's some male bonding but none of the raunchy stuff that we sometimes read about. Marc is an intelligent man who just has very strong opinions of who should be a SEAL.

Here's how Tabby saw herself. "In all her childhood fantasies, she's been the sword-wielding knight-to-the rescue. She didn't need or want a man rescuing her. Except sometimes..." It's the sometimes that makes this story captivating and yet makes it less romantic and with more seemingly unresolvable conflict than I normally care for.

Without doing any editorializing here about equality and "I can do anything you can do better," I kept thinking about my favorite SEAL book, Linda Howard's Mackenzie's Pleasure. I kept asking myself, "Would I rather be Barrie and be rescued by SEAL Zane Mackenzie or would I rather be Zane?" How you answer that will determine how much you enjoy this story.

--Linda Mowery


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