The Admiral's Bride

Bodyguard

Body Language

The Defiant Hero

Everyday, Average Jones

Freedom's Price

Get Lucky

Harvard's Education

Heartthrob

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

Love With the Proper Stranger

Out of Control

Over the Edge

Undercover Princess

The Unsung Hero

 
Into the Night by Suzanne Brockmann
(Ballantine, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-8041-1972-4
***
I wanted to love Into the Night, I really, really wanted to. But I didn’t. I liked it, no more. It’s the first time Suzanne Brockmann has disappointed me, but I simply could not buy into the hero and heroine’s relationship.

This is Mike Muldoon’s story, and it begins in Afghanistan as the team he is leading winds up a successful mission, except for the broken kneecap that puts him in the hospital and endangers his SEAL career. Months later, almost completely recovered, he is appointed the SEAL liaison to Joan DaCosta, White House public relations assistant, who is on the base to prepare for the President’s visit in a couple of weeks. The President is going to award Team Sixteen another medal, and wants to see them demonstrate their prowess in what the SEALs are calling “a dog and pony show.”

Joan is impressed with Mike’s gorgeous blond good looks, and Mike is attracted to her because she’s the older, voluptuous, take-charge kind of woman he prefers. But while she sees him as sexy and attractive, he is also definitely out of reach as a much younger man with a boyish charm. (She is 32 and he is 25.) And every time he tries to impress her, it backfires, making her see him as even more immature. But she still sets him up as the designated date for Brooke Bryant, the President’s 40-ish, flamboyant, controversial daughter, which turns out to be yet another accident waiting to happen, and another chance for Joan and Mike to clash. And then there’s the fact that part of his job is persuading her to cancel the President’s visit, (something she refuses to do) because there is an al-Qaeda cell operating in the San Diego area, and everyone in Team Sixteen from Tom Paoletti on down thinks there is no way that the President can be sufficiently protected.

Meanwhile, as in the other Team Sixteen books, there is a secondary story from World War II. Joan’s grandparents live in the San Diego area, and their love story from that time period, told in flashbacks, is a counterpoint to the relationship between Joan and Mike. This couple of sixty years still has some problems to work out and ghosts to deal with, but their story is more passionate and involving than their granddaughter’s, and presents another example of an older woman/younger man couple. In addition, her grandfather has a unique connection to the SEAL teams of the present that is revealed gradually as their story unfolds.

A third strand involves the Sam Starrett-Alyssa Locke-Mary Lou Starrett triangle introduced in previous books in the series, with Mary Lou convinced that Sam and Alyssa are having an affair, while Sam denies it, but spends next to no time with his wife and daughter, preferring the company of his friends to trying to make his marriage work. Mary Lou, meanwhile, becomes close friends with a Saudi Arabian-American who does yardwork in her neighborhood. Ihbraham Rahman is also a recovering alcoholic, sympathizes with her struggles to stay sober, and offers to go with her to her nightly AA meetings. He also accepts her and likes her just as she is, something she has not encountered before.

It is unfortunate that the relationship between Mike and Joan never really seems to be as real and involving as the primary relationships in the other Team Sixteen books. Joan constantly chastises herself for her “pathetic” attraction to Mike, and he makes one mistake after another, then has to apologize for each and every one of them, begging her forgiveness in a tone that sometimes becomes boringly whiny. And age is not the only issue they have to confront. They also have to recognize and accept that any relationship other than a brief fling will have to cope with the fact that they live on opposite coasts, and neither is willing to move and give up their career.

Mike’s attraction for Joan is certainly well-supported, and really fairly believable. But a 32-year-old White House power player falling for a 25-year-old blond poster boy? Even if she hasn’t had an intimate relationship in a while, what’s the attraction? He thinks she’s gorgeous and sexy rather than overweight and unattractive, and when they finally do get into bed, the sex is fantastic, but that’s not nearly enough commonality to sustain a marriage, especially one in which long and frequent separations are sure to happen. These two never seem to get their heads together, never seem to “click” the way Brockmann’s other couples do. In fact, when they are discussing how to make a long distance relationship work, Mike decides that what they should do is talk on the phone while they’re apart, and then when they’re together, have sex as much as possible, and not talk. Right! Perhaps if Mike had come across as more mature and seasoned, or Joan had been less powerful and driven, or they’d had more in common, their connection would have seemed more real.

But this book is part of a series, and the appearance of familiar characters and the interaction of the other men on the team and their wives or girlfriends, plus the two secondary storylines, do distract from the problems with the main H/H relationship. It’s a good read, it offers some tantalizing tidbits about Sam, Mary Lou and Alyssa, who are featured in the next book in the series, the climactic scenes of the President’s visit are very suspenseful and surprising, but this book isn’t one of Brockmann’s best. I wish Mike had had a better vehicle.

--Joni Richards Bodart


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