Ah, faithful reader, I must start off this review by admitting that I am a fan of Suzanne Brockmann and I love her Troubleshooters series – a couple of are in my top 20 books ever. So when I heard her next release (and, as it turns out, her last Troubleshooters book for a while) was going to be Izzy’s book, I was very excited. Izzy – always upbeat and finding the fun even in dire circumstances. Readers have loved Izzy since he first sang and quipped his way into the Troubleshooters world and him being the star of his own book? Awesome! Right? Well…
Breaking the Rules picks up not long after Hot Pursuit ends. The opening is the kind of action-packed battle stuff we’ve come to expect from Ms. Brockmann. The SEAL team is deployed off into a danger zone and Izzy, Danny Gillman, and the gang are soon in a sniper’s sights. Danny is hit and is in danger of bleeding out before they can get him to a hospital, so Izzy performs a battlefield transfusion – a direct line out of him into Gillman. He’s family, sort of…right? (For those unfamiliar with the series, Izzy is married/estranged from Danny’s sister Eden – their backstory is played out in several books.)
Then we flash to New York where Danny’s maybe-girlfriend (they met in Hot Pursuit) is about to be taken hostage by some disgruntled veterans when she receives word that Danny has been seriously injured and airlifted to Germany. The veterans rethink their hostage-taking and the leader goes with her to the airport. I found this to be unnecessary and forced – why the drama here??
Another flash takes us to Las Vegas where Eden has arrived to rescue her teenage brother from a hellish home life with their mother and her current husband. Eden knows she will need money to support herself and her brother Ben and she owes Danny money, so she wants to find a job that will pay a lot. She decided to audition for a job at an exotic dance club – her reasoning? ”After years of getting leered at wherever she went, she was now on the verge of getting paid for the very same thing.” Of course, Eden is young (22 in this book) and has a bad history with men. And, from a completely objective standpoint, there wasn’t another legal activity that would let her earn lots of money, fast. Meanwhile…
Somewhere in Las Vegas, a young girl escapes from the the illegal brothel she was brought to as an eight-year-old and has been kept there ever since. Illegal aliens imported and kept as sex slaves…certainly not a subplot found in romances, normally. You know why, faithful reader? Nothing sucks you out of a romance novel faster than the thought of children being kept as sex slaves! I know authors have to write the book they are moved to write and who am I to question where the story takes them? Oh wait, I’m the reader. And this as a subplot in a romance? A poor choice, in my opinion.
Also, in the mix of subplots is Eden and Danny’s younger brother Ben. Since Ben came out, his stepfather is convinced (and has convinced the mostly-absent mother) Ben must be sent to a “special” camp so he can be shown the error of his ways. Also, Ben has Type I diabetes, so he has special health issues that must be considered. While at the local mall, guess who Ben meets? Yup, our little runaway – her name is Neesha. Ben tries to give her some advice on escaping the notice of adults, but she doesn’t trust anyone (go figure).
Tying all these plots together takes a lot of effort – and, reading the book, I felt that effort. All the characters aren’t in the same place, working toward the same goal until about halfway through the book. The structure feels very fragmented and disjointed. The switching from place to place and subplot to subplot is jarring.
Izzy is the first to arrive in Vegas. He has been trying to catch up with Eden for the last few books and, when Dan’s father visits the hospital in Germany, Izzy finally gets her address. He heads for the States, hoping for closure. He finally, finally has decided that he has to accept that Eden doesn’t want him.
And now we come to my main problem with Breaking the Rules – the portrayal of Izzy. He has always been so upbeat and able to see the good, even in bad situations, but in this book he is sad. And actively works to keep his natural optimism down. Even after he agrees to help Eden and Ben, at least until Danny can get there, he just isn’t the same Izzy. He and Eden agree to just have a physical relationship and when they’re done, they’re done. No together forever, no happily ever after. And sure, that isn’t an unusual agreement for couples in romance novels, but, usually, it isn’t described in such a sad, hopeless tone. Nor does the tone continue for an extended amount of time.
Izzy’s attitude toward Eden is so out of character – he decides to just go with it and sleep with her, even though he knows it is just temporary because she needs his help and that’s just how she operates. Just waiting to get your heart broken? Again?? Looking at someone with your eyes wide open, knowing they will leave you and not look back and still hanging around for whatever crumbs you can get before the implosion? Heartbreaking. And the whole tone of the book is so bleak and sad because of that.
Being noble didn’t get him anything last time she was in his life, so this time he’s going to take whatever pleasure he can get for however long it lasts. But he never forgets that it will end. He expects it and doesn’t pretend otherwise with Eden. She has burned him too many times before. And Eden thinks no one will ever love her – because of her past, her reputation, her whatever – but she knows lots of people will want her and she’s willing to work with that, if it will help her get what she wants.
Really, the character that grows the most, changes the most, is Danny Gillman. Readers started learning more about him and what makes him tick in Hot Pursuit and we find out more in Breaking the Rules. He and Jennilyn really become a solid couple over the course of the book – who knew he isn’t a complete jerk?
Only in the last few chapters, when everything comes to a head and the good guys rush in to save the day, does this book have the same feel as the other Troubleshooters books. It’s like the characters suddenly snap back into their real selves (with some improvements in Dan’s case). And after the good guys prevail, we’re done. After all the sadness and suffering, everybody loves everybody and The End. I would have liked a bit more happy to balance out the bleakness of the rest. So is the happy ending worth suffering through the previous 7/8 of the book? For fans of the series, I’m not sure. For new readers, maybe. So is it necessary to read the rest of the series before reading Breaking the Rules? No – probably just Hot Pursuit. You might be better off, actually.
My final thought? Izzy deserves better than this.
Izzy Zanella wasn’t looking for another reason to butt heads with his Navy SEAL teammate, and nemesis, Danny Gillman. But then he met Danny’s beautiful younger sister, Eden. When she needed it most, he offered her a place to stay, a shoulder to cry on—and more. And when she got pregnant with another man’s child, he offered her marriage. But Eden’s devastating miscarriage shattered their life together—and made the intense bad blood between Izzy and Danny even worse.
Now Eden’s back, and she’s on a mission to rescue her teen brother, Ben, from their abusive stepfather. Even if she and Izzy can prove that their broken marriage is still in one piece, winning legal custody of Ben is a long shot. But they’re not alone: Danny and his girlfriend, Jenn, offer to help, and he and Izzy agree to bury the past and fight for Ben’s future.
As they plan their strategy, Izzy and Eden grapple with the raw passion that still crackles between them—while Danny and Jenn confront new depths in their own rocky relationship. But events take a terrifying turn after Ben befriends a girl fleeing a child prostitution ring. When the young runaway seeks refuge with Eden and Izzy, her pursuers kidnap Ben—and a deadly standoff begins. Now they must all pull together like never before and strike back, swift and hard, to protect their unconventional little family and everything they hold most precious.