Where do I start?
Ah, with backstory. I really love Suzanne Brockmann’s books. I loved the Team Ten series she did for Harlequin and the Troubleshooters series. I read every one, and eagerly anticipated each new one.
I wasn’t so struck with her two books set in the near future, but maybe I’ll warm to the characters in time. Still, I’m not reviewing that one, I’m reviewing this one, the start of a new series. Or in a way, a Troubleshooters spin-off. this series is called Reluctant Heroes.
Ian Dunn is a master of the long con. With series like the UK “Hustle,” the US series “Leverage” and “Burn Notice” and the movie “American Hustle,” the con man is coming back into fashion. With good intentions of course, not intentions to steal from the innocent. Ian is an ex-navy SEAL, but with Brockmann, it would be a surprise if he wasn’t. It’s the con man as Robin Hood. The individual hero instead of the government operative.
I love Brockmann’s SEALs. They’re real, and while always badass they have vulnerabilities. I wasn’t as convinced by Ian as I was by Tom Paoletti, but he’s okay. He’s huge, a giant of a man, with muscles to match. And a very clever, wily brain. He has some seriously bad men after him, especially when Phoebe and her FBI friends get him out of prison. Ian’s there working another con, serving an eighteen-month sentence. He’s trying to save his brother Aaron from said seriously bad men, but for me that part of the plot remained hazy. I just let it ride. There’s too much else going on.
Phoebe is a lawyer, and a smart one – but not that smart. She learns as she goes along. She’s built on the large side, but she’s fine with that, and since she’s paired with Ian the Giant, it’s probably as well.
The plot—for me it is all but impenetrable. I’d have had to read the book a few times for the plot to resolve itself completely, and that is one of my two main problems with this book. There are bad men after Ian, but also the FBI wants him to rescue some kidnapped children from an embassy. They need him to break in and save them. Either of these plots would have served, but both together make it all a bit too much, although then the FBI input wouldn’t have happened.
With all that stuff going on, the romance is rather pushed to one side. I’m afraid I’m not entirely convinced by it. With all that going on, there’s a love story? It would probably have worked better as a movie.
This is a world with Jules Cassidy and two characters from the Troubleshooter books. Yashi, Martell, and Deb, make personal appearances. While it is nice to meet them again, they don’t absolutely have to be there. Maybe a clean break would have been nice.
Because that is my other problem. The characters. There is a major subplot involving Ian’s brother, which I have to admit I don’t find as riveting as the rest of the story. There are just too many people being introduced all at once. I got lost. Brockmann is excellent at making characters memorable without making them caricatures or stereotypes, but there are too many here for me to get involved with any of them.
The start of a series can be confusing, but I much preferred the way the Troubleshooters series started. We were introduced to Tom and his romance, and the book gave them a chance to breathe and develop that romance. The story slowly expanded to involve the other characters. There wasn’t this long introduction with all the characters dropped in at once and with so many different points of view.
There’s a story involving a couple of married gay men, which these days is usual for a Brockmann book, but it’s a sweet romance, no explicit scenes and lots of talking and “I love you.” This romance rather takes over in the second part of the book. Okay by me, and the characters aren’t as flat as Ian and Phoebe. However, all that talking, with no “onscreen” kisses, even, does get a little coy. It is annoying that they aren’t even mentioned in the blurb, since they are such a large part of the story.
Brockmann is the master (mistress?) of point of view. I use examples from her books when I teach to show how “deep third” point of view is done right. That is the main reason I read on. That and Phoebe. Unlike Ian, I completely bought in to Phoebe, even though, especially at the beginning, she does some really dumb things. But that is because she’s unused to the situation she’s hurled into the middle of. There is one scene near the beginning where she does something so stupid, you’d think she was born yesterday.
I love the Bourne movies, but the plots in those can be difficult. However, one critic said all you have to remember is the movies are one long exposition of “Run, Jason, Run!”
When I remembered that, this book became easier for me. Because that’s pretty much what happens for three quarters of the book. They’re running away from this baddie or that and living in safe houses. “Run, Ian, run!”
So while I’ll give this series another few books, at least, because I love Brockmann’s style, it’s yet to become the reading addiction that the Troubleshooters were right from the first book.
Navy SEAL Ian Dunn went rogue in a big way when he turned his talents to a lawless life of jewel heists and con jobs. Or so the world has been led to believe. In reality, the former Special Ops warrior is still fighting for good, leading a small band of freelance covert operatives who take care of high-stakes business in highly unofficial ways. That makes Ian the hands-down choice when the U.S. government must breach a heavily guarded embassy and rescue a pair of children kidnapped by their own father, a sinister foreign national willing to turn his kids into casualties. Shockingly, Ian passes on the mission for reasons he will not—or cannot—reveal.
But saying no is not an option. Especially not for Phoebe Kruger, Ian’s beautiful and unexpectedly brash new attorney. Determined to see the abducted children set free, Phoebe not only gets Ian on board but insists on riding shotgun on his Mission: Impossible–style operation, whether he likes it or not.
Though Phoebe has a valuable knack for getting out of tight spots, there’s no denying the intensely intimate feelings growing between Ian and Phoebe as the team gears up for combat. But these are feelings they both must fight to control as they face an array of cold-blooded adversaries, including a vindictive mob boss who’s got Ian at the top of his hit list and a wealthy psychopath who loves murder as much as he loves money. As they dodge death squads and play lethal games of deception, Ian and Phoebe will do whatever it takes to save the innocent and vanquish the guilty—or die trying.
Read an excerpt.