Genre: adventure / romantic suspense
Sex scenes: mild
Troubleshooters: (1) The Unsung Hero, (2) The Defiant Hero, (3) Over the Edge, (4) Out of Control, (5) Into the Night, (6) Gone Too Far, (7) Flashpoint, (8) Hot Target, (9) Breaking Point, (15) Hot Pursuit
Romance RBC 2015: A book with a May-December romance
When the FBI’s top negotiator receives the news that Gina Vitagliano is among the list of casualties after a terrorist bombing in Hamburg, Max Bhagat is on the first plane with blood in his eyes. They might not have spoken or seen each other in 18 months, but theirs is a unique relationship that until now, Max has fervently denied and suppressed. Max was the chief hostage negotiator sent to talk down a group of terrorists who had hijacked a plane in Kazbekistan; Gina was the unlucky passenger on that flight chosen to act as messenger between the terrorists and Max. The experience left Gina scarred and traumatised and more than the doctors and therapists, Max was the one who helped Gina on her path to recovery. After deliberately pushing her away 18 months earlier, Max cannot imagine a life without Gina. But it quickly becomes clear that it’s not Gina’s body in the morgue and that she’s been kidnapped alongside fellow aid worker Molly Anderson and held hostage until the US government hand over one of their most wanted men: Grady Morant, ex-SEAL turned smuggler who is willing to trade his life for Gina and Molly’s. Taken out of his comfort zone, Max is up against the clock as he sets out not only to save Gina, but also a part of himself …
Boy, is Suzanne Brockmann an expert at making readers (and the characters themselves) suffer before giving them their happy ending. Like my favourite Troubleshooter couple, Sam and Alyssa, Gina and Max have had more than their fair share of angst and heartbreak as readers have watched their relationship take its course over the space of 7 books. I’ve been anticipating this union for about 18 months since I first met the pair and I’ve even been willing to skip books in the series for it. But when it finally came down to it, I’m sad to say that the otherwise brilliant Suzanne Brockmann didn’t manage to deliver.
When we first meet Gina, she’s a college student who just happens to board a very unlucky flight. The terrorists are under the impression that a US Senator’s daughter is on the plane and are looking to use her as a bargaining tool Unknown to them, said daughter missed her flight and when the lives of all her fellow passengers are at risk, Gina steps up to the plate. She’s given the responsibility of acting as mouthpiece for the terrorists and Max becomes her lifeline, the one thing she can cling onto for hope.
Max attributes Gina’s devotion to him as a form of hero-worship; a side effect of the terrible circumstances under which they met. Gina knows better and carries on chipping away at Max’s exterior, believing that her persistence will win in the end. Of course, part of Max’s hesitance stems from their 20-year age gap (hence the May-December categorisation) and in my eyes, it only makes their relationship all the hotter. Seeing Gina gradually wear Max down over the course of the series has been absolutely fascinating to watch and Max’s utter devastation on hearing of Gina’s supposed death was perversely fun to watch after his attempts to push her away.
So why did a book and relationship that up to this point had ticked all the boxes, suddenly fall down at the last hurdle? There are two main reasons that I can identify. Firstly, this book jumps a lot between past and present and multiple times within a single chapter. This was only up until about chapter 10 when the reader was finally caught up with the major events of the past 18 months, but still. I usually have no problem keeping up and am very good at adapting to new facts and situations, but this was too much, even for me.
Secondly, I was just a little bored and confused by the plot. I mean, I know that some chain of events were needed to bring Max and Gina together – obvious given the way that they had parted their separate ways in the flashback scenes peppered throughout the book. But when it came down to it, Gina and Molly’s kidnapping and Max, Grady and Jules’ attempts to rescue them just went over my head. It was too complex, in my opinion not explained particularly well and simply didn’t flow comfortably. I’ve finally found a book that is too fast-paced for my liking/comfort-zone.
Molly and Grady’s secondary romance is great. This is one of my favourite things about Suzanne Brockmann: her continuous juggling of multiple relationships that span multiple books. Both Max and Gina and Molly and Grady have experienced severe heartbreak, agony and angst and it was high time that Ms Brockmann put an end to their suffering. I’m thrilled that Molly and Grady, who we first met in Out of Control, got their happy ending – they definitely deserved it.
Despite being a slight disappointment, I’m glad I read this as I’ve now got the full picture about Gina and Max’s relationship. I enjoyed the flashback scenes and Ms Brockmann writes agony exquisitely. Her characters are well fleshed out and given the long time-frames in which we meet and get to know the characters, we can really track their development. There could have been less action and a lot more interaction between our couples, but the same could probably be said of all Suzanne Brockmann titles. I think it’ll be a long time before I can bear reading this cover to cover again, but that doesn’t mean that favourite passages won’t get thumbed through more frequently! A definite middling book in an otherwise great series.
Image courtesy of Book Depository.