Monday, June 27, 2011

Breaking the Rules by Suzanne Brockmann

Breaking the Rules is the 16th installment of the Troubleshooters/SEAL Team Sixteen series, and from what I understand, it’s going to be the last for awhile. In this book we get two romantic relationships in the making, both centered around a single plot, and no easy feat, that. But in my opinion Ms. Brockmann pulled it off with flying colors.

If you’ve been following the series you’ll know the background of Izzy and Eden’s turbulent relationship and where Breaking the Rules is going, but here’s a reminder in case it’s been awhile since you read the last book. From the cover –
Sometime in the not too distant past, the once torrid romance between Eden Gillman and her Navy SEAL husband Izzy Zanella took a drastic cooling turn. Both seem permanently wedded to mutual disdain, but then something happens that changes the chemistry: Eden discovers that her younger brother Ben is the victim of abuse by his stepfather. To rescue him from the tyrant's custody, she knows that she must reconstruct her tattered relationship with the man that she had most cherished. What she doesn't yet realize is the full saving strength of that lovers' reunion.

That’s as far into the plot as I’m going to go, other than to say that the other couple in the story is Dan Gillman and Jennilyn LeMay, whose relationship also ended on a sour note before it ever had a chance to begin.

To be honest, I hadn’t planned to ever read this book because I wasn’t all that sure I’d be able to enjoy it. Honestly, those Gillman siblings left me less than impressed at the end of the last book and in fact, I was pretty well miffed with them both. Eden, even though she was young and immature, seemed very selfish to me, more-so than her age would have excused, and Dan… well Dan was just an ass and there was no excuse for him. There was no doubt in my mind that the best thing for Izzy and Jennilyn would have been to cut their losses, walk away, never look back, and forget they ever heard the Gillman name.

Thank God that didn’t happen, because for me this book ended up being all about the relationships!

I found myself quickly engrossed in the story and while I still had issues with some of Eden’s choices, I have to say that Izzy had more than his fair share of not-too-bright decisions, too. There were many times when I really wanted to yell at them both and tell them that they were too needy, too insecure to be in any kind of relationship together, let alone a romantic one! Fortunately by the end of the book I could see that they truly did love one another and keeping in mind that not all relationships are perfect, but if two people want to make it work, they can. That’s the hope I have for Izzy and Eden.

Now, as for Dan and Jenn - If you read the last book you’ll recall that he had said some rather crappy things about women who are not built model thin, and he said it in ear shot of Jennilyn who is a healthy, attractive, plus sized woman, who he was sleeping with. I was so, so angry. So. Angry. Not because the comment was just about the size of the woman, but because it was about how much easier heavy women are to get into bed and keep there because they don’t have as many options as skinny women do - they're needier and are grateful for what they can get.  And I was even angrier than Jennilyn didn’t kick his sorry ass out the door. Where was her pride?? Instead, she gave him the chance to prove himself and at the time I really, really thought she was pathetic. Wow… very few books have touched a nerve with me the way this one scene, in this one book, did. Just thinking about it after all this time sends my blood pressure up a few notches! My point in telling you all this is that because of what took place before, I had a hard time cheering for Danny and Jenn’s happily ever after. I just didn’t get the level of groveling I needed from Dan to prove to me that even though he was an ass back then, he’d redeemed himself enough to deserve such a wonderful, caring woman as Jennilyn. By the end of the book, even though I wasn’t one of their biggest fans, I did find myself happy for them and hoping that their life together would be one of nothing but happiness.

As I said, the only reason I wanted to read this book was to find out what happened with both couple's happily ever afters. The story itself - the underlying plot - was good, but there were definitely times when I wasn't interested in what was happening and skipped ahead to the relationships. I wasn't as impressed with the flow of the story as I have been with past books but still found that I couldn't put it down. So despite the angst, the misunderstandings and the many Too Stupid To Live moments from some our characters, namely those Gillmans, I really enjoyed this book. But, I need to get something off my chest. Here goes:

Over the last several books we were introduced to Jules Cassidy, a gay FBI agent who I adored! Funny, sexy, intelligent… he had all the makings of a great character and I loved his role in the stories, especially his happily ever after which was so well deserved! So what’s the problem? Well, I’ve started to feel like Ms. Brockmann is using her books as a soapbox from which she is lecturing her readers on tolerance and acceptance of those among us who are gay or lesbian. Yes, it sucks that there are still people out there who think they have the right to tell another human being who they can or cannot love. And yes, I understand that they are her books and that she can write them how she sees fit, but there reaches a point when, as a reader, I get tired of being preached to and this has become an ongoing theme in the last few books. Anti-war, racism, prejudice, or save the Abbot’s Booby… regardless of the issue at hand, I feel that musicians, celebrities, authors, and in this case, Ms. Brockmann specifically, would do better to reach out to people other than her devoted fans who have followed the series from the beginning and who have loved every minute of it.

I can only imagine what it would be like to live with so much intolerance and hatred directed at me because I don’t fit someone else’s idea of what “normal” should be, but it’s one thing to promote public awareness by writing stories and scenes in which your characters show us what it’s like, and it’s another thing entirely to beat your readers over the head with it, book after book. Ms. Brockmann, I admire your dedication to this cause that is so near and dear to your heart, but we get it, and we stand with you, however we aren’t the ones who are in need of the constant reminder.

So, now that I have that off my chest, for those who are still with me, I’d like to share two of my favorite quotes from the book. They both come from the hilarious mouth and mind of Izzy Zanella, and are a small sampling of the witty writing that I loved so much in this book.

“You don’t need that information,” Cassidy said. “Unless you can reassure me that you’ll limit your participation to surveillance only.” He cleared his throat rather loudly.

“Cross my heart,” Izzy said, “and if I lie, sweet baby jeebus can poke me in the eye.”

“Fabulous,” Cassidy said, dryly. “I’m completely reassured.”
“Call me when you arrive,” Dan said, still doing his best imitation of the admiral of the fleet, but then added, “Please.” Probably only because Jennilyn was standing beside him and had given him a nudge. No doubt about it, the woman brought out the non-asshole-ish side of the fishboy.

“I will,” Izzy said. And if Dan could play nice for Jenn’s benefit, Izzy could do the same. “Thanks for calling me.”

There was a pause; then: “Thank you – for helping like this. I, um, really appreciate it, man.”

Izzy hung up his phone, aware that somewhere to the South Satan was ice skating while flying pigs did loop-de-loops overhead.

I’m hoping that the information I heard, that this would be the last Troubleshooter book for a long while, is wrong. I love Ms. Brockmann’s heroes and heroines, the exciting storylines and the truly wonderful happily ever afters that have kept me coming back for more. There are still so many amazing characters waiting to tell their stories, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that one day they’ll get their chance.

I'm giving Breaking the Rules 4 of 5 stars solely because of Izzy, who I unashamedly adore. There's just something about this incredible Navy SEAL who, despite his physical, mental and emotional strength has such a vulnerable heart. I just want to bring him home and love him forever.

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