Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Suzanne Brockmann – Author Profile

I don’t get it.

Brockmann, a consistent NYT bestseller, has scads of awards and legions of fans, particularly among those of us who really really like alpha heroes in our romances.

Sadly, I won’t be joining their ranks.

So maybe it’s me, but I’m just… underwhelmed. I think I’ve read enough titles to have given her a fair shot and it’s just not working for me. I read:

Everyday, Average Jones
Forever Blue
Cisco's Kid
Breaking Point
Force of Nature

The first three are category from Silhouette (currently in reprint from Mira), which explains why I haven’t run into them before. I don’t read category – they’re over too fast to suit me. I like a longer read and I like the extra complexity I get with a properly executed longer book.

OK, so Breaking Point and Force of Nature. Recent full length offerings from Brockmann…

I’m sorry, but BP annoyed the crap out of me:

Prologue: nineteen years ago
p. 13: today
p. 17: seventeen months ago
p. 25: today
p. 28: four months ago
p. 33: twenty-two months ago

Arrrggghhh!! This kept up fully through at least 2/3s of the book before the backstories converged on the present day. There are at least five point of view characters which is, IMO, about three too many. I have gathered from here and there that Jules, the assistant of Our Hero in BP, is a much-beloved secondary character, so it may be that his POV is something the fans have demanded—and I’ll grant you, he is a pretty great secondary character. BUT switching into his POV not only did nothing to enhance the story, it took a lot away from my ability to see inside of the hero (Max).

Force of Nature was better. No flashbacks, thank you patron saint of romance (Barbara Cartland?). A corny tribute to film-noir-Sam-Spade-style mysteries, I suppose it might appeal on that level to some fans. Lillian Lavelle: would-be killer ex-porn star with a ridiculously pat motive? Ummm, okay. Maybe it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek? Either way, it didn't work for me.

I found the Big! Thrill! Scene! at the end of both books to have a pacing problem, although they were creative and had interesting twists, mainly along technical lines. Some potential for great special effect if the movies are ever made. But overall way too slow.

Now generally speaking, I like Brockmann’s characters. The secondary ones really shine, and I can’t do a Brockmann review without bringing up Jules, the openly gay FBI agent. This is a subplot that arcs across a number of books—more than I’ve read. His scenes are really well done and I doubt that anyone who’s not completely homophobic would have a problem with them. The scenes between Jules and the het male characters are really interesting too – they tend to be very accepting after maybe some initial discomfort or awkwardness. I can’t really imagine whether they’re “real” or not… but I’d like to think that they are. Brockmann has personal reasons for including this storyline—her son is gay—and her treatment of it has won her a lot of well-deserved loyalty from the gay and PFLAG communities. I’ve been in conversations where the romance genre as a whole has been rightly criticized for essentially ignoring the existence of homosexuality or using gay characters as villains, and it’s nice to see that changing. One message that comes across loud and clear is this: Romance is Romance. Jules and Robin? Total romance.

Another secondary character from FoN that I really, really enjoyed was Martell, a friend of Ric’s with some of the funniest dialog and one-liners I’ve seen lately. Would’ve liked to have seen a lot more of him.

All her characters are diverse and that’s really fun. Her women are unique, skilled, forthright, and while they inevitably end up on the “get me out of here” end of a big rescue scene, they’re smart and do all the right things, including what they’re told when that’s the smart thing to do. The men are strong and tender and grovel nicely after they do the dumb things that heroes always do.

I mean, they all seem very nice and they have a great personality and everything, but, well….

<shrug> Sorry.

I don’t get it.


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