But saying no is not an option. Especially not to Phoebe Kruger, Ian’s bespectacled, beautiful, and unexpectedly brash new attorney. Determined to see the abducted children set free, she 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 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.
Why I read this book: I love masters of romantic suspense. I read my first Brockmann book last year and knew I had to have more, so when I saw Do or Die on offer at NetGalley, I jumped on it! The fab cover, the blurb, and the name Brockmann were enough of a draw to make it jump the queue of other books I was dying to read.
I don’t know if I can adequately convey how much I loved the main hero and heroine, but I’ll try. But first, know that I blasted this comment on facebook and twitter while I was reading: “YOU GUYS. I have a new favorite book. A new favorite book couple. My head is spinning with how impressed I am with the way this couple is written. I want to bow at Suzanne Brockmann's feet, because this is the TALENT. I just, wow, yeah. And I'm only 70% into the book, the book which I HAVE TO put down and resume work, which is killing me. #cantstopgrinning”
Phoebe was fresh and quirky, and her skills as an attorney meant she could verbally spar with the alpha hero and give as good as she got. It also meant she liked to talk, a lot, much to Ian’s dismay. Ian kept his cards close to his chest, not wanting to care about anything or anyone beyond his family. His wicked wit was the perfect balance to his occasional jackassery. The chemistry between these two was the best I’ve read in a long time, resulting in so many great one liners that if I’d been reading in public there’s no doubt a people-watcher would have found me hilarious.
The icing on the cake? Their chemistry resulted in one of the best ever sex scenes. The secret ingredient? The characters remained in character while in bed together! There was banter, laughter, ribbing, expressing arousal and emotion through the filter of their personalities. It was perfect. (Competition in this regard goes to Claire and Jamie in Outlander, and Tatiana and Alexander in The Bronze Horseman.)
Aside from the relationship dynamic, the scenes with Phoebe and Ian were my favorite in the book, often because they involved hilarity. (A SEAL being stealthy while wearing nothing but a small lounge chair cushion? Yes.)
I’d love to say I thought everything about the book was perfect, but … there were some elements that I didn’t love. I felt too many characters were allowed to have viewpoint scenes (6 POV characters, as I recall), there were too many secondary couples/budding romances (7 or 8 people in the mix, I think?), and because of such a large prominent cast, there were too many backstories to flesh out and then make relevant. I’ve no doubt some of it was groundwork for the next book in the series where one of these characters will move to center stage, but it detracted from this book. Not only did it result in the plot being overly complex, but it took time away from the main couple, and I wasn’t always interested in hearing what the other characters were doing or thinking. Considering the many, many similar comments on Goodreads and Amazon, writers take heed.
The negatives are enough for me to drop the rating of the book as a whole to 3.5 stars, but the fact that despite all that I still couldn’t put it down, and that I loved Phoebe and Ian so much, my personal enjoyment level was damn near 5 stars. Final verdict? 4.5 stars, because I can't bring myself to rate Phoebe and Ian any lower. :)
Not a plus or a negative, but I was surprised that a gay couple’s love story featured quite extensively considering neither character was mentioned in the blurb. One of the partners is a viewpoint character throughout, and the couple's relationship and plot becomes such a focus for a while that Phoebe and Ian get significantly pushed to the background. I believe inclusiveness is important and there's no issue with the couple's role in the story, and plenty of readers also enjoy m/m romance, but if it isn’t the type of love story a reader was looking for when they chose this book, I think some readers could be thrown and others could be displeased. If you can be respectful, leave a comment weighing in on whether you think a blurb should include sexual orientations of prominent love stories in a book.
Favorite quote: (okay, so I couldn't pick a single quote, but rather a mini scene ...)
“This is what we, in the con business, call making a spectacle of ourselves. Let’s try to avoid that from now on.”
“Except […] Mr. No-Sex-in-the-Bathrooms is going to describe two probably drunk people who staggered in. Plus, he thinks I’m a prostitute. We can double down on that by …” She stopped him, glancing back into the store through the big plate-glass windows. Ian looked, too, and sure enough, the clerk was still watching them warily.
“Perfect,” she said, and then made what was, absolutely, the international two-handed gesture for sexual intercourse. She then added a couple of exaggerated hip thrusts, saying, “I want to make this absolutely clear, because this guy’s kind of an idiot.” She then rubbed her fingers together, after which she held out her hand, palm up, as if to say Pay me.
Ian cracked up. “That’s actually kind of scary. Sex with a mime. Do I have to pay extra to make sure you don’t do the trapped-in-a-box thing while we’re doing it?”
(I've added 13 more quotes/scenes to Goodreads!)
Series: Book 1 in the Reluctant Heroes trilogy
Publication: Hardback and ebook from Ballantine Books (Random House), February 4, 2014
Similar reading: Brockmann has many celebrated books, but also check out Nina Bruhns’s Passion for Danger series for romantic suspense with a large cast and multiple viewpoint couples in a single book.
Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review.