Desert Isle Keeper Review

Gone Too Far

Suzanne Brockmann
2004 reissue of 2003 release, Romantic Suspense
Ballantine, $6.99, 560 pages, Amazon ASIN 0345456939
Part of a series

Grade: A-
Sensuality: Hot

This book was featured in Pandora's Box for July 2003

As one of Ms. Brockmann's SEALs might put it: Hoo-yah!

If you're a fan of the Team Sixteen series, get ready to clear the decks and call in sick because you're not going anywhere once you get your hands on this book. Frankly, Gone Too Far is Brockmann at her ultimate best and if this doesn't permanently put to rest any doubts about her readiness to move into hardcover, then nothing ever will.

There isn't a Brockmann reader out there who doesn't know that this is the long-awaited Sam and Alyssa book. Was it worth the wait? You bet. Yes. Absolutely. But, just to add a little icing to the cake, not only does Brockmann deliver the Sam and Alyssa HEA, along the way she throws in a Multiple-Kleenex resolution for another SEAL couple, and a subplot that takes the complex (and fascinating) story of Max and Gina to even more intriguing levels. (I'll just get it out on the table right now: I love Max. Really.)

Anxious to find out why his soon-to-be ex-wife Mary Lou hasn't signed the divorce papers sent to her weeks earlier, Lieutenant Sam Starrett is stunned to discover that, instead of a cagey Mary Lou dodging his calls and jerking his chain, her Sarasota home is a murder scene. Though the woman in the house has obviously been dead for weeks, Sam is convinced that the body is that of Mary Lou and not that of the sister who lived with her. But the question tormenting Sam is an even more terrifying one: Where is his young daughter Haley?

A call to the FBI soon brings Special Agent Alyssa Locke onto the scene. Her complex feelings for Sam aside, Alyssa is certain that Sam didn't kill his wife, but convincing others at the Bureau (including Max) is a challenge for even the uber-competent Alyssa. When the body does turn out to be Mary Lou's sister, Sam and Alyssa hit the trail to try and find his missing wife and daughter.

But matters are far more complicated than even Sam realizes. On the other side of the country, Team Sixteen CO Tom Paoletti, relieved of his command following a presidential assassination attempt in which he saved lives but disobeyed Secret Service orders (Into The Night), has been hauled in for questioning by some distinctly creepy government types. The reason for the interrogation? Weapons traced back to an earlier Team Sixteen operation have surfaced in the hands of the terrorist shooters.

So, with Tom facing possible charges on treason and Sam a suspect in a murder, Alyssa finds herself in an unenviable situation. Torn between her duty to the FBI and her certain knowledge that Sam's time is better spent finding Mary Lou (who may be connected to the terrorist attack) than facing days of interrogation, Alyssa makes a critical decision that could put both her career and her heart in danger.

Let me just say that Brockmann offers one heck of a ride. Though there are many reasons why this book is so special, I think the key lies in the fact that the plot (a nail-biting suspense story) and the relationships are all equally complex. Through flashbacks to his childhood and his life-changing relationship with a former Tuskegee Airman, we come to understand Sam more clearly than ever before. He is far, far more than the sexy chauvinistic redneck Alyssa would like to believe him to be and his redemption (though I think both Mary Lou and Sam were equally responsible for their debacle of a marriage) in this story is complete.

Alyssa has sometimes struck me as a bit too perfect (her out-of-control desire for Sam aside), but Ms. Brockmann once again triumphs in creating a woman whose reluctance to lose her heart is as much a part of her as is her committment to doing the right thing. Though no one could question that Sam and Alyssa shared an incredible physical chemistry, in Gone Too Far all the cat and mouse games come down to an inescapable conclusion: These two people are in love and watching them both come to accept it is enormously satisfying.

But, frankly, just as fascinating is the subplot involving Max and Gina. (I love Max. Really.) I'm not going to spoil any of this for you by saying too much, but Max's torment over his feelings for the woman twenty years his junior and his need to believe that he and Alyssa could share the perfect life take center stage here, and the always-perfectly controlled Max is about to lose his cool. (When, oh when, Ms. Brockmann, are you going to write the Max-and-Gina story?)

As for quibbles, they were darn few. To be honest, the Sam-and-Alyssa double-cross stuff sometimes got the tiniest bit tiresome. I also think Ms. Brockmann went a shade too far in her characterization of Walt, the airman who changed Sam's life. Nobody could be as perfect as Walt is portrayed to be and it added an unrealistic note to the book.

But, what the hey? In the scheme of things, there is so very much right here that I think it's a sure bet that the vast majority of Ms. Brockmann's readers are going to be as knocked out as I was. But what about readers new to Team Sixteen? Regretfully, Gone Too Far isn't the best candidate for a first time reader since so many past plot threads play such an integral role - the story could stand alone, I'm quite certain, but I don't believe it would pack the same emotional wallop as it undoubtedly does to those of us who've followed the previous books.

As a latecomer to Brockmann's SEAL-world (I first read her in 2002), I've come a very long way from my previous "I-don't-like-Military-Stuff" mentality. Maybe it's the world we live in or maybe it's simply the fact that Suzanne Brockmann is an incredible writer, but Gone Too Far is one of the very best romantic suspense books I've ever read and easily Ms. Brockmann's crowning achievement. It's going to be a tough act to follow but I'm quite certain the author is up to the task.

-- Sandy Coleman

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