Desert Isle Keeper Review

Out of Control

Suzanne Brockmann
2002, Contemporary Romance
Ivy, $6.99, 416 pages, Amazon ASIN 0804119716
Part of a series

Grade: A
Sensuality: Hot

I was a little worried after finishing Over the Edge. How could any book follow it up? Then I got my hands on Out of Control and realized that it not only lived up to my expectations, but exceed them. Once again Suzanne Brockmann has proven her talent for interweaving story lines, setting a lightning pace, and creating captivating characters.

Savannah von Hopf has to deliver a quarter of a million dollars to her uncle in Indonesia. Knowing that Southeast Asia is not the safest place to be on her own, she decides to look up Ken "Wildcard" Karmody, US Navy SEAL, whom she met years ago when his ex-girlfriend lived in her dormitory. Savannah's plans to ask him for help go awry when she gets a flat tire outside his house and Ken comes home. One thing leads to another and they end up sharing an incredible night together. When Savannah comes to her senses the morning after, she realizes she'd better tell Ken the truth about why she's there. Needless to say, Ken, who's had less than stellar luck with women, is a bit peeved to find another woman who wants him, not for who he is, but what he can do for her. Nevertheless he agrees to escort Savannah to Indonesia.

In Jakarta, Savannah and Ken are kidnapped by Russian black-marketeers. Eventually they escape on a jungle island and end up on the run from the Russians and local rebel general.

Two other stories are interwoven with the main plotline. One is the story of Savannah's grandmother, Rose, who was a double agent during World War Two. Rose has written a book about her experiences, which reveals her life as a secret agent. The other plotline takes place in the jungles of Indonesia, where a missionary named Molly is having a love affair with the mysterious Jones, a man with no past and a name that, if spoken aloud, carries a death sentence.

With all of this going on you'd think that a character might get gypped or a plot thread dropped. Not in Brockmann's skilled hands - each tale is woven with the others to build tension and keep readers on their toes. Scenes jump between plots and get shorter as the action develops and the danger grows, until they become one continuous thread. Not only does this get the adrenaline pumping, but it allows characters, their pasts, and their motivations to be revealed slowly, carefully, and sparingly, so we grow to know them in depth and care about what happens to them as the story progresses. Even the running secondary story about Sam and Alyssa, which runs through each of Brockmann's Troubleshooters books, makes a strong enough appearance to appease and further frustrate fans of the series.

The main couple is Savannah and Ken. Savannah has grown up feeling inadequate compared to her grandmother, whom she views as a sort of Superwoman, and her defense is to be perfectionist. She plans everything out and prefers to be in control of every situation she's in, keeping tight control of her emotions and reactions. This leads Ken to mistake for her cold and calculating. Ken is called Wildcard not just for his ability to think outside the box and come up with answers to almost any situation, but because no one quite knows what he'll say or do. On the outside Ken sometimes seems like a jerk, but inside he's soft-hearted and desperate to find someone to love and be loved by. Forced to trust each other as they trudge through the jungle, Ken and Savannah learn to see past their preconceived notions to the person on the inside, the person they were attracted to that first night. The reader can't help but like Savannah, who though camping challenged doesn't complain or question (too much) Ken's advice once stranded in the jungle. And Ken won my heart with his habit of saying whatever came to mind. He was refreshingly honest about how he felt and wore his heart on his sleeve even when he was being harsh.

Just as intriguing, if not as romantic, are Molly and Jones. He's crass and rude, but she sees past the fašade to the man underneath, and makes him come up to her standards before giving in to her own desires. Unfortunately both of their hearts are so scarred by the past that finding the strength to trust one another may be more than they can accomplish.

The only weak story is that of Rose's WWII romance with Heinrich, the Austrian prince she meets while in Germany just before the war. Rose learns he is an SS officer and potentially a spy, and must decide between loyalty to her country or the man she loves. This story is told in the words of Rose's book, which for a supposedly best-selling novel is very simplistic in style. This is such a minor quibble it doesn't really detract for the rest of the book. For all those readers longing for a good old fashioned action/adventure romance in an exotic locale, here it is. A warning to the weak at heart: the language in this story is often coarse and crude, but it fit the situation as well as the characters. The violence level is not quite as high as Over the Edge, but it's there. The story does bounce around a lot and there is a lot of action as well as characters, but it never felt overwhelming. Overall I loved Out of Control and was frustrated when real life forced me to put the book down. I know I'll re-read it several times until the next story in the Troubleshooters series comes out.

-- Jennifer Schendel

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