Pandora's Box

Gone Too Far

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

Grade: N/A
Sensuality: N/A

There is a staff review of this book as well

In Gone Too Far, Navy SEAL Sam Starett travels to Florida to get his estranged wife to sign divorce papers. When he discovers what is apparently her dead body on the floor of her home, he calls contacts Max Bhagat of the FBI - and ends up talking to Alyssa Locke, the woman he still loves and hasn't been able to forget. Alyssa comes to Florida, where they engage in a desparate search for Sam's daughter Haley. Through the course of their search they skirt the law and confront their passion for each other.

Blythe:   Well, Linda, Gone Too Far is a book that is bound to generate all kinds of buzz. It's the long-awaited climax to the Sam and Alyssa story that has been a common thread throughout the five previous books, and it's Brockmann's hardcover debut as well. I know there are readers who thought this story (and this couple) had too much hype, and some felt manipulated because this particular much-awaited story was released in a more expensive, hardcover format. But here's my take on it: I absolutely loved this book. I felt that it lived up to my expectations, and Sam and Alyssa's story was exactly the sort of book I hoped it would be.

Linda:   I don't think many people will be disappointed with Sam and Alyssa's story at all. I've been hooked on Sam and Alyssa ever since the chocolate topping scene in The Defiant Hero. The non-stop action in this book never over-shadows the love story and I also loved seeing Kelly and Tom used so effectively in this story. I only had one problem with this book and it isn't a major flaw.

Blythe:   I too really took notice of Sam and Alyssa in The Defiant Hero and I know we mentioned them in our Pandora chat about the same book. I've had a bit of a dry spell with reading lately, and the day GTF arrived in the mail I was just finishing up The Eyre Affair (a book I also enjoyed.) I started GTF at midnight, and allowed myself to read until 4:30 am, even though I knew I had a real life, with kids to care for and a job that required me to work late the next day. I slept for 2 1/2 hours, got the kids to school, and went to the library to finish the book because I didn't want to hear the phone, the dog, or anything else that might distract me. After I finished the book, I was actually depressed that it was over... so depressed that I turned around and started over at the beginning again. I honestly can't remember ever doing that before.

Linda:   I recently had a JAK that I reread as soon as I finished it, but it doesn't happen often. I got GTF at 4:30 on Thursday and finished it about 1:30 am - it would have taken less time but it was my turn to cook that night and since I am a houseguest I didn't think I could tell them to just order pizza, as I've been known to do with my kids.<g> I really loved it with the exception of one plot device that tended to pull me out of the story. I thought it could have been eliminated and never missed.

Blythe:   What was the plot device? Whatever it was, I didn't notice it or wasn't bothered by it.

Linda:   It was the letters and journal entries from Walter and Dot. The first letter simply appears with no real introduction and jarred me from the story. I liked the glimpses of Sam we got from his own reminiscences and his friend Noah and I think Walter and Dot's story could have easily been told through the two men's memories. The letters seemed like filler to me and I had to force myself to read them, when I really just wanted to get back to the story. The WWII reminiscences worked much better in The Defiant Hero, where they served the purpose of keeping the young kidnap victim calm. But, the letters were a small quibble on my part as I really loved the book. I liked Alyssa so much; she is amazingly strong and intelligent and never falls into TSTL territory like Meg did in TDH.

Blythe:   I think that the WWII subplot (a common thread in all the books in this series) was probably the weakest one yet. I was mostly okay with that, since I really just wanted to hear about Sam and Alyssa anyway, with some Tom and Kelly thrown in for good measure. Those looking for some closure to Tom and Kelly's relationship will find it here, and I have to confess there is one scene between them that brought me to tears. But the WWII thing did seem a bit like an afterthought, and what's more, I thought it was a bit unrealistic. Any interracial couples at that time would have headed north (or risked worse than an injured leg). FWIW, I thought the WWII subplot was best handled in Out of Control, where the story is told in a book that several characters all happen to be reading at once.

But I lapped up Sam and Alyssa's story like a starving woman. We've really just seen glimpses of the two of them in the last two books, although we did see a whole lot of Sam's wife Mary Lou in Into the Night. Mary Lou is really explained and redeemed in that book, and she gets some closure here as well. But this is mostly about Sam, and I wouldn't have had it any other way. I have heard several people say that they didn't think Sam could be redeemed after Into the Night. I didn't think that myself, but then I like watching characters screw up big time and needing to find a way out of their stupid mistakes. And I have always loved Sam and his mouthy attitude, and I am also a major sucker for love triangle plots. I know that the way the conflict was dragged out over several books really annoyed some readers, but I really reveled in all that angst.

Linda:   Well, I have only read The Defiant Hero in this series, but had heard that Into the Night had people really mad at Sam. I thought his explanation of how he screwed up made sense and as his past and his friendship with Noah are delineated I came to like him even more. This is truly a man who has risen above his origins, and in spite of his foul mouth, he is a real gem. When it comes to the "F" word, Sam is a virtuoso. I also liked the fact that Mary Lou wasn't demonized and also that she wasn't TSTL; her escape plan was ingenious.

I also liked Max and Gina a lot too - I love younger women/older men stories - since my hubby is 8 years older then me I guess that isn't surprising. There is just so much to like in this story and even though there are a lot of characters, Brockmann manages to keep track of all of them and they're all fully fleshed out. For what is essentially a love story, this book had me on the edge of my seat all night long. I think it should draw adventure readers to Brockmann. Also, Brockmann does male dialogue extremely well - these Navy SEALS really sounded like men!

Blythe:   They do sound like men, and Sam's foul mouth seems very realistic and right for him - he wouldn't be Sam without it. Alyssa gets one of the best lines of the book when she tells Sam near the end that he is going to have to perform "an immediate f*ckectomy" before he spends more time with his daughter Haley. But not all Brockmann's SEALs talk like Sam. It's one of the running jokes that Muldoon (hero of Into the Night) rarely swears, even when the situation almost seems to demand it.

I think you are right that Sam's behavior is explained, and that it makes sense. But more than that, he's called on the carpet for it. He knows he hasn't been the best father, and he is actively trying to change that. Alyssa tells him what she thinks of his fathering skills in no uncertain terms as well. But this book isn't all sturm und drang, there's a lot of humor here as well. I admit to laughing out loud when Sam gets propositioned by his soon to be ex-mother-in-law, and I absolutely loved and adored his proposal to Alyssa, which happens at the heat of the moment and isn't quite what he'd planned.

Linda:   I died laughing when Sam escaped from the hand cuffs and it finally dawns on Alyssa that he could have easily have gotten out of them the night they were cuffed together with the chocolate syrup. Really made me laugh. This is a great book and without the letters it would have been close to perfect for me. This one is definitely worth the hardcover price (and the rebate offered should sweeten the deal).

Blythe:   I'd definitely agree with that. I know hardcovers can be a real hot button issue with some people, but I think of it as a promotion for the author and something to be celebrated in most cases. I don't buy many authors in hardcover, but I am willing to spend a little more money for an author who is an autobuy for me. When my husband was in grad school and money for books was a little harder to come by, I actually rejoiced when an author went hardcover, because that meant I could get the book for free at the library (my library had very few paperback romances). It helped that one of the librarians was a romance fan who knew which authors I liked and would put me on the hold list right away <g>. Anyway, Sam and Alyssa fans are definitely justified in spending the money for this one (or taking the time to get on that library waiting list.)

Linda:   I think Brockmann deserves real kudos for this book. The expectations are high and with the added 'aggravation' factor of a later book in a series coming out in hardcover, this could have easily been a bust. Instead it's a wonderful book to read and I'm sure I'll reread it even though I'll be skipping those annoying letters <g>. I've been lucky lately; I've read several good books in a row, but I had to retreat to a 'comfort' book after this one. I couldn't bear the possibility of reading a bad book after such a wonderful one.

Blythe:   Well, the book I read after GTF was Loving the Highlander, the subject of our last Pandora. It really wasn't a bad book, but I can't think of much that could have compared with GTF in my estimation. The only thing that would have really kept me on that kind of reader's high would be a new book from Diana Gabaldon or Elizabeth George. I'm slugging through another dud right now, but I am planning to read all of Mary Balogh's Bedwyn books after this, and I have high hopes for them.

Linda:   I enjoyed A Summer to Remember and have the Bedwyn's up after I finish the new Amanda Quick, which is very good.

Blythe:   Well, here's hoping we both enjoy the Balogh books as much as we enjoyed GTF. There are some changes at the end of GTF that make it a little bittersweet, but they make sense for the plot. While this may be the end of the major focus on Sam and Alyssa, I have a feeling they'll be popping up in the future. As far as I've heard, there's no word on who the next hero is, but there are still many stories to be told in the Troubleshooters series, including Max and Gina's. I am not the Max fan that some readers are; he pushes too many of my "get over yourself, buddy" buttons. But I'll still stick around for the rest of the series.

I forgot to add that I absolutely loved Whitney. She's a minor character, a teenage mother and a gun-toting sharpshooter, so it's funny that I should like her so much, as I am definitely no gun nut. But I hope she makes an appearance in future books as well.

Linda:   The ending is a little bittersweet, but I also think it will open up a world of storylines for these wonderful characters. Brockmann has created people you really care about and I for one look forward to seeing them again. I loved Whitney too, even if her actions did provoke the exciting climax to Sam's story. In fact, GTF makes me want to go back and read the other books in this series and then reread GTF like you did. A book has to be pretty darn good to inspire a "series glom."

Blythe:   And even though I have already read the book twice, I want to read it again. And you know I rarely re-read anything at all. However, I have four unread Brockmanns in my tbr pile, and I just might be tempted to treat myself to one of them soon.

Linda:   LOL, I have four or five in my pile too. I have been reading some of her older books too and absolutely love one of her early Loveswepts, Stand-In Groom. The hero of that book was a chef, but he would have made a great SEAL.

Blythe:   I haven't read that one yet, and I bet it's hard to find too. Well, happy reading and house selling. We'll be back next month to discuss a book by a new author, The Captain of All Pleasures by Kresley Cole.

Linda:   Well, there is a reward for having your own on-line bookstore - I just raid my sale bins from time to time. By the time GTF hits the shelves I hope my odyssey of moving is over and we are happily settled in Nevada - one should always have a dream.

Blythe:   I'll keep my fingers crossed for you. See you next month.

--Blythe Barnhill and Linda Hurst, for

-- Pandora's Box

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