It has been more than 20 years since Suzanne Brockmann introduced her readers to Navy SEAL Lt. Joe Catalanotto in “Prince Joe.” Today, Amazon and bookstore shelves are crowded with tales of romance featuring the Navy’s contribution to Special Operations Forces.
But Brockmann and her SEALS still stand out. The 19th book in her “Troubleshooters” series, “Some Kind of Hero” is due out Tuesday. Brockmann delivers a fresh story with witty characters that’s a great summer read.
The action in Brockmann’s SEAL stories alternates between military ops and life at home as she presents well-developed characters and narratives. In “Some Kind of Hero,” Lt. Peter Greene, who was introduced in the novella “Ready to Roll,” and Shayla Whitman find romance while searching for his 15-year-old daughter, Maddie, who should have been a bit more careful in choosing her friends.
Brockmann describes Shayla, a romance novelist and mother of two teenage sons, as “without a doubt my personal favorite of all my romance heroines.” At 40, Shayla is a little older than Peter. She’s divorced and, despite her profession, not looking for romance. She has left the East Coast for San Diego because she shares custody of her sons with her ex-husband, who got a job there.
While critics of popular fiction complain about the lack of diversity in many stories, Brockmann has long had a multicultural canvas. In this case, Shayla is African-American and Maddie carries her mother Lisa’s last name, Nakamura. Maddie’s two living relatives on her mother’s side were held at Manzanar in California during the internment of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II.
Shayla has the wisdom of a woman who has lived life well, but she also has the scars. She and Peter are across the street neighbors, who have never formally met. Shayla spots him in traffic trying to flag down a ride and of course she stops. He’s tracking Maddie, who didn’t come home the day before. Shayla willingly joins him.
Brockmann writes about the frailties and foibles of families without passing judgment. Peter and Lisa never married and Lisa wasn’t a faithful lover or a wonderful mother. Instead of villainizing her into some kind of one-dimensional baddie, Brockmann develops a narrative much like life, where love isn’t shut off because of shortcomings.
The same is true for Shayla, who moves to California despite a fear of earthquakes, because she doesn’t want her sons to have to choose between living full time with her or their father. (They would have stayed with her.) He’s a love rat, but she accepts he’s also the father of her children.
Shayla’s openness is the perfect salve for Peter, who dedicated himself to the Navy, and later the SEALS, once he lost Lisa and Maddie. Peter is wary and not used to relying on anyone except his teammates. But Shayla is irresistible. The chemistry between them is delightful as they stumble around their attraction and the idea that this is so much more than a benefit between friends.
The drama surrounding Maddie means that some familiar SEALs — Izzy, Eden, Lindsay and the trainees of Boat Squad John — are on hand to help. But the ongoing narrative shouldn’t deter readers new to Brockmann. There’s no lengthy backstory to bog things down.
Some Kind of Hero
☆☆☆☆☆ (out of five)
- By Suzanne Brockmann
- Ballantine Books, $27
Here are a few of my favorite SEALS (and FBI agents) in Suzanne Brockmann’s books.
Lt. Alan Francisco, or Frisco, is learning to accept a career-ending knee injury. He’s bitter and drinking too much when his sister leaves his niece in his care. His feisty neighbor Mia helps him jump-start his life. Originally published as “Frisco’s Kid”; also can be found in the “Tall, Dark and Fearless” two-book set.
Lt. William “Crash” Hawken is suspected of shooting his commanding officer, Adm. Jake Robinson. But Robinson isn’t just Crash’s CO, he was married to Crash’s cousin, and together Jake and Daisy gave him a home after his mother died. Crash figures out who the true baddies are with a bit of help from Daisy’s assistant Nell Burns. The love story between Daisy and Jake is wonderful. Originally published as “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and “Hawken’s Heart,” it’s part of the “Tall, Dark and Devastating” three-book set. Spoiler alert: Daisy dies in “Hawken’s Heart,” but Jake finds romance in “The Admiral’s Bride.” He goes undercover with Dr. Zoe Lange to infiltrate a religious sect suspected of having chemical weapons.
Lt. Tom Paoletti suffers a severe head injury but he can still spot a terrorist when he sees one. Unfortunately, everyone thinks he’s hallucinating. He recruits some loyal SEALS, a couple of WW II veterans and Dr. Kelly Ashton, also known as the girl next door, to figure things out. “The Unsung Hero” is the first book in the “Troubleshooters” series.
Lt. Roger “Sam” Starrett and FBI agent Alyssa Locke were introduced early in the “Troubleshooters” series, but it’s a couple of books in before their bantering takes center stage. Alyssa is assigned to a case involving a murder in the home of Sam’s ex-wife, and the disappearance of his young daughter, in “Gone Too Far.” Sam and Alyssa are fan favorites. They are also the lead characters in “Hot Pursuit.”
Jean Marie Brown