A SEAL At Heart
by Anne Elizabeth, contemporary (2012)
Sourcebooks Casablanca, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-6890-8


Anne Elizabeth's A SEAL At Heart is the first book in a series that is, from all appearances, carefully designed to welcome with open arms disenchanted fans of Suzanne Brockmann's books.

For those who are bored or disillusioned with Ms Brockmann's increasingly self-indulgent books, or those who feel that Ms Brockmann's liberal politics in her books are some kind of betrayal against everything the author has used to build a loyal fanbase, here's Anne Elizabeth, waving the patriotic flag emblazoned with Navy SEAL guys that cry, speak suspiciously like Southern ladies, and can wiggle those hips like a Chippendale dancer when the mood strikes them.

John "Red Jack" Roaker was part of a mission in some heathen country to spread democracy and justice the American way when things went wrong and most of his buddies wouldn't be getting any books of their own unless the author decides to go the zombie love direction. Now recuperating in California, Jack is frustrated because he can't recall exactly the events that led to the disaster. How is he going to avenge his dead best friend now?

Of course, his bosses recommend therapy, but Jack, despite his determination to remember those events, is too manly to do that therapy stuff. When he meets this hot lady and almost go all the way with her in a charity auction event, only to realize that Laurie Smith is a physical therapist, he immediately assumes that she's trying to seduce him into accepting therapy and pretty much accuses her of being a whore. Of course, he ends up seeing her for therapy anyway - wait, since when does a physical therapist look inside her patient's head? - and even gets to bed her in the process. Although, I'm sure sex is not what the author has in mind when she claims that Laurie's methods can be unorthodox.

What follows is a very predictable song and dance. Laurie has issues about having relationships with Navy SEAL guys because her father was a drunkard who also liked to play with other women. Even when Laurie's surrogate father figure was good to her, Laurie still insists on tarring all Navy SEAL men with the same brush. The simplest thing here would be for her to cut Jack off and refer him to another therapist - maybe a shrink, for a change - but if Laurie is sensible, there won't be a story here.

On Jack's part, he doesn't make it easy for Laurie to have faith in him, because he's the familiar whiny overgrown boy who often talks first without thinking, which only leads to unnecessary heartache on Laurie's part and guilt on his part. If he does this once or twice, I can chalk it up to bona fide stupidity, but when this behavior becomes a pattern, I start to suspect that the author has run out of ideas on how to keep the conflicts going and has to resort to such childish and repetitive behavior.

And oddly enough, for someone who keeps talking about how he needs to remember the events of that fateful day, Jack sure doesn't seem too keen on cooperating with the people who can help him. In fact, he often makes it difficult for them to even get to him. As a result, Jack comes off like an overgrown crybaby frequently, whining when things don't magically fall his way. This guy is supposed to be a dynamic leader of his men? I could make a joke here, but I'd probably be pilloried to death by angry Republicans if I do, so I'll just move on.

Still, the guy cries on cue at the right moments, claims to love and have memorized Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Kubla Khan, and he has a penis, so he's almost there in being a passable substitute for Suzanne Brockmann's Navy SEAL dudes.

It's a shame about the abundance of tired clichéd conflicts and rampant childish behavior in this book, which is layered over by some corny lines from Jack that are supposed to be seductive but aren't. Also, watch out for some horribly cloying attempts by the author to be precious. That scene late in the book where Jack asks for relationship advice from a teenager is supposed to be cute in an "Aww! Innocent kids see things so much clearer than we adults, isn't that sweet?" manner, but it only makes me cringe at how corny the whole thing is.

Still, if you're a disillusioned fan of Suzanne Brockmann's Navy SEAL blokes and aren't too keen of her recent output full of awkward woo-woo stuff or scary gay men wagging their deviant pee-pees from every other page, this book is designed just to make you happy. Just be aware that everything here is either stilted, contrived, corny, or unnecessarily sentimental, so don't say I didn't warn you.

Rating: 56


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