Into The Night
by Suzanne Brockmann, contemporary (2002)
Ballantine, $6.99, ISBN 0-8041-1972-4

Hmm, from the soap-operatic furor that arose from readers' reactions to this book, I am expecting an either excruciatingly bad or maddeningly good story when I open Into The Night. I can safely say that for a casual fan like me who don't care if Team Boy Homoerotica Sixty-Nine - okay, Team Sixteen in this book, if we want to be boring - saves the world or ends up doing a George Michael in the biggest men's room in America, Into The Night won't engender anything more passionate than an indifferent ho-hum. This book is filled with so many fan service elements that it all but comes along with an invitation to be a Navy SEAL groupie.

But I must admit I'm very puzzled by the Mary Lou and Spam Corksucker sidestory as much as I am annoyed by the Corksucker's behavior in this story. On one hand, it is easy to dismiss this angle as a callous treatment of the soon-to-be Other Woman, but on the other hand, Mary Lou is easily the most well-rounded character in this book. She displays one trait absent in the rest of Team Sixty-Nine and their beard wives: character development and emotional maturity. If Ms Brockmann is doing a Stone The Bitch thing where Mary Lou is concerned, I don't think Mary Lou will be the most memorable character in this book. Damn, I think I've just been suckered into buying that hardcover coming out next year. Suzanne Brockmann is more cunning than I expected.

The basic premise of this now Brockmann-formulaic story is basically three subplots threaded into one book - the "main" couple, the "World War Bore" story, and the Corksucker Loves Aloser As The Bore Bores saga.

The main couple also happens to be the dullest. Joan DaCosta is a White House staffer - almost said "intern" there, whoa - who is given the task of making sure that the President's daughter and the Big Guy are safe while they visit the SEAL camp. Since the daughter is a bit on the train wreck side, I think I can safely say the President is a Republican. She clashes with Mike Muldoon, and they clash and clash and clash and clash until I fall asleep to the sound of monotonous static that this is romance. Joan is dull and apart from the obligatory daddy and caregiver issues, she has nothing else going for her. Mike, well, he's Mike.

The main conflict is she wanting the Prez's visit to continue as scheduled even when Mike and Tom PaoPaoBoy and every other member of Team Sixty-Nine warns her that al-Qaeda has a cell in the area. Also, she is conflicted by the fact that Moondoonoo here is younger than her (by around seven years actually). A big whatever to dull conflicts between dull characters.

The World War Bore story is between one grandpa and one grandma over issues like guilt, love, blah blah blah. This one is a bit more interesting than the DaBorraBorra-Moondoonoo romance, but it's not that much better, as Granma and Granpa are stock perfect characters with so-called flaws that only accentuate how dull they are.

The best of all three is definitely the Corksucker-Mary Lou saga. Corksucker is an ass with three holes. I confess I mostly skimmed the tedious Corksucker Looking For Love nonsense in this author's last few books, but I find myself reading every word here. Of course, I also find myself gritting my teeth, wishing I am biting off that asshole's head instead. The last I checked, nobody forced him to screw around, nobody forced him to marry the girl he knocked up, and frankly, from the way he treats her, I'd rather he pay maintenance and keep the heck away from Mary Lou. What he does is emotional abuse, plain and simple, and if you ask me, he and that Aloser woman deserve each other. Both of them can kill each other with the suck factor they radiate like the radioactive disasters they are.

I'm not too fond of that Token Muslim "See? I Don't Believe That All Muslims Are Evil!" Plot Device that befriends Mary Lou - just like the all-American supremo die-evil-die-die-die gung-ho stuff in the obligatory Saving Your Privates action opening chapter, this all-perfect guy is another stark example of how the author is going overboard with her black-or-white style of plotting.

In the end, I don't particularly care for anybody in this book except for Mary Lou. By the last page, I don't even hate the Corksucker, because the author has done a very good job convincing me that she is too good for him. Heck, I think she is too good for everybody, right down to the idiot heroines of the previous books that form the Wives Group that shun Mary Lou for no logical reason. An evil part of me feels awed at the author's apparently assassinating her own characters, and for what can she be doing all this for, I wonder. Can't be for Mary Lou, since she's not going to be the star of the next book... unless the author does a truly courageous act, kills the Corksucker and Aloser in the first chapter of her new book, and makes her book all about Mary Lou. But nah, I don't think that will ever happen.

Ah, Mary Lou. In a way, she's a double-edged sword. Her presence reminds me of how this author can do a nice tale of greyness and passion if she wants to. Instead, she panders to her fans and creates another formulaic, lazy tale of Americana superheroes. Thing is, her superheroes are so badly developed, they come off like bland mass-produced white bread rather than gourmet muffins. How sad is it that a badly flawed Navy SEAL Happy Meal book is inadvertently the most interesting to come out from her story mill in quite some time?

Rating: 72

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