|I worry that someone is going to look at the cover of All Through the Night with its tag line "A Troubleshooter Christmas" and pick it up for dear Aunt Sally without examining it any further. Then Aunt Sally will read it and forever afterward suspect there's some subliminal message there and cut the innocent giver out of her will leaving her entire estate to her cat.
"A Troubleshooter Christmas" is about as descriptive as tagging War and Peace "A Romanov Winter." What All Through the Night is is a gay romance novel. Yes, many of the multiple cast members of Ms. Brockmann's Troubleshooter series make cameo appearances, but the main characters are FBI agent Jules Cassidy and actor Robin Chadwick.
Their romance was first introduced in Hot Target, took center stage in Force of Nature, and is culminating in All Through the Night. Robin and Jules have become residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and are tying the knot. (Massachusetts is the only state that permits gays to marry legally.) All this is happening in December. Only a very creative publicist could turn that into "A Troubleshooter Christmas."
In addition to poor Aunt Sally, I have a number of problems with this plot.
I've liked Jules Cassidy since he was first introduced. (According to Ms. Brockmann's Author's Note, Jules has been in nine books of her Troubleshooters series.) He deserves a happy ending, but he got that in Force of Nature. All Through the Night is superfluous.
Author Mary Jo Putney has described the difference between the story line of a romance novel and what happens in the happily ever after as the difference between the sizzle and the steak. Force of Nature was sizzle; All Through the Night is steak.
A good plot requires conflict. Jules and Robin both have personal issues to deal with, but these donít rise to the level of a real threat to their getting married. Robin is a recovering alcoholic, insecure and needy; Jules has jealousy problems. Big deal.
The SEAL, Troubleshooter, and FBI characters are ultra-macho with enough testosterone to float a battleship, but nobody -absolutely nobody - has even a hint of homophobia. Jules and Robin are getting married. Isn't that sweet. And isn't that more than a little unrealistic?
Some of the physical displays of affection border on TMI (too much information). There's one scene where Robin and Jules are sharing a hotel room with Sam and Alyssa. Sam wakes up Alyssa and insists the two vacate the room (and it's Sam's and Alyssa's room) so that Robin and Jules can have some privacy. Wouldn't some cuddling have sufficed?
As depicted in All through the Night, Men and Women are Both from Venus. The male characters - gay and straight - are comfortable discussing love and relationship issues in depth and at length. Men can talk about subjects other than sports, cars, and cool gadgets? Who knew?
Some of the interaction between Jules and Robin is cloying. It's "Sweetie" this and "Babe" that. It taps into some of the more pervasive homosexual stereotypes.
Ms. Brockmann's personal agenda permeates the story. Her son is gay, and she is very active in organizations trying to end discrimination against gays. This is a position I support, but I'd just as soon not have it hammered it at me in a romance novel, even a relatively short one.
There's a perfunctory secondary heterosexual romance between Dolphina, Robin's and Jules's personal assistant, and Will, a newspaper reporter, who catches Robin in a too-candid moment that results in unwelcome publicity. Will's acting as guardian for his niece while his sister serves in the military in Iraq. As if there weren't enough political undercurrents in this book.
I'm uncomfortable with the way the publisher is marketing this book. Besides the tag line on the book cover, the blurb on the flap skirts the plot details. Since it is such a dramatic departure from Ms. Brockmann's previous Troubleshooter novels, I believe fuller disclosure is warranted.
A two-star rating is defined as "think twice." That's good advice ... both for Aunt Sally and for yourself.