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Breakpoint by JoAnn Ross
(Signet, $7.99, R) ISBN 978-0451-22776-8
***
There are a lot of things the reader has to believe for this story to work. When reading it, I was drawn in and engaged for most of the story. But as I contemplated the review and the rating, I realized that the book had fizzled a little at the end and some of the plot was a bit over the top.Ross has given us a good book in Breakpoint, but not an excellent book.

Dallas O'Halloran was a Specials Ops Air Force man who was involved in some really scary stuff. He was also a witness against some friends and Navy SEALS a few years back, which caused him to lose his need to be in the armed services. He is now involved in private security as well as a member of a special high-risk team that is attached to the office of the President called THOR. During the trial, Dallas was impressed by the JAG officer who prosecuted the case, even though he disagreed with her. He found her physically attractive, but she affected him more emotionally, too, and he has often thought of her.

Julianne Decatur is that JAG officer and she took the fall for losing that case. Now she is exploring her options and has just signed up for THOR herself. She is horrified and at the same time thrilled that her first assignment is with none other than Dallas O'Halloran. He was a tough witness and never buckled during her three-hour interrogation. While she was trained for the law and the world of black and white, and right and wrong, she was secretly pleased that the SEALS were found not guilty, since they showed loyalty and guts during their operation. She too has thought about Dallas, but not always in a nice way.

The case they are assigned is an odd one. A Navy Aviator, Lieutenant Dana Murphy, apparently committed suicide on the aircraft carrier USS O'Halloran (no relation to Dallas). But rather than sending in NCIS, THOR gets the call. Dallas and Julianne realize there is something odd, when the commander of the base in Hawaii kills himself just shortly after welcoming them. There are plenty of suspects, with the prime one being the man who in is charge of bringing in the planes to the carrier. He, Lane Manning, was reportedly Dany Murphy's lover and they were said to have argued over how he treated her latest landing. But Dallas and Julianne discover that Manning, too, appears dead, having gone missing off the deck the night before they arrive on the ship. With over 6000 crew members on the boat, finding the killer or killers will be complicated. To add to the fun, there are plenty of red herrings and issues.

Dallas is your classic macho hero who shows his guts but also has brains and brawn. He is buff but he is charming. He grew up in foster homes until age 12 so he has commitment issues and has a rep for being a ladies' man. If this were set in the 1800's he would definitely be a rake. But there is more to him because of his background. He is almost a genius and has always been the tech team specialist due to his knowledge of computers and his ability to multitask.

Julianne is strong and has obviously worked her way up in the military. She is at loose ends since this job is quasi-military but she doesn't hold a rank. It is hard for her to not be that Navy officer, especially since as a Navy brat, she has always been in and around the military. She is likable and a heroine who may get scared, but doesn't back down. She and Dallas are well-matched.

I realized that there were times that I struggled to keep reading because the only thing happening was the foreplay between Julianne and Dallas involving stolen kisses, heavy looks and verbal innuendo. This was all going on during their investigation. In the first third of the book, the author took us back and forth between the investigation and the suspense. It is clear someone is planning the murders and trying to hinder the investigation. Then in the middle third, that part of the story is missing. We follow the investigation but it is mainly talk and foreplay. By the time the villain comes back in, I had lost interest. Then the ending seems rushed as the questions are resolved in less than 80 pages.

Breakpoint is a good story and at times, taut and suspenseful. The romance is fun and energetic and ultimately satisfying. It just isn't all those things, all of the time.

--Shirley Lyons


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