After a near-fatal head injury, U.S. Navy SEAL Lieutenant Tom Paoletti catches a terrifying glimpse of an international terrorist in his New England hometown. When he calls for help, the Navy dismisses the danger as injury-induced imaginings. In a desperate last-ditch effort to prevent disaster, Tom creates his own makeshift counterterrorist team, assembling his most loyal officers, two elderly veterans of the Second World War, a couple of misfit teenagers, and Dr. Kelly Ashton — the sweet “girl next door” who has grown into a remarkable woman. Once known as the town’s infamous bad boy, Tom has always longed for Kelly. Now he has one final chance for happiness, one last chance to win her heart, and one desperate chance to save the day….
A summary of the book is hard to give since there is so much going on in the book. Not necessarily action wise as much as character wise and plot wise. The actual story takes place in one week, from August 8 until August 15. In this week we get to know Tom Paoletti and Kelly Ashton and some of their family members. With the flashbacks to WWII and the glimpses of Tom and Kelly’s youths, a time period of close to 60 years is covered.
Kelly had a crush on Tom when she was a young girl but before they could explore the relationship, Tom fled to the Navy. When Tom returns to his hometown on a forced leave the feelings between them are revived. But before they can have their HEA they have to prevent a terrorist’s plan to place a bomb during a memorial celebration, there are family issues of past and present to solve and there are complicated feelings to be dealt with.
For me there were 7 main characters because to say that Tom and Kelly were the main characters would not be fair to Joe, Charles, Cybele, David and Mallory. In the beginning of the book Tom and Kelly being the initial main characters, take center stage but soon I discovered other storylines in the book that were just as important as Tom and Kelly’s.
There is a flashback-storyline that tells the beautiful and heartbreaking story of Joe (Tom’s great-uncle), Charles (Kelly’s father) and Cybele. During World War II Joe and Charles end up with a group of the French resistance, which is led by an intriguing woman called Cybele. The three of them form an impossible and unfair love triangle filled with unrequited love. Joe loves Cybele, Cybele loves Charles and Charles loves Cybele but is married and feels guilty towards Joe. Since it is absolutely wonderful to read through the flashbacks how their story unfolds I will leave it at this for readers to discover for themselves. Then there is the story of Mallory (Tom’s niece) and David. They form an unlikely couple but their story is as beautiful and emotional as Tom and Kelly’s or the love triangle between Charles, Joe and Cybele.
All these 7 characters are layered and well defined. In the mere 392 pages the book counts Suzanne Brockmann gave me characters that are developed in all aspects, both the good and the bad ones. And on top of all that the development is realistic and believable for each of the characters and their respective storylines. Their development is not only in the romantic aspect of the storylines. There are numerous scenes in which the various family relations and dynamics are explored and deepened and there are scenes where professional skills are portrayed and all added up it led to the creation of amazingly strong and likeable characters.
And on top of these characters there are some true supporting characters: Tom’s sister/Mallory’s mother Angela, who is the embodiment of the bitter subject of gossip in the small town; David’s best friend, Brandon who is a bit too full of himself and Tom’s Navy Seal buddies, or at least part of his elite special ops squad, the “Troubleshooters”. In this book we get a first glimpse of Lieutenant JG Casper “Jazz” Jacquette, Lieutenant JG Alyssa Locke who happens to be a top-notch sniper and Ensign Sam Starrett.
I’ve had this book on my shelves for almost two years now and I should be ashamed for not having read it before. When I picked it to be the first book in my 2009 reading challenge I couldn’t have imagined the impact this book would have on me. I thought I had the romantic suspense scene pegged down with some authors that have become auto buy but I knew there was a reason why Suzanne Brockmann has been auto buy without ever having read a letter she had written. If this book is an indication she writes books that are masterpieces from the prologue to the very last page, leaving you wanting more and wishing the book hadn’t ended.
The prologue alone set the tone for an action-filled, suspenseful and romantic story that pushed all my right buttons. But let me tell you that the prologue didn’t prepare me for a book that succeeded in giving me what I want from reading books: escaping into a world filled with realistic plot, believable emotions, genuine characters who have their flaws and deal with them, witty fun at the right moments and writing that is vivid and fluent.
Brockmann is a master at multiple storylines, POVs and interpersonal relationships. Each storyline is approached through at least two points of view, giving the storylines a multi-dimensional feel. She has an amazing talent that few authors truly master. She makes characters, suspense, humor, romance, actions and multiple plotlines in different time-periods meld together seamlessly into an impressive, touching and practically perfect book.
Her writing is so consistent that all elements are equally addressed and none of them are under exposed but also neither claims too much focus. The balance was exemplary and one I’ve rarely seen/read in the considerable amount of books I’ve read. Each storyline in this book has its own touch and feel, its own dynamic depending on the combination of characters important to that specific storyline. And still the whole book fuses together into a coherent, well-oiled machine running so smoothly the pages went by at light speed and before I knew it I was finished and sad to leave all these wonderful characters.
This book was so much more than just the romantic love story between Tom and Kelly spiced up with a few subplots. There are other romances/plotlines, one in the present and one in the past during the Second World War and the suspense plot of a terrorist threat and Brockmann held my attention firmly by switching between these plotlines effortlessly and at exactly the right moments. I had the feeling I was reading three books in one and they were all working towards the same ending. This fell into place when the characters work together towards the conclusion of the suspense plot. All the pieces came together and merged perfectly.
All of the above combined with the humor in her writing and the unambiguous, intense emotions, took this book to a higher level. Kelly and Tom’s story could have been the cliché story of the rich good girl and the poor wild boy but Brockmann’s writing makes it anything but average or cliché. This was a book that tapped into my emotions on many different levels, just the way I like it. I laughed, I cried, I was appalled, I was angry, I sympathized, I disliked and I was at the edge of my seat when I got to the literally “explosive” ending. In short this was a book that appealed to me at all levels and Brockmann deserves all the praise one could bestow on her.
THE UNSUNG HERO should be treasured and savored and it has set a very high standard for the rest of this series. I am not one to recommend books since I know from experience that every reader has their own preferences and priorities in relation to the TBR-piles but this is a book I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys a full-bodied, intricate and dazzling book that entails so much more than the average romantic suspense novels do that are overflowing the romance reading community.
Tom and Kelly
Tom flustered. Funny, he’d pretty much considered himself fluster-proof prior to this very moment in time. But here he was. Completely uncertain what to do, what to say, what to think. She’d kissed his hand.
“I’ve seen a lot of shitty things, Tom–death and godawful suffering and pain. I need you to see me for who I am–let me climb down from this pedestal of niceness you’ve stuck me on top of, because up here I can’t live my life the way I want to live it. I can’t reach you from here. I can’t wrap my legs around you the way I’m dying to.”
Mallory and David
He was romantic. David of the funny hair and awful plaid shirts was the most romantic man Mallory had ever met in her life. When she kissed him again, he sighed his pleasure and she knew. It was okay that she’d fallen in love with him. Her heart was safe in his gentle hands.
Rating: 10 out of 10