Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hawken's Heart by Suzanne Brockmann *****

This is book 6 in the Tall, Dark and Dangerous series - it was originally titled It Came Upon A Midnight Clear when it was released (I read the version with this title). This one stars Billy "Crash" Hawken, the SEAL who filled in for Frisco after his accident. He wasn't originally a member of Team Ten's Alpha Squad - he was on Team Twelve.

As a child, Crash spent his summers with his mother's cousin Daisy and her long-time SO, Jake Robinson, a Navy Admiral. Because his own mother had died, and his father sent him to boarding school and summer camp rather than raise him himself, Crash always felt that Daisy and Jake were more like parents.

Nell Burns is Daisy's personal assistant, and when Daisy is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, she is tapped to go tell Crash in person. She and Crash have met several times, and although she's always been attracted to him, he has never so much as acknowledged her with more than a few words. They both end up living with Jake and Daisy in Daisy's last month, and at her death, they give in to their mutual attraction and passion with one night - which Crash attributes more to seeking comfort and grieving than anything else, and he considers it over and done.

What we have here is a very well drawn character: Crash has developed a very strong coping mechanism against opening his heart to anyone, ever. He has learned to detach himself emotionally - which works well for his job, and he even uses his job to hide his heart. It's obvious to him he can't ever get emotionally involved because he has to travel so much for his job.

Nell has also developed similar coping mechanisms, but as she watches her boss and mentor die, she realizes that sometimes you have to open up, reach out and ask for what you want. So she is more forthright with Crash about her feelings for him - but is still spurned.

When, one year after Daisy's death, Crash is involved in an ambush that results in Jake's assassination and is consequently framed for killing Jake, Nell comes forward again. She feels that she knows Crash well enough to know he would never harm Jake, much less be involved in a conspiracy to kill him. So she puts all her will and strength to helping him - even though he doesn't want her to. It's not just him protecting his heart, though - he's concerned that Nell is now a target of the person behind the conspiracy and cover-up.

There really wasn't anything about this book I didn't like - it's another tight story, with well-developed characters, and a strong, determined and still credible heroine. Nell may be just a personal assistant, but she had access to big-time contacts through Daisy and Jake that helped her. And this story has more than one happy ending, as well. So I'm going with 5 stars - and it's a series for my Serial Readers Challenge.

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