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REVIEW: Heart Throb by Suzanne Brockmann

Comfortably Numb – Heart Throb by Suzanne Brockmann

Okay, I tell the same joke more than once, that’s a theme, right?  In which case I’ll begin by saying that if Heart Throb was a person, it would be this person:

mark_harmon_08
By which I mean, what we’re looking at here is a venerable silverfox of a book, eminently bangable, but, y’know, of a certain age, and showing it just a little bit. Even though I completely loved it, in some ways I found Heart Throb slightly harder to get to grips with than some of the older-schooler (yes, that’s technical vocabulary) romances I’ve read because, as far as I’m concerned, the 1970s were a bad hair day that happened to some other people, but I was around in the late 90s, I didn’t like them very much and I wish they were further away.

Heart Throb by Suzanne BrockmannAt least when you read The Flame & The Flower you can celebrate the fact that heroines are now allowed to enjoy sex without being raped, and, if you’re into rape fantasies, you can get those too, and that’s all cool. Unfortunately Heart Throb just takes me back to a time when Dead Of AIDS was the only permissible role for a fictional gay dude and the only way to discuss racism without causing a riot was to make it a problem for enlightened white people. And, although I think I should probably try to feel happier that there has been some degree of progress on both counts, mainly I just get a bit depressed that there hasn’t been more.

I should also emphasise that this isn’t a criticism of Heart Throb, which is deeply delightful in very many ways, but it reads to me like a book that isn’t so much a product of its time, as straight-jacketed by it. On the other hand, it’s also one of the few romances I’ve read (The Iron Duke being another) that seems to genuinely care that the world is not solely populated by straight, white, middle class people. And I don’t mean to be sanctimonious about it – after all, I’m a white middle class dude, what the hell do I know? – but it’s honestly just nice.

Right, the plot: Jed (Jericho) Beaumont is a superhot movie star with a serious substance addiction problem. Despite having been clean for five years, the parts aren’t coming in, and he’s desperate for the leading role in a film called The Promise. The producer (and, we later learn, screenwriter) is Kate O’Laughlin, who has spent the past decade spinning a fortune out of her parent’s stationery business after a short-lived film career in various low budget sexploitation horror movies. Of course, Jed lands the part, but only if he agrees to 24 hour supervision and regular drug and alcohol tests.  They make a movie. Loads and loads of other stuff happens, and keeps happening. Somewhere in the middle of it all, they fall in love. The end.

Heart Throb was a slow burner for me, although that’s probably just because I’m emotionally repressed and clueless.  I enjoyed reading it at the time, but it wasn’t until I sat down to write this review that I really realised how much it had affected me, and how deeply I felt about it. I mean, I’ve got my gripes too, but they’re either minor (wow is this plot labyrinthine, Daedalus) or more generally directed at the 90s (frustrations related to the social constructions of gay people and people of colour), but none of that really detracted from the quality of the book itself.

So, to start, for a book with an incredibly gripping opening and an equally absorbing second half, Heart Throb actually takes a little while to get itself going.  There are a lot of characters, a lot of connections and lot of motivations to establish, and so the beginning feels slow, unwieldy and expositive, at least in comparison to the pacing of later chapters. The situation that forces Kate’s hand into casting drunken has-been Jed Beaumont in the lead role of her movie looks something like this: Victor, the director, wants to cast Jed; Jamal, the hot black actor, wants to work with Susie; and Susie, the all American dream girl, also wants to work with Jed, so Kate has to give him the job, even though she and the financial backers think he’s a total liability. I’m sure this is probably a pretty accurate representation of the way Hollywood actually works, but it felt like that logic game where you have a fox, a chicken, and a bag of grain to get across the river. And I know it’s just set-up to get Kate and Jed together on a movie set, but it just felt a little bit too transparently like set up for me – a way to manipulate Kate into acting against her character, and her better judgement, because if she doesn’t there would be no plot, no love story, and no book.

There are a couple of such moments across the frankly complicated action of Heart Throb. For example, at one point Kate accidentally takes LSD and, although this makes a degree of sense in context, it also seems a way to force Jed and Kate to trust each other again, after he’s seriously goofed it up.  And, while it was important to see Jed showing his good side, it still felt like an external solution to an internal problem. After all, trust isn’t, um, cumulative.  You can’t balance a betrayal by being really nice afterwards. But, on the other hand, there’s such a lot of depth to the relationship between Jed and Kate, and it develops so intricately over the course of the book, that the LSD stuff basically works – I just felt it was another occasion on which Kate’s strength of character (which I admired) had to be awkwardly circumvented to further the plot.

I also felt a bit bad for how many people had to die for Jed’s emotional growth – there’s Dead Of AIDS Tom (who, to give him credit, really comes through the text as a real person, with a personality and a life, which is why I was so depressed he was Dead Of AIDS) and, later, Jed’s best friend David gets randomly killed while doing A Good Deed at a prison.  I know the point of David’s death was that it was supposed to be random and arbitrary, because death so often is, but I still kinda felt Jed needed to come with some kind of public health and safety warning: don’t be emotionally significant to me, you’ll die.

And, finally, I felt slightly awkward about The Promise, the fictional movie. As far as I can tell, it seems to be a story about how some nice white people save some black people from some bad white people, and also how slavery is bad, by the way.  Apart from Jamal, the young black actor they’ve brought in to play Moses the rebellious slave, it’s an incredibly white-centric undertaking.  And I don’t know how much that’s, well, a problem.  After all, educating white people to be less crappy white people is the responsibility of white people, not people of colour. But equally I’m sort of nebulously bothered by how often stories about slavery focus on everybody except the, um, slaves. Like, there’s a bit near the end, where Moses has been recaptured and the rest of characters are really really upset about it:

Both Jane and Laramie were to look at Moses standing there, and see their own lives wrapped in figurative chains. (p. 320).

The thing is … that dude is literally in chains, guys.  I understand that slavery is negative across the board and that there are times when it feels like the lives we live are not our own … but that dude is literally in chains. This is not the time for metaphor.

But, you know, I’m essentially wringing my little white hands over a secondary text here, a secondary text, I’ve more or less invented in my head, based on the way well-meaning Hollywood films on these sort of subjects tend to go.  But it felt a little bit odd, and not entirely comfortable, to squint back on the frustratingly limited ways you were allowed to talk about race in the 90s.  There’s a bit right in the middle of the novel where they go on a tour of a plantation house, and see the slave quarters, and it’s really vividly written, and utterly horrific. Except, there’s this very long discussion where Jed takes a time out to explain to Jamal just how hideously shitty it was to be a slave, and Jamal responds as follows:

Jamaal looked up at him, understanding finally glistening in his eyes. “Shit.” (172).

Most charitably, this is an experienced actor helping a less inexperienced actor to find his way into a part.  Less charitably, this is a white guy helping a black guy deepen his understanding of slavery. Um. On the other hand, I liked how resistant Jamal is to playing a slave, and how bewildered and angry it makes him, even though he recognises it’s a career-defining part for him. Because, when you get right down to it, assuming that a black actor can instinctively get a grip on the role of a slave, is just as absurd as assuming he knows how to rap. Also Jamal read, to me, like a very typical eighteen year old – it makes sense, and hell, it’s probably right, that’s he has absolutely no interest in slavery.

At the risk of sounding like I’m trying to get my GCSE in Romance Reading, Heart Throb has many themes. As seems only fitting for a book set largely on a Hollywood film set, it’s deeply preoccupied with the gaps between appearance and reality, the extent to which we’re helplessly defined by where we come from and how the world perceives us, and the ways we find the truth of ourselves between the roles we play. So there’s Jed, trapped between his past and his addictions, always craving his next drink, full of pain and anger, and so terrified of turning into his abusive father he hardly dares to feel anything at all.  And then there’s Kate, who has been treated as a sexual object for about as long as she can remember, desperately trying to find a way to inhabit her own body without losing herself. Jamal, of course, is simply trying to grow up and find a role for himself that isn’t defined or limited by the colour of his skin. And Susie is in a very similar position, trying to find, at the age of fifteen, a balance between professional integrity and pragmatism, while the adults in her life use her as means to navigate their own insecurities and disappointments. There are, of course, no simple answers here and, Heart Throb, to its credit, doesn’t try to provide any – unless, perhaps, the possibility that, when we fall in love, we are able to be our best, worst and truest selves.  Excuse me, I need to go and do some manly sobbing in the corner.

Okay, I’m all right. Let’s pretend that didn’t happen.  I should say that, despite the fact I’ve probably made it sound like one, Heart Throb is not a woe parade.  It races along at a fair pace, and is full of wit, charm and incident. Also at one point Jed gets handcuffed naked to a bed in a scene I felt bad for finding as inappropriately interesting as I did. The thing is, even when reality seems quite irredeemably bleak, hope is never too far away, and Brockmann has a wonderful way of presenting people and situations in all their occasionally paradoxical complexity.  After all the things that break us are often the things that make us.  Jed’s upbringing is, undeniably, terrible but it still drives him to be the man he becomes, and his fear of turning into his father is simultaneously the thing that leads him to lock away his feelings and the thing that leads him to seek help for his addictions.  Kate’s relationship with her body is just as complicated and I’m wary of over-simplifying it, but I genuinely got the feeling that she had found a place where her beauty and her sexuality could be a source of strength and pleasure to her, rather than assets to be exploited by others. As for Susie and Jamal, they get to do a little piece of their growing up together.

And then, of course, you have Hollywood itself.  I confess I don’t pay much attention to what’s going on behind the bright lights but most of the portrayals of Hollywood I’ve encountered have tended to either fall neatly into either omg!awesome or omg!evil.  What I really appreciated about Heart Throb was its ability to encompass a range of ambiguities and compromises. There’s no denying the abstract machine of Hollywood is exploitative and harmful – everybody caught up in it, Jamal, Susie, Kate, and Jed, are, to a degree, damaged by it. But, once again, this isn’t the end of the story: it set Jed on a path to addiction and destruction, but it also set him free of his family, it defines Jamal solely by the colour of his skin and Susie by the colour of her hair, but there is hope of more for both of them. And Kate is able to put her short-lived career as slasher movie eye candy aside to write, and produce, The Promise, which is clearly a labour of love and, regardless of my personal uncertainties about it, a meaningful and powerful film that will affect the thinking of a lot of people. Most of the individuals we encounter actually involved in the day-to-day business making of movies seem to act with genuine integrity, passion and commitment, even those who seem the most obviously stereotypical, like Victor, the libidinous director.

There’s an interesting moment somewhere in the middle of the book where Victor hires an actress to play a bit part based solely on the fact he wants to sleep with her. But, actually, she turns out to be perfectly competent and Kate admits that she couldn’t have made a better choice. I just thought this was a really intriguing portrayal of the ambiguities of the creative environment, and the way private, public and artistic goals intersect.  As far as I’m aware, the way this story usually plays out is that when you hire an actress you want to bonk, she’s hilariously terrible which, now I think about it, is pretty damn insulting, since being sexually desirable is in no way the opposite of being competent, and this is precisely what Kate has spent her entire life struggling against. Heart Throb is full of tiny little incidents like this, and they come together, reflecting upon and contrasting against each other, to form an incredibly rich and complicated book.

Gosh, I’m probably going to have to stop talking about Heart Throb at some point. I just really liked it, and I liked everyone in it.  Kate, of course, is excellent. She’s strong, and stubborn, and sexy and – again, this is way above my pay grade – but it seemed to me her issues with her body and her sexual choices were really deftly portrayed. This sounds like a weird thing to say, but I just liked how hurt and miserable she was about the way the world kept treating her like public property simply because she was beautiful. Obviously, I have no experience of what this would be like and I don’t mean to reductively compare it to minor things that have happened to me – but I do know what it’s like to walk down the street and have a random stranger, with no knowledge of me whatsoever, yell out something personal or insulting or just none of their goddamn business.  And I think one of the problems associated with this behaviour is that fiction persistently wants you to believe you can in some way be totally empowered and kick arse about it. But, actually, you don’t feel strong and outraged, you mainly feel weak and outraged, and like there’s nothing you can do. Because, frankly, there isn’t.  You can’t even confront these people because you’re not really confronting an individual, you’re dealing with the entire abstract monster of cultural policing, which insists that if you in some way deviate from the perceived norm – by being beautiful, by being queer, by being non-white, by wearing the wrong clothes, by being the wrong shape – you lose the right to move through the world without public scrutiny and comment. There’s no way to fight this, and there’s no way to come away from it feeling anything other than rubbish.

And Kate has really suffered because of it. There’s a bit where Jed is blatantly objectifying her (staring at her breasts when she’s trying to talk to him) and she nearly cries. And when I write it down, it sounds like the sort of thing that might make you judge a character for being weak. But Kate isn’t weak. Not remotely. In the scene, she’s frustrated with herself not being able to handle it “better” but that’s the whole point, isn’t it?  She shouldn’t have to handle it at all.  Perhaps it’s a little grim but I just found it really refreshing to see an author confront head on the unspeakable truth that being disempowered just makes you feel disempowered. It isn’t a source of secret strength, and the only real way to deal with it is to just keep living, find some way to be yourself, do what you want to do, and try to be happy. Which is what Kate is essentially doing.  Spectacularly.

As for Jed, the truth is, for one reason and another, I over-identified with the dude like you wouldn’t believe. Oh all right, you guessed it: I was recently voted World’s Sexiest[Errr - best typo ever - I'd originally written this as 'sexist' - something I don't think they usually give awards for] Man by Time magazine. Well, maybe not. I can’t really believe I’m going to talk about this in public but here goes. When I was about sixteen, I’d occasionally fall into conversation with people I didn’t know, and I’d, well, I’d find myself coming up with a bunch of complete lies about who I was, and what I was doing. Nothing particularly outlandish, and I wasn’t trying to be malicious, but I wasn’t wildly happy at the time and I’d find a strange comfort in being someone else, even if only fleetingly in a stranger’s eyes. It sounds utterly deranged and, truthfully, it’s not something I’ve told anyone – precisely because it’s so damn odd. And now I’m telling the internet. Yay.  I should also take this opportunity to mention that it was a brief, um, phase and I absolutely do not feel any need to do it anymore. I’m perfectly happy to be me. But you can probably imagine my surprise, and my strange joy, when, in the middle of Heart Throb, Jed confesses to having done something very similar when he was growing up.

I know this doesn’t tell you anything about Heart Throb, or if you should read it for yourself, but it just made me remember how absolutely bloody miraculous books can be sometimes. And the inexpressible, incalculable value of those tiny moments, probably completely meaningless to anyone else, that make your own little universe feel a little less odd, or a little less lonely. There’s a bit in The History Boys where Hector, talking to Posner I think, says:

The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – that you’d thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it’s as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.

And, for me, this was just like that.  And it was perfect. That is all.

Everything I learned about life and love from reading Heart Throb: I’m not as weird as I thought. Reading is brilliant. There are many themes. Everything is very complicated.

54 Comments

  1. Lfries
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 12:22:49

    The reason I have listened to Heart Throb twice is it is the only Brockmann audiobook that my library has. That said, you really have to read/listen to this book with the idea that it is SO not her best book. Not by a long shot. It truly is a strange but weirdly enjoyable book if you keep in mind it is definitely set in the 90′s, if not the 80′s. As always I enjoyed your review but have to wonder how in the heck you ended up reading this book!

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  2. Lammie
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 12:26:37

    Thank you once again for your review. I haven’t read this book, but I think I will. I also remember the 90s, mainly as a decade of bad hair (mine).

    I also appreciate your British spellings! I know that is very silly, but I am a Canadian by birth who has lived in the U.S. for almost 20 years, and I love those extra ‘u’s we Commonwealth people use. I did have to Google GCSE, but that is just because the British educational system is so different from the North American one, and it was not a term I was familiar with.

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  3. Darlynne
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 12:30:29

    World’s Sexist Man? Not you, AJH, not by any definition.

    I read this so long ago, much of it forgotten. But I loved the point you made about the way books or characters touch us and bring us in. It’s one of the reasons I read. Great review.

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  4. Jorrie Spencer
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 12:33:46

    I wasn’t sure how closely I’d read this review, because I hadn’t read the book. And I find reviews a lot funner to read—usually—when I have read the book. But I enjoyed a lot of your observations here. And, yeah, sometimes it’s these little grace notes in a book that can hit me the hardest.

    (I have read and loved a number of Brockmann’s books, just not this one.)

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  5. hapax
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 12:33:59

    Yay, it’s Friday and we get another AJH review — and WHAT a review!

    I’ll confess that Brockmann is one of my favorite authors, for exactly the reason that so many others dislike her; she isn’t afraid to confront upfront (or, detractors say, get preachy) about the political and social issues that are brought up in her romances. Also, I love the way she often weaves past and future stories together.

    Her Troubleshooters series is my favorite, without question because of series character Jules Cassidy, one of a very diverse cast including FBI agents, Navy SEALS, and private security operatives. The series has a lot of overarching arcs, but the individual titles can be read as standalones. You might like HOT TARGET because it also has a very realistic Hollywood setting (Brockmann’s son is is a scriptwriter, I think), deals with a lot of the same issues as HEART THROB (but with homophobia instead of racism), and (not incidentally to me) was the start of Jules’ long romantic arc which culminated in the first romance novel about two men to break the New York Times bestseller list.

    ETA: I forgot to mention that I also love Brockmann because her sex scenes (while hot) are generally NOT “sex scenes” but character- and plot-defining scenes that happen to include sex.

    Also, I love the way that Susie is dropped in as casual side mentions about Hollywood films in a lot of the novels. I’ve often thought that I could trace her entire career arc if I just pulled all those out…

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  6. leslie
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 13:10:27

    Again, I’m baffled by you choice. Brockmann has written many better books than Heart Throb. Flash Point and Gone too Far are her best in the Troubleshooters series. IMHO. Hot Target is good too……I love all the books with FBI agent Jules Cassidy.

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  7. Lynn Rae
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 13:46:58

    Another big Brockmann fan here. I haven’t read this book but will be looking for it now. I am very comfortable with her voice, her messages, and how well-crafted her plots and characters are and I trust her as an author who will entertain me and tap into my emotions. She’s one of the few romance writers (Romantic suspense? Thriller with romance? I don’t know) who has made me cry.
    I also second the previous comments recommending her later books, especially any containing Jules Cassidy. He’s simply a great character and I’m so glad she’s brought him back in many books just so I can keep tabs on him.
    Enjoyed your review very much, what’s coming up next?

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  8. EmilyW
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 14:09:08

    I’ve read a few books of Brockmann – the first four in the Tall, Dark, Dangerous series (good but mostly meh), and then her stand alone Body Guard, which was published right after Heartthrob. I LOVED that book but have not read any of her books since that. I do have Hearthrob in my TBR and this review has reminded me that I need to read her again and made me dig out my copy of this book. I love your reviews, please keep writing them!

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  9. Janet W
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 14:46:48

    I agree with Emily — Bodyguard is definitely my go-back-to, re-read Brockmann standalone. Heart Throb carries a lot of baggage.

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  10. AJH
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 15:19:42

    @Lfries:

    Oh, I chose it for lots of quite random reasons really – being more into film stars than Navy SEALS, not really wanting to commit myself to an epic (albeit wonderful) series, a recommendation from a dear friend. I think when you’re dealing with an author with a huge and beloved catalogue, it’s quite difficult to find any sort of agreement on what would make a sensible starting point, let alone what’s the best book out there.

    I honestly found HEART THROB pretty fascinating and pretty satisfying – even with the 90s backdrop. Obviously my understanding of the history of the genre is pretty limited, but there’s an interracial romance here, a gay character who (although he’s Dead Of Aids) is nevertheless deeply valued by the hero, and lots of stuff that – while it seems to represented a lot of heavy compromises by today’s standards – must have seriously rocked some socks back then.

    Glad you enjoyed the review, though :)

    @Lammie:

    I find the really terrifying about the 90s is how much it looks like the 80s – I think because I was growing up in the 90s part of me still thinks of it as being, you know, cutting edge in some way – but whenever you go back to television made in the 90s, it always looks really terrible. Sorry, that’s completely random, but I remember we watched Murder One a year or so ago, and it was deeply disorientating. More so, weirdly, than watching stuff from the 40s or 50s or 60s because that’s The Past, you know?

    Huzzah for spelling solidarity. And sorry for the random references to the British Educational system. I tripped up some folks a few weeks back by referencing L plates. Honestly, you’d almost think we were two completely different countries ;)

    @Darlynne:

    Oh my God. All the lols in the world.

    That typo is so exquisite, I do not have the heart to fix. It shall remain. For posterity.
    Glad you enjoyed the review – I always find those moments of personal connection you get sometimes, often quite randomly, with particular books deeply joyous. And they’re always surprising when they happen.

    @Jorrie Spencer:

    Yes, I have to say one of the things I enjoy most about my little trip through the canon is that lots of people have already read the books, so there’s lots to talk about :)

    I’m glad you enjoyed the review – in spite the fact you haven’t read HEART THROB. I know lots of people are going to tell me other Brockmann books are better but, as you say, it’s the grace notes really catch you, and make you fall in love with a book. And that’s often quite personal.

    @hapax:

    Thank you :)

    Obviously the Issue Stuff TM is slightly problematic in HEART THROB because you have to read it in the context of the 90s and it did feel a little bit like having a conversation with a ghost – since time, the genre and, for that matter, Brockmann herself, have obviously moved on considerably since 1998.

    I can see where preachy comes from (though I didn’t feel preached at myself) but I’d far rather people cared – and sounded a bit preachy – than didn’t give a damn. Also I’m sure it’s really nice to read a book and feel it has nothing to teach you or nothing to say to you, but I don’t feel I’m even close to there yet. Even if some of the race and sexual politics of HEART THROB are dated, there are still lots of things in there that struck me as entirely relevant, and quite a few more that made me think about things in ways I hadn’t previously considered – like just how sexist is the whole “haha, he hired an actress because he wants to sleep with her and now she’s terrible” joke is.

    I will definitely be looking at the Troubleshooters books though – I guess I just wanted to try a standalone before I launched myself a really long series. Also Susie – I’m so happy to hear she has a long, and hopefully successful, fictional career.

    Also, yes, I see your point at the sex scenes – I didn’t particularly consider it when I was writing the review, but I definitely felt that Jed and Kate getting it on was strongly contextualised by who they were, and when they had sex it was still *them*, it wasn’t just a random textual insert. So to speak.

    @leslie:

    Um.

    I know I’ve said rather jokingly in the past, that I choose books a bit randomly based on the recommendations I gathered at the start of the project but, truthfully, I’m a little more careful than that. I try to read books that either lots of people recommend or that individuals recommend very highly. Also there’s my personal preferences.

    For example, I chose BLUE SMOKE over NORTHERN LIGHTS because I was more interested in arson than Alaska. I chose ON THE EDGE over KATE DANIELS because I wanted to read a stand-alone rather than the first book of a series. I chose HEART THROB over other of Brockmann’s books, because I like film stars more than I than I like Navy SEALS, because it’s a standalone, and also – most relevantly – because it’s the particular favourite of a very good friend of mine.

    I never really meant for this to be a Best Of – I think best is a pretty subjective standard, even when you know what you’re doing, which I kind of don’t. The thing is, I really enjoyed HEART THROB, and that experience was meaningful to me – so there’s extent to which it sort of doesn’t matter if it was the Brockmann some people would have chosen for me to read. I may well read other Brockmann novels I like more in the future, but that doesn’t diminish the enjoyment I got from reading this one.

    @Lynn Rae:

    I hope HEART THROB won’t be too jarring for you – since you’re familiar with her current voice (which, obviously, I’m not). It’s a little bit like the Ghost of Brockmann Past or something :) And, as I said in the review, it’s a book quite limited by the time in which it was written. We’re probably going to cross each other in time, or something, like characters in a Philip K Dick novel as I catch up with Brockmann as she actually is, and you disappear into her past.

    That said, I did still really enjoy HEART THROB. I think, if you’re a Brockmann fan, there’s still lots in there you’ll recognise – intelligence, and insight, and interesting characters, and a general sense of … warm and diverse humanity, I think. If that makes any sense at all.
    I was fine, and totally calm and sane, when reading it – but when I started unpicking all the themes and thinking about the characters I unravelled a bit. I definitely need to read the Troubleshooter series, it’s just there are 8 gazillion of them, and not enough time in the universe. But I’m starting to feel my life might be impoverished without Jules Cassidy in it.

    @EmilyW:

    I’ll just press my 90s Warning Siren again – but I hope, having dug it out your TBR, you enjoy the book. I’m probably going to launch myself at the Troubleshooter series in a bit, which I’m looking forward to a lot. Since I really enjoyed HEART THROB and people keep telling me this stuff is even better, I feel I’m onto a winner here.

    I’m really enjoying my adventures in Romancelandia so as long as people are happy to read my reviews, I’ll be happy to write them.

    @Janet W:

    I agree HEART THROB has a lot of 90s baggage, but there was lots to love in there as well. Also given I had a really positive response to a book most people seem to be meh about, I can’t wait to read BODYGUARD.

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  11. NBLibGirl
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 15:24:11

    Yay! Friday! And another wonderfully interesting review . . .

    I’m a big Brockmann fan and am so glad you liked Heartthrob! Like others here, I was wondering how you came up with this title as your very first Brockmann and I was so worried it might put you off trying anything else of hers . . . you’ve got such a long list of other things to get through. Brockmann could easily slip way down your list if this title struck you as “meh” and that would be such a missed opportunity. All I can say, is if you liked this, just you wait. I so envy you all the fabulous Troubleshooters reading you have coming to you. . . Hot Target is kind of like Heartthrob redux . . . many of the same themes and setting but in the hands of a now very experienced, self-assured author.

    That’s what reading sites and discussion boards are all about of course. Finding that next little jewel of a book or powerhouse author that consistently keeps you up all night. And, lacking one of those in your own hands, getting to experience someone else’s joy or hilarity or eye-rolling or outrage over a book about which you feel exactly the same.

    Thank you for sharing yours!

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  12. Kate Pearce
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 15:25:10

    I love this book! It’s one of my regular rereads because it is so unlike the run-of-the-mill romance. It’s gritty, it’s sad, it’s got so many things going on that it should be a disaster, but it really isn’t, and I really believed in those characters by the end and kept thinking about them. Which, of course, is what makes it a wonderful book.
    Great review!

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  13. Jill Sorenson
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 15:56:27

    Aw, this isn’t my favorite Brockmann, though I appreciated a lot of the same aspects you did. She’s a huge inspiration to me as far as diversity, secondary characters and GLBT issues. The Unsung Hero (Troubleshooters #1) has the cutest geeky secondary romance. Her SEALs are not the hyper-masculine alphas you might expect. Tom (Unsung Hero) is bald or balding, IIRC. I think the hero of book 3 is described as downright ugly. Another hero is short, like really short.

    I haven’t kept up with the series (I can’t keep up with anything!) but I have such fond memories.

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  14. Carrie G
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 16:42:18

    You write excellent reviews, and though I don’t know you from Adam, I like knowing you had a similar reaction to this book. I’ve read reviews that brushed it off, and yet I always thought there was depth here.

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  15. Marianne McA
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 18:30:14

    Just to say that while Jules and Robin meet in Hot Target, they get together in Force of Nature – I book I reread pretty much skipping out all the bits that aren’t Robin and Jules.

    The Troubleshooter series jumped the shark for me towards the end, but it was great in it’s day, and did some genuinely interesting things. (A hero who does the morally correct thing and marries his pregnant girlfriend, which at the time in Romancelandia ensured a HEA: but she let them be unhappy. And unhappy in a normal way. Even though his wife is a big breasted floozy who trapped him into marriage, she’s allowed to be a real person, not just a caricature.)

    Harvard’s Education – which is a TDD book, not a Troubleshooters book, was my first DIK of hers: I haven’t read it in ages, so I don’t know if it has dated, but I remember liking it very much.

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  16. Ducky
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 19:33:24

    I have heard of Suzanne Brockmann but never read her. This may be the right book for me to sample her, non-series and non-military with a screw-up actor hero ( I have had a soft spot for those thanks to “Darkling I listen”).

    Your weekly reviews are like super-indulgent and yummy ice cream – without the calorie induced guilt. Thank you!

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  17. LeeF
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 19:37:12

    AJH- thanks for letting us know how you decided to read Heart Throb. I have yet to read a book by Brockmann that I didn’t enjoy. You can definitely see her evolution as a writer from the TDD books through the Troubleshooter series. Infamous is another of her unusual stand alones that I enjoyed.

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  18. azteclady
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 20:03:57

    This is one of my favorite Brockmann’s books–and as a fan, that is saying something–but I had never been able to articulate just why I like it so much. Thank you!

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  19. leslie
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 21:21:34

    @AJH: You’re a star! I love ALL your reviews…..I was just curious. I’m glad you like Heart Throb…..Brockmann’s Hot Target has the best movie star character……Robin Chadwick is wicked fun!

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  20. hapax
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 21:26:54

    @Marianne McA: Hahaha, I re-read FORCE OF NATURE (frequently) exactly the same way.

    “Get me a freaking Kabar” is *such* a romantic line…

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  21. leslie
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 21:51:34

    @hapax: I love that line!

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  22. Robin/Janet
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 22:04:49

    It’s been a while since I read Brockmann, but I definitely liked the Tall, Dark, and Dangerous series better than the Troubleshooters. While I appreciated the way Brockmann interwove all the secondary stories and backstories into the longer, more complex Troubleshooters books, I just could not deal with what I started to refer to as the buzzkill flashback — right before two characters would kiss, for example, one would have a long-ass flashback, which for me just killed the emotional intensity and felt completely disruptive on the level of the storytelling.

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  23. Nicole
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 23:04:10

    I’ve read a fair few category romances from Brockmann but not much else; I really don’t like series much. I bought Heart Throb when it was first published because I liked the premise, and really enjoyed it. I’ve reread it a few times since. Yeah, it felt a bit dated in a vague way on the last reread but it is a wonderfully emotional romance, which is something that isn’t as commmon as it should be in the romance genre these days.

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  24. MikiS
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 02:23:44

    Wow. I know I read this book. And given how I discovered Brockmann (book signing leftover signed copy for the re-release of the first Tall, Dark and Dangerous novel on a table by the door of the bookstore), I suspect I bought it after I caught up on all the military romances she’d written (up to whatever time that would have been).

    So all I remember is thinking it was okay, dated, and I’d probably never read it again.

    Now I want to read it again, from the point of view that I gave up on her Troubleshooters after reading Gone Too Far and it’s been years and years so I wouldn’t try to compare it to her military heroes.

    Whew. Long, run-on thought there.

    Thanks again for a fun review – I expected to snicker, but I didn’t expect to think!

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  25. Kaetrin
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 02:28:39

    Heart Throb and Body Guard were always my favourite Brockmanns but I recently listened to both as audiobooks and they did seem very dated on re-read/listen. Still, they will always hold a special place in my heart for being so wonderful when I first read them (which made me immediately go and buy/hunt down and buy her entire backlist)
    I love the Troubleshooters series and the Tall Dark and Dangerous books too – I can’t help it, I have a thing for Navy SEALs. Rowr.

    Also, Infamous is very good – also an acting book with some paranormal bits. I liked that one very much too.

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  26. Estara Swanberg
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 03:23:17

    I know I read a Brockmann book at some point, but her voice didn’t quite speak to me, so I haven’t gotten anything else, but I might because in general DA reviewers like various of her books.

    Why I’m actually commenting is because you articulated so well one of the reasons why I love reading – finding something you think or do or have done or a world view you share (especially if it’s an odd one) being shared by characters in a book – having something you’ve always thought, but couldn’t articulate so well, be expressed by an author.

    In a similar vein:
    SF&F Author Martha Wells has her 20th anniversary of the publication of her first novel (The Element of Fire) this month, and I think I discovered her in the 2000s at some point, when I was already over 30 – and reading Wheel of the Infinite for the first time, with the totally capable 45+ heroine who gets a younger male sidekick who is a hero in his own right but has no problem with her having more power than him de facto – that just was such a positive portrayal of a woman of that age (coloured, by the way, as are most the people in that world) dealing with her past, with wrong decisions, with having been betrayed and still keeping to her principles and being able to find love in the course of saving the world…, well.

    I mean, your average female fantasy protagonist these days is not her 40s, not even when she’s written by a woman. It’s just so heartening that there is one out there that I happily reread, now I’m 46 myself.

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  27. AJH
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 06:06:44

    @NBLibGirl:

    I did really like it – though it was slightly weird initially because of the 90s Time Warp, but then I settled into it. As I said in the review, it was very much a slow burn reaction for me, and there’s such a lot going in the book, that it actually took a couple of days for it all to catch up with me. So I can see why it’s “meh” for some people and “zomg” for others.

    I … God … I’m hopeless. I just bought THE UNSUNG HERO. And I’m probably going to binge read it this afternoon. A few people have suggested I could cut straight to HOT TARGET but, pathological or not, I can’t bring myself to start a series anywhere other than the beginning. Also it’s not like it’s a hardship is it? Oh, woe is me, I have to read about seven Suzanne Brockmann books. Alas.

    Also, yes, I’m not exactly over-endowed with people to talk about romance to in my everyday life – so being able to have these discussions here makes the whole experience of discovering these books even better.

    @Kate Pearce:

    *hi-five*

    Clearly, I agree with you :)

    I know it’s not the Approved Brockmann Starter Kit but I did really enjoy it – as you say, it has such a lot going on, and I was genuinely uncertain how / if things would work out happily right until the end of the book. Which now I think about it was entirely silly of me because it was a romance, duh. But I really liked the way all the compromises and the realities (like the fact that Susie and Jamal aren’t actually able to be together, as they both have movie commitments, and that Jed’s alcoholism is going to be an issue they have to live with) were still *there* but didn’t actually impact the importance or the value of the HEA. And in fact, sort of contributed because it didn’t feel like a fantasy to me, it felt like a way for real people to navigate life and love … and stuff. I’m articulate this morning.

    @Jill Sorenson:

    I cracked late last night and bought THE UNSUNG HERO – for which I am now blaming you. I knew vaguely it was about macho stuff like Navy SEALS which, honestly, doesn’t appeal to me all that much – but now you’ve told me about geeky secondary romances and balding, short and ugly heroes I am (weirdly) right there and ready to go :)

    @Carrie G:

    I’m really glad you liked the review – and I’m equally glad that you also had a strong reaction to HEART THROB. Of course, diversity of response is one of the pleasures of reading, but I was starting to feel a bit like a crazy zealot on a street corner.

    @Marianne McA:

    This is a complete tangent but I’m always surprised at how many big breasted floozies there are hanging around in the background of romance novels – I mean, breasts are just breasts, right? It just seems a bit bewildering to me that breast size is sort of directly proportional to moral character.

    I’m just about to embark on THE UNSUNG HERO, actually, because I have no priorities or self-control – and I’m definitely intrigued and excited to see present-day Brockmann in action.
    I can certainly see the ways HEART THROB would have been pretty damn remarkable in its day. HAVARD’S EDUCATION has a non-white hero, right? It’s another one I’ve been meaning to check out, actually.

    @Ducky:

    I’m going to read THE UNSUNG HERO … err … this afternoon actually, since I’ve been totally it’s not ‘typical’ military. I guess I’m kind of a wuss but I’m not usually into that sort of thing. But, yes, I’m a big fan of screwed up famous people – and I did really enjoy HEART THROB. Like I say, it’s a little dated but the central lovestory, just on its own, is gorgeous and emotional and interesting. And I adored Jed and Kate, as individuals, and I believed in them as a couple. So, in short, I hope you like the book.

    I’m so glad you like the reviews – I’m rather self-indulgent writing them. I babbled on about HEART THROB for something like 5k words before I managed to make myself shut up and cut out at least half the words.

    @LeeF:

    I genuinely hadn’t realised everyone was going to think it was such a weird choice. I mean, I’ve read quite a few books from the 70s and 80s as well, but I guess there were written by authors who aren’t writing currently so it probably did look a bit perverse to choose something from deep within Brockmann’s back catalogue.

    I’ve also got THE UNSUNG HERO on standby – so all my protestations of not wanting to get sucked into a series have just fallen by the wayside ;)

    @azteclady:

    I know a few people who rate HEART THROB their favourite but they seem to be a passionate minority ;)

    There’s a lot going on in the book – like I said in the review, it actually took a few days for my emotional reaction to catch up with me. I was sort of fine, enjoying it, etc. etc. when I was reading it but it was only when I really sat down to actually tease out some of the themes and try to write about it that I was “holy shit that was good.” And my tiny mind was blown :)

    @leslie:

    I’m really sorry if I sounded sharp – you just seemed so hurt that I’d read HEART THROB, I felt guilty and got defensive :)

    I’ve just bought THE UNSUNG HERO sooooo I should be ready to read HOT TARGET in about … five years?

    @Robin/Janet:

    That’s interesting – most people seem kind of take-it-or-leave on TD&D.

    Also you do realise that I would probably have read the books blissfully unaware of the Buzzkill Flashback and now I’m going to be looking for it ;)

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  28. Meri
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 06:35:40

    @AJH:

    I’m just about to embark on THE UNSUNG HERO, actually, because I have no priorities or self-control – and I’m definitely intrigued and excited to see present-day Brockmann in action.

    It’s not present-day Brockmann, actually; I think it was published in 2000 or 2001. But I find her early Troubleshooters books much more enjoyable than present-day Brockmann anyway. And yes, there are balding heroes, ugly heroes, POC in main and secondary romances, Jules Cassidy who is awesome, and even the floozy gets a nice HEA eventually (after some serious character growth). Also Brockmann doesn’t shy away from letting bad things happen to good characters, which I appreciated.

    Her 1990s stuff really is dated, and not just in terms of technology and fashion – at times the TDD books I’ve read felt like they’d been written much earlier than the mid to late 1990s in terms of culture and attitudes.

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  29. CD
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 10:56:19

    Well, I’m probably in the minority in that I preferred HEARTTHROB to most of her TALL, DARK AND DANGEROUS/TROUBLESHOOTERS series.

    A lot of that is probably my own personal history – I first read HEARTTHROB as a teenager trying to figure out for myself that murky tangle of sexuality and response to female objectification, and Kate’s character really was a complete breath of fresh air: she got the respect she deserved for her own abilities AND she got the hot guy ;-)… It’s been years since I read it but I agree it’s most probably dated – I mean, the 90s was not a good decade for anyone (although a lot better than the 80s at least), and we were still figuring out that minorities and gay people were, you know, human beings, and what that actually meant. However, at least regarding the damaging effects of female objectification, we were at least acknowledging them as issues – in some ways, more than we do now. But that’s a whole other discussion…

    Regarding Brockmann, my personal favourite is OUT OF CONTROL – to me, it’s basically the perfect action-romance. It’s got two amazing romances – one of which is one of my favourite couples ever being an aid worker (who’s also a grandmother) and a smuggler with the requisite shady past. The other has the most delicious geek hero ever with a frog tattoo on his arse – I mean seriously, how can you not love this guy. And the plot is basically a fantastic “Romancing the Stone” like adventure set in Indonesia. My buttons, they are pushed. Forget your pathology, take your happy pills, and read this. UNSUNG HERO is pretty bland in comparison.

    Yes, I love Jules – I mean, who doesn’t? But did he really have to be paired with such a messed up f**kwit who jerked him around for a few books? On a more serious note, I felt that their love story was very dated at the time she wrote it: their relationship more of a “message” rather than a romance in a very pre-QUEER AS FOLK way. Jules and Robin would have whole conversations about why love between men is just as valid as between a man and a woman – and I was just sitting there thinking “Okaaaaayyy, fine… But tell me again why Jules has to stay with this complete waste of space and can’t find anyone with his head screwed on who treats him well?”.

    It’s true that Brockmann’s military romances don’t have the “hyper-masculine” alphaholes that you often with this type of genre – they are thankfully humans rather than caricatures, if occasionally rather too PC to be altogether believable. But you do have to go into the books knowing that they are obviously pro-military and that Navy SEALs are basically super humans who can leap tall buildings with a single stride.

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  30. NBLibGirl
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 11:26:49

    I so hear you about having to start at the beginning . . . I’m very much the same way.

    With the time difference, you’re (probably) already finished with Unsung Hero and are wondering what is wrong with all these people? It’s a decent enough story but . . . . really? In many ways, a much simpler story than Heartthrob. Just keep after it. This series builds (kind of like a freight train) and there are *lots* of characters with the potential to get under your skin . . . just take it nice and slow and don’t hurt yourself. LOL

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  31. CD
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 11:37:51

    “When I was about sixteen, I’d occasionally fall into conversation with people I didn’t know, and I’d, well, I’d find myself coming up with a bunch of complete lies about who I was, and what I was doing. Nothing particularly outlandish, and I wasn’t trying to be malicious, but I wasn’t wildly happy at the time and I’d find a strange comfort in being someone else, even if only fleetingly in a stranger’s eyes.”

    Oh come on – who hasn’t done that? Especially as a teenager, or even at uni. Especially when you’re unhappy with yourself, which most teenagers are to be honest, it’s fun to try to be someone else for a bit with stranger whom you’re never likely to meet again.

    BTW, who is that cute, oh so bangeable silverfox guy? He looks familiar but I can’t quite place him?

    @Estara Swanberg:

    I LOVE Martha Wells and WHEEL OF THE INFINITE is one of my favourite of her books. Have you read Catherine Asaro or Lois McMaster Bujold? They often have older, very competent women. Asaro especially seems to love the older hyper-competent/dangerous woman paired with younger and less experienced man – you spot the pattern after a bit ;-). The amazing thing is that these pairings work so well: even when the men are less experienced, they are either protagonists or heroes in their own right.

    @Marianne McA:

    “Just to say that while Jules and Robin meet in Hot Target, they get together in Force of Nature – I book I reread pretty much skipping out all the bits that aren’t Robin and Jules.”

    I think everyone did that! I can’t even remember the names of the hero/heroine of the supposedly main romance. I still think that it was a complete cop-out that she didn’t give them their own book – I know she explained it later as a creative decision but it still didn’t sit right with me.

    I stopped reading her TROUBLESHOOTERS series a few years ago as it become a bit too soapy with too many (mostly bland) characters to keep track of. I did like TALL DARK AND DANGEROUS because they were short and fun – I think HARVARD’S EDUCATION and GET LUCKY are probably my favourites.

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  32. Robin/Janet
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 11:49:54

    @AJH: So I shouldn’t tell you that it was in The Unsung Hero that I first really noticed and got aggravated by it? ;D

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  33. NBLibGirl
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 12:06:02

    @CD

    On a more serious note, I felt that their love story was very dated at the time she wrote it: their relationship more of a “message” rather than a romance in a very pre-QUEER AS FOLK way. Jules and Robin would have whole conversations about why love between men is just as valid as between a man and a woman – and I was just sitting there thinking “Okaaaaayyy, fine… But tell me again why Jules has to stay with this complete waste of space and can’t find anyone with his head screwed on who treats him well?”.

    You are perfectly correct, of course. Except for the context in which Brockmann was writing.

    It’s sad but what Brockmann did – even such a few short years ago – was a very daring thing: continuing to push the boundaries of Jules character in “mainstream romance” novels. She was risking a very successful writing franchise and career doing what she was doing and I can’t blame her for taking the opportunity to (or feeling it was necessary to) explain/educate some of her readers.

    Just take a look at your local bookstore (if you still have one) or library catalog if you doubt it: they all have 50 Shades of Drek but can you find Josh Lanyon or Kaje Harper, for example, who IMHO have written some excellent romantic suspense but with gay MCs? I think we are headed there (thanks to a writer like Brockmann with the courage to take risks and the clout to be given the opportunity) and readers like you who say, “WTF? I’m way past the need for any lectures . . . and Jules deserves way better”.

    BTW – I’ll bet Brockmann (and Robin) would agree with you. And I hope all my favorite authors are working on those new characters who don’t have to be explained or defended but just are who they are . . . interesting people. Ok, off my old lady soapbox now. ;-)

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  34. CD
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 12:34:06

    @NBLibGirl:
    I completely understand where you’re coming from and I don’t underestimate the risks that Brockmann did by even having a prominent gay love story in her books – I mean, she writes military romance and you can’t really get more mainstream than that. And from her books, I think her politics are probably to the left of most of her readership so she obviously has to make calculated risks and balance her personal views against popularity.

    However, I do think that she didn’t need to educate her readership or defend her characters in her books – she just needed to portray an emotionally believable and absorbing romance between Jules and Robin, and that says all it really needs to say about the validity of gay relationships. I understand why she did so – I believe her son is gay so she’s obviously personally committed to the cause. But personally I believe that more would have achieved by letting the relationship speak for itself. Part of the reason why the TV series QUEER AS FOLK was so ground breaking in the UK (and I imagine in the US as well although I haven’t seen the US version) was that it didn’t try to explain or justify the lifestyles of a group of people – it was just very good drama and let that speak for itself.

    I completely agree that it’s a huge shame that 50 SHADES OF DRECK (love that!) gets so much readership when great authors like Josh Lanyon (and JL Merrow who’s my personal favourite m/m writer) remain ebook based, but I think things are changing rapidly.

    And please, stay on your old lady soapbox! In fact, where can I get one?

    PS. Just to clarify that my problems with the Jules/Robin storyline was more that I felt it didn’t work for me as a romance so the “message” bits seemed to overwhelm their relationship. If it had worked for me, then I obviously wouldn’t have had that reaction.

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  35. AJH
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 14:24:16

    @Nicole:

    I’ve been semi-trying to avoid series because I want to get a fair way down my list before I start looping back on myself – and I’ve already got a painful twitching in my toes wanting to read more Singh and Brooks, so I’m basically just torturing myself at this stage.

    Entirely agree with you about the love story though – actually the love stories because I was equally invested in Jamal and Susie, even though I’m not disposed, as a general rule, to be particularly interested in teenagers.

    @MikiS:

    Really glad you liked the review – I was just looking back over my reading, actually, and thinking my tone does swing a bit crazily from book to book, but I guess that just reflects the fact different books provoke different reactions.

    When I first start reading I will confess I was a bit dominated by what I saw as datedness, but then the story and the characters drew me in and I gradually realised it’s a really dense and interesting text, with a lot going on and (slightly depressingly) a lot that hasn’t dated. Like the exploration of substance abuse and Hollywood, and, oh, Kate’s body issues. I loved Kate so much.

    @Kaetrin:

    I always find I have quite different reactions to books if I listen to them – I love audio-books, btw, but you sort of lose your control over the text, and there’s no option to skim or flick ahead or re-read if you aren’t sure of something, or really liked a bit. So I think that makes you trip over things harder – written quirks seems more inescapable for example.

    Prince of Midnight was actually my first romance audio-book (I’ve read the book as well) and I found a distinctly divergent experience from just reading the book. Don’t get me wrong, I love the book, and I loved reading it and I loved having it exquisitely read by a man with a shockingly beautiful voice … but it definitely changes the text, somehow, and changes your response to it.

    I’ve just started THE UNSUNG HERO, to launch me into the Troubleshooters series. I really didn’t think I was into Navy SEALs.
    I may have been wrong about that. Very very wrong.

    @Estara Swanberg:

    I found HEART THROB a bit laboured – occasionally – in places, but I’ve also read about four chapters of THE UNSUNG HERO and, even though it was only a couple of years later, the voice feels much more crisp and assured, somehow. I’m not sure if it’d naturally grip you though – I do think you’d really enjoy her heroines though. They’re smart and strong and human and interesting. I loved Kate to pieces (and I really liked Jed too).

    And, oh, yes, that moment of textual connection – completely beautiful, and always surprising, whenever it finds you. I’m always grateful for them.

    I normally don’t pay too much attention to ages in romances because, you know, fantasy space but I will confess to being slightly wearied by all the practically adolescent billionaires. (Another pro-Brockmann point, her heroes and heroines always seem to be an age commensurate with their life achievements – the hero of TUH is 36, ohhmmmmgeee).

    By the way, did you see this post on exactly this subject over at AAR. I can’t claim for this. NBLibGirl linked me, when I was whinging on Twitter.

    I *love* this line:

    “This may be mostly due to my inability to completely divorce myself from reality. At my age, the likelihood I will meet a dashing ex-Navy SEAL/cowboy/millionaire and he will take me away after learning that I’m a spy/repressed librarian/immediately orgasming virgin is about on par with my chances of getting struck by lightning after having bought a winning billion dollar payout lottery ticket.”

    I know it’s playfully expressed but I do think we sort of orientate our sense of what’s plausible and what’s attractive about, well, ourselves. And that’s why age becomes this bizarre moving feast. I mean, personal taste here, my attractions have always, um, bent slightly in the direction of people older than myself for serious connections, but I can still remember the moment when I was, you know, ancient and sophisticated and about twenty three, and an eighteen year old went by who, once upon a time, would have been just my type and the first thought that went through my head was: “For God’s sake, pull up your trousers.” And that was when I knew I’d grown up. *nods sagely*

    Also you inspired me to read / re-read DEATH OF THE NECROMANCER and I loved it, so I definitely need to check out more Martha Wells. WHEEL OF THE INFINITE sounds great (also a little bit like a Sting song gone slightly wrong).

    @Meri:

    Sorry, lack of clarity there on my part. I intend to start on the Troubleshooter series, in the hope I will eventually catch up on present day Brockmann, you know, a year or two down the line ;)
    As I said in the review, I do weirdly think that the 90s can feel *more* dated than books written in the 70s or 80s. I think it’s because the 90s seems like it might be still the recent past when, of course, it isn’t (argggh, I’m old).

    @CD:

    *hi-five for Team HEART THROB*

    Although actually I’ve just started reading THE UNSUNG HERO and I’m really liking that too. I’m more naturally into the themes and characters and situations of HEART THROB, I think, but the style of THE UNSUNG HERO is just so crisp and engaging. HEART THROB, love it though I do, was a bit laboured at times.

    Again, I’m hardly in any place to having insights into the objectification of women but it seems to me that a lot of the stuff about Kate – sadly – has not dated. I mean sexually harassing women in the workplace and yelling at them on the street, and generally treating breasts as public property seems to be alive and well and still happening pretty much everywhere. I also liked the way Kate’s sexual choices were portrayed – she doesn’t have casual sex, but it’s very much a personal choice, not a moral one, if that makes sense. Again, not really my place to complain, but I’m often quite startled by contemporary romances when heroines condemn their “slutty” friends or whatever. It seems to me the point isn’t whether you’re having lots of sex, or no sex, or something in-between, but that you get to make the choice.

    OUT OF CONTROL – going on my list. Keep it up, CD, and I’ll be writing the Friday Suzanne Brockmann column.

    Also, I hate to break it to you, but I have never met anyone else who pretended to be other people when they were growing up. I think that’s just you, me and Jed Beaumont.

    The eminently bangable silverfox (I’m never living down that phrase am I?) is Mr Mark Harmon, he was an 80s heart throb (do you see what I did there?) but I think the role he’s most known for is probably Agent Gibbs in NCIS. He’s also CJ Cregg’s short-lived (literally short-lived – spoiler!) flame in The West Wing.

    @NBLibGirl:

    Oh god, I’m doomed. TUH is my evening read, and I’m about 20% of the way through it, just catching on comments before I curl up afresh. I’m kind of really worried that Monday will roll round and I’ll still be sitting here reading … just … one … more … Brockmann.

    @Robin/Janet:

    Gah! That’s just cruel :)

    @CD & NBLibGirl

    Sorry, hope you don’t mind crashing the discussion when I haven’t actually read the series but I think it’s easy to over-estimate the, um, “educatedness” of people, including – well – yourself. Wow that sounds patronising. But I consider myself a fairly sensible, open minded dude (but then I don’t think anyone wakes up in the morning and thinks, hey, you know what, I’ll be a bigot today) but HEART THROB still made me stop and think about lots of things I knew objectively were bad, but hadn’t really considered in their full implications – like the bit I mention about the actress Victor wants to bonk, or the whole character of Kate really.

    I think it’s … well … difficult to look back on something, that was created for a specific reason at a specific time within a particular context and try to assess its affect. Or the affect it might conceivably have had if it had been different. I think it’s really lovely to be able to look back on something Brockmann wrote in the early 2000s (?) and say, well, this is dated, of course two men in love is as valid as a man and a woman in love, duh. How do I know, but I think Brockmann would be kind of pleased by that – it means she did what she set out to do, which is to measurably contribute to the creation of a world that is marginally more accepting than it used to be.

    But I also think it’s also easy – from a somewhat more accepting climate – to look back and under-estimate how horrifically hostile the mainstream media was, and to a degree still is (though this changes, yay) to queer characters. I mean I loved QUEER AS FOLK, still do, and yes it’s a good drama, but it was always billed as the gay show about the gays. These aren’t characters who are incidentally gay – it’s all about gay life. And that’s fine, that’s great, we need shows like that too, but it doesn’t integrate queer people into a mainstream setting – which is what Brockmann appears to have (I would say successfully) done.

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  36. Jorrie Spencer
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 14:55:11

    Fascinating conversation about Brockmann and datedness! I do remember reading Hot Target when it came out. It was the beginning of Robin and Jules’s storyline, and kind of heartbreaking in that regard. I enjoyed the primary romance but was riveted by Robin and Jules, and turned around and reread the R&J parts immediately—even though I rarely do that. So I hope you enjoy this series. I never did read The Unsung Hero. For whatever reason I began with Out of Control, though I did backtrack to the second book whose title I can’t remember. It was engrossing, though, reading book after book in the series.

    Mark Harmon—now I’m really dating myself but he is forever part of the St. Elsewhere cast for me. When he was no silver fox.

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  37. Robin/Janet
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 15:52:45

    @AJH: Yes, well that’s what you get for speaking so disdainfully of The Windflower (hint: see if it makes more sense to think about the book as a contemplation on The Tempest, with Rand as Prospero — the Curtises adore Shakespeare and use a lot of allusions and other references to his work in their novels).

    I also keep wondering about this line in your review: Unfortunately Heart Throb just takes me back to a time when Dead Of AIDS was the only permissible role for a fictional gay dude and the only way to discuss racism without causing a riot was to make it a problem for enlightened white people. Are you talking about the UK or the US?

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  38. Estara Swanberg
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 16:24:09

    @CD: I’ve read most of the available LMB except for Falling Free (and so I adore Cordelia Vorkosigan and Alis Vorpatril or Ilsa from the Chalionverse), but by Asaro I’ve only read the Luna fantasy series … and I think one of her earliest sf books. I obviously need to read her more.

    I like Elizabeth Moon and her Herris Serrano, or – in her Paksenarrion Universe – Dorrin Verrakai, who are also very capable mature women although they’re not always the focus of the books – and then there’s the grandmother in Remnant Population who is the protagonist of the whole book.

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  39. CD
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 16:33:50

    @AJH:

    God, you just made me drool over pics of Mark Harmon for the last ten minutes – he is really REALLY hot. I think I’m going to have to up my dating age threshold…

    “But I also think it’s also easy – from a somewhat more accepting climate – to look back and under-estimate how horrifically hostile the mainstream media was, and to a degree still is (though this changes, yay) to queer characters. I mean I loved QUEER AS FOLK, still do, and yes it’s a good drama, but it was always billed as the gay show about the gays. These aren’t characters who are incidentally gay – it’s all about gay life. And that’s fine, that’s great, we need shows like that too, but it doesn’t integrate queer people into a mainstream setting – which is what Brockmann appears to have (I would say successfully) done.”

    I think we’re possibly talking about two different things here. I completely agree with you and NBLibGirl that what Brockmann did with the Jules/Robin storyline was unprecedented for a mainstream bestselling romance author. I think it was potentially risky and very much showed her own commitment to the cause. HOT TARGET came out (ahem) in 2005 and it’s really encouraging to think about how quickly things have changed even in the last 7/8 years.

    My point, and this is a personal one, is that I felt that the relationship between Jules and Robin was overwhelmed by “the issues” and therefore did not feel real or believable to me. Their relationship felt very much artificially constructed to serve an agenda rather than organically commenting on that agenda. I’m probably in the minority here as I know that plenty of people loved and believed in that relationship. However as a romance, I felt that Brockmann had certainly written much much stronger ones, and my feeling is that more would have been achieved to further her agenda by writing a strong romance than by focusing on that agenda to the detriment of the romance.

    As for QUEER AS FOLK, the reason I brought it up was that it was a mainstream production on terrestrial television (Channel 4), and I think one of the first times that gay characters were allowed to be people with normal lives, loves, concerns rather than characters with agendas primarily aimed at straight people aka gay AIDS guy who dies, gay that teaches straight people how to live etc etc etc. Yes, it was based very much in the “gay community”, but it was good drama first and foremost with interesting characters whom you cared about, and that was how it furthered increasing acceptance for that community.

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  40. Estara Swanberg
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 16:38:13

    @AJH: Oh goodie ^^ – get into Element of Fire and it’s delicious Captain of the Queen Dowager’s Guard, who is so great as well, although she’s after all not the one who will capture his heart (it’s Renaissance times!) and the Raksura books as well, at some point – but WotI is my absolute favourite reread of hers. And thanks for the link to the AAR essay. In some ways I’ve come a similar progression, although I have no problem feeling along with younger heroines in sf&f or romance; but I do really want there to be equally diverse mature women protagonists when I feel in the mood for those. And I’m sure I’ll want grandmother heroines in equal numbers when I’m that age ^^.

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  41. CD
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 16:53:27

    @Estara Swanberg:

    Derailing this topic here but I found Catherine Asaro’s LUNA fantasy to be rather weak – I much prefer her long running Skolian space opera. Like the VORKOSIGAN books, they’re written out of chronological order so you can start anywhere, but I would advise starting with PRIMARY INVERSIONS which you can get free from Baen as an ebook. Or if you want a standalone, then I recommend SUNRISE ALLEY which I think is also free. Both books have older and more mature women as protagnists who hook up with younger men. In addition to the great romances, Asaro is a former physicist so some of her ideas about future technology, particularly biotech and AI, are really interesting in their own right….

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  42. AJH
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 17:39:54

    @Jorrie Spencer:

    I’m really looking forward to reading HOT TARGET, to be honest, but I can’t bring myself to read a series out of order so it might take a while for me to get there.
    And thank you for making me feel like a bright young thing – I’m vaguely aware of Harmon’s early career heart throbness but he’s always going to be Agent Gibbs to me ;)

    @Robin/Janet:

    I don’t think I spoke particularly disdainfully of THE WINDFLOWER – I teased a little, but only affectionately. I think it would be a bit off to come into a genre and disdain it.

    Gosh, I really am getting my Romance Reading GCSE here, aren’t I? I hadn’t particularly gone looking for Shakespeare allusions in THE WINDFLOWER and I certainly see how could read it that way, but I don’t think adding that level to it makes sense of most the things that personally didn’t appeal to me about the text. Thinking of Rand as Prospero doesn’t make his behaviour any less annoying to me – to be honest, I find Prospero quite annoying too.

    I agree the line you’re picking up was hyperbolically expressed but I’d say it applies both to the UK and the US. Of course you can find counter examples but, even today, movies about how upsetting racism is for white people still win Oscars.

    @CD:

    Well, you know how I feel Guinevere Trent so I guess this makes us even.

    Ah, yes, I see the distinction you’re making, sorry for spiralling off into meditations on the portrayal of queerness in the mainstream media. I haven’t read it so I should be quiet now – but, obviously, what makes a romance is quite personal and I think if you’re already comfortably on side with the notion that dudes can love dudes, I can see why bogging down issues would be a pain in the arse.

    I probably shouldn’t derail this discussion any more by over-pondering QUEER AS FOLK. I definitely see the point you’re making but I think we’re working off different definitions of mainstream here. It was the first time I’d seen queers on TV that weren’t, as you say, solely there to support the lives or dramas of straight people. And that was really great. But at the same time it was a late night show on Channel 4 they played in their “and now we’re going to do our quirky edgy stuff” slot. It wasn’t preachy, but it was very self-consciously transgressive – with all the drugs and underage sex (which, although they are choices some people may make, are not actually part of the definition of being gay). And while I can see it’s jarring to have characters say “by the way, isn’t it sad our love may not be accepted by the society we live in”, it’s no less jarring to gay people presented as living entirely within a little bubble completely divorced from the rest of the world. Obviously, QAF did do something new and original and important, but what it very much didn’t do was present being gay as normal part of everyday life.

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  43. azteclady
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 18:31:09

    Aside: the comment threads at DA are always what makes the place so memorable and important. I love that AJH’s threads fit so beautifully here.

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  44. LeeF
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 20:08:41

    And apropos of nothing I saw Matthew McConnehey when I was reading Jed in the book.

    And thanks for mentioning the Mark.Harmon West Wing episode- still makes me cry

    To me, the most important thing about your review is you are looking at an excellent book that many folks may not have read

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  45. LeeF
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 20:19:24

    Can’t spell- McConaughey

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  46. Moriah Jovan
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 20:23:04

    @LeeF: Still got it wrong. It’s Matthew McConaugheeeeeyyyyyyyyy.

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  47. hapax
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 20:58:06

    @CD:

    Just to clarify that my problems with the Jules/Robin storyline was more that I felt it didn’t work for me as a romance so the “message” bits seemed to overwhelm their relationship. If it had worked for me, then I obviously wouldn’t have had that reaction

    Yeah, Jules’s eventual HEA is probably Brockmann’s most controversial character choice until the whole Dave/Decker/Sofia debacle. I’ll be honest, Jules / Robin works for me completely *because* Robin is such a screwup.

    I mean, I love Jules like sunshine and fresh bread, but the man does have his issues; and one of them is that he is a White Knight down to his toenails. I never would have believed he would be happy with a love interest who didn’t — to some extent — require perpetual “rescuing”.

    I don’t think that Robin *wants* to be such a “damsel in distress”, and he eventually starts working hard at getting his act together. I can’t blame him for being perpetually a mess, though; as an abused child, a gay man with deeply internalized homophobia, an alcoholic, and (let’s be honest) a total drama queen, it’s surprising that he holds together as well as he does. And while it would be lovely to think that he is an outmoded stereotype, I know far too many young men with similar conflicts in their own psyche.

    But it isn’t fair to say that Robin jerked Jules around for several books. When they first met, Robin couldn’t accept his own sexuality. Once he came to terms with it, and he met Jules again, he went dead set for him; it was Jules who was hot and cold on their relationship (for good reason). True, Robin was reluctant to come out of the closet (also for good reason; he believed that it would destroy both his and Jules’s careers, and he was very nearly right), but he was unwavering about who he wanted.

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  48. NBLibGirl
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 21:06:37

    @CD @ajh
    I think we are all in more agreement here than not!

    Their relationship felt very much artificially constructed to serve an agenda rather than organically commenting on that agenda.

    I completely understand where CD is coming from re: Robin. Robin works for me but I understand why CD/others think Jules deserves better. Jules spends so many books being there for everyone else, especially Sam and Alyssa. It would have been interesting to see him with someone who was a little more together/grown up than Robin.

    I think it’s easy to over-estimate the, um, “educatedness” of people, including – well – yourself. . . Heartthrob still made me stop and think about lots of things I knew objectively were bad, but hadn’t really considered in their full implications

    Yes, yes, yes . . . and Jules (his whole story arc) certainly did this for me. All good books/art does this I think to some extent . . . it sheds new light or gives us a new way of seeing/hearing/thinking about something.

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  49. Robin/Janet
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 22:57:24

    @AJH:

    I don’t think I spoke particularly disdainfully of THE WINDFLOWER – I teased a little, but only affectionately. I think it would be a bit off to come into a genre and disdain it.

    I was actually being sarcastic about the reason I made my Unsung Hero comment, but not the substance of the part referring to the Windflower. Despite my fluency in smartass, I admit to having very poor facility with snark from people whose voices are still relatively new to me. Snark has a certain performative aspect, and, as you say a certain element of hyperbole, and I don’t have a natural talent for discerning the all the in-between spaces. So I appreciate your clarification, but especially in the wake of US Independence day, I won’t deny you the right to disdain some, any, all, or none of the book, if that’s how you feel about it.

    Gosh, I really am getting my Romance Reading GCSE here, aren’t I? I hadn’t particularly gone looking for Shakespeare allusions in THE WINDFLOWER and I certainly see how could read it that way, but I don’t think adding that level to it makes sense of most the things that personally didn’t appeal to me about the text. Thinking of Rand as Prospero doesn’t make his behaviour any less annoying to me – to be honest, I find Prospero quite annoying too.

    I think Rand is supposed to be annoying. I think that’s kind of the point, actually. ;D But I’m not going to derail this discussion any more with talk of Rand and co.

    I agree the line you’re picking up was hyperbolically expressed but I’d say it applies both to the UK and the US. Of course you can find counter examples but, even today, movies about how upsetting racism is for white people still win Oscars.

    Race is definitely the ongoing fracturing narrative in the US. I was just wondering about your specific reference since where I spent the 90s — in California — race was probably a more common, non-riot-inducing topic of public discourse than it is today. After the Rodney King verdict in 92, we had multiple public debates, pieces of legislation, and court cases (some declaring the initial legislation unconstitutional) around immigration, affirmative action, bilingual education, and other issues, and while public discourse was not by any stretch uniformly friendly, it was very widely and openly engaged. Your comment actually made me reflect on how we Californians, at least, may actually be less comfortable talking about race so deliberately and openly now than we were before 9/11. I hadn’t thought about it quite that way until you made me relive the 90s for a minute there.

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  50. AJH
    Jul 07, 2013 @ 04:22:11

    @Robin/Janet:

    Well, no, I didn’t think you were trying to sabotage my relationship with one book in vengeance for my response to another – but your comments on THE WINDFLOWER struck me as serious, so I tried to address them. Perhaps I worry too much about words themselves but ‘disdain’ seems very charged tome. I think not particularly liking something, or being troubled by certain aspects of it, is quite different from ‘disdaining’ it, and it would concern me if I came across as disdainful. It had very much intended for it to come across as playful, rather than dismissive. Of course, it is absolutely not your duty to give me the benefit of the doubt on that score. I think perhaps because I have been doing this for a handful of months now I had taken slightly too much for granted, so thank you for the reminder. I will try to be more careful.

    Re the 90s, with hindsight I think “causing a riot” was an unfortunate choice of terms – we have had race riots in this country, but they’re not really a big part of cultural consciousness. When I said ‘cause a riot’ I meant ‘without getting a huge backlash from entitled white people’ not ‘literally causing a race riot.’ Similarly, sorry I’m sounding a bit absurd here unpicking my own text, but when I said ‘talk about’ I was mostly referring to fiction and the mainstream media, not to explicit public debate. Actually, now you come to mention it, in my experience, we don’t really have explicit public debate about race in this country. We have discussions about immigration, which is often very tangled up with race, but politicians and mainstream journalists are, again in my experience, usually quite careful to avoid mentioning race explicitly.

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  51. Estara Swanberg
    Jul 07, 2013 @ 07:16:31

    @CD: I think Primary Inversions was the one I read, but it’s been years. I really need to reread that – I’m pretty sure I have it as an ebook, but I did buy it at the time. I adore the fact that Asaro worked for NASA and also did ballet work, if I remember correctly.

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  52. CD
    Jul 07, 2013 @ 11:29:58

    I’m having troubles posting comments so apologies if this post turns up multiple times…

    @AJH:

    “Well, you know how I feel Guinevere Trent so I guess this makes us even.”

    You have a treat in store for you then in Molly Anderson – a grandmother who manages to snag the most badass hero/anti-hero in Brockmann’s TROUBLESHOOTER series (whose also a good ten years younger than her) by being basically completely utterly awesome. Along with Melanthe (Kinsale FOR MY LADY’S HEART) and Juliet (Putney’s SILK AND SECRETS), she’s one of my romance girl-crushes… Dammit – have to reread OUT OF CONTROL.

    And really, you don’t have to read all the books in order – Brockmann’s TROUBLESHOOTERS series is basically a military soap opera. I mean, you wouldn’t watch EASTENDERS from the beginning, would you? Yes, you’ll miss a few references but they’re not exactly essential to the main plot.

    “But at the same time it was a late night show on Channel 4 they played in their “and now we’re going to do our quirky edgy stuff” slot. It wasn’t preachy, but it was very self-consciously transgressive – with all the drugs and underage sex (which, although they are choices some people may make, are not actually part of the definition of being gay). And while I can see it’s jarring to have characters say “by the way, isn’t it sad our love may not be accepted by the society we live in”, it’s no less jarring to gay people presented as living entirely within a little bubble completely divorced from the rest of the world. Obviously, QAF did do something new and original and important, but what it very much didn’t do was present being gay as normal part of everyday life.”

    I see where you’re coming from and I remember QAF getting a lot of criticism at the time from the gay community for that portrayal. However, I would disagree with you on your last point. Yes, it concentrated on a group of gay friends who socialised mostly within their own community – but it portrayed them as human with all their good points, their fuck-ups, their dreams and their regrets: being gay just one facet of THEIR everyday life, and the show made us care about their everyday life. It wasn’t meant to be a representation of the entire gay community – that’s obviously as ludicrous as trying to do a drama representing the entire straight community. And at that time, I think the tight focus was needed – otherwise, it would have descended into yet another “let’s look at this strange alien community through the eyes of these nice straight folk”. Now, it’s a totally different story but then, I think they made the right choice for what they were trying to achieve.

    I feel quite passionately about QAF as it’s still one of my favourite TV programmes, not to mention one of my favourite quasi-love stories. I still laugh and cry at that last scene of series 1 with Stuart and Vince dancing like complete utter twats to “It’s raining men” – that’s a guaranteed shot of the warm fuzzies for me…

    @hapax:

    Hapax hapax hapax – you’re doing a Janine on me, aren’t you? Tempting me to reread the books so that I completely change my mind on an opinion I’d held for years;-). And you’re almost succeeding as well…

    “I mean, I love Jules like sunshine and fresh bread, but the man does have his issues; and one of them is that he is a White Knight down to his toenails. I never would have believed he would be happy with a love interest who didn’t — to some extent — require perpetual “rescuing”.”

    But you see, I love Jules like a lovely hot cuppa tea and soft warm crumpets filled with clotted cream ;-)… So ha! My love trumps yours.

    Maybe you’re right and that’s the crux of his relationship with Robin – it’s been years since I read the books, and I only read them the once. My memories are more about my own emotions while reading the books, and I really just could not see why Jules was so hung up on this screwed up wanker –what the hell did he give Jules apart from great cheekbones? I mean, of course Robin would be into Jules: Jules is like the Johnny Depp of fictional characters – straight guys would be gay for Jules. But I just really couldn’t see what set Robin apart from all the other immature, selfish, entitled, alcoholic, homophobic yet deeply closeted f**kwits out there. I felt that his existence and his entire relationship with Jules was a means for the author to talk about THE GAY AND OTHER SIGNIFICANT ISSUES BUT PRINCIPALLY THE GAY. I remember feeling that every single conversation they had was about THE GAY et al. Aside from the ones about saving the world from terrorists…

    Anyway, I was probably unfair to characterise Robin as jerking Jules about. But he did some really stupid STUPID things because of THE GAY et al and basically broke poor Jules’ battered heart. I still remember something about Jules saying about how he desperately needed the sunlight – and my own heart broke and I thought “yes, get away from that poison and get your sunlight, you bloody deserve it”.

    Dammit. For books I haven’t read since they came out, I’m certainly emotional about them… Maybe I should reread the Jules/Robin books and see if there’s something I missed. Damn you, hapax…

    @NBLibGirl:

    I don’t think we really disagree on essentials here – I mean we all love Jules and want him to find the person who would call HIM sweetiecakes.

    And I’m pretty sure that AJH would love Jules as well. If he sticks to his pathology, it’s only about 9 books into the series…

    @Estara Swanberg:
    Good to hear! PRIMARY INVERSIONS is her first book and it shows. But the ideas are still there and I love the romance – I think the heroine is meant to be 25 years older than the hero if that gives you an idea. It’s the future so people don’t age in the same way but still, that’s pretty delicious… And that book sets up the whole Jaibriol/Tarquin relationship which starts in THE MOON’S SHADOW. I love the fact that she’s the morally ambiguous one and the predator in the relationship (not to mention the bedroom) whereas Jaibriol is very much the guy who always tries to do the right thing despite the impossible situation he’s in. A number of books after and he still doesn’t know how far he can trust her and what she’s up to, despite the fact that he’s utterly captivated by her… It tickles. Especially as you know as the reader that she would do anything to keep him safe.

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  53. NBLibGirl
    Jul 07, 2013 @ 14:16:38

    Ok, AJH was nice enough to embark on Unsung Hero just so the rest of us can experience that book through him – even if he only posts the briefest tweets about his reactions (hint, hint). So I borrowed Heartthrob from the library last night – just in solidarity you understand – and I’m 80% through it . . . It’s been years since I read it and it’s better than I remembered. Or maybe I’ve been reading too many almost novella-length/YA books lately. But Heartthrob has a lot going on it. I’d completely forgotten the “little aside” about Tom and Jed’s (heartbreaking but probably very real) cave-in to his career. It definitely foreshadows Robin’s character . . .

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  54. Amanda
    Aug 11, 2013 @ 18:55:03

    I’m reading Heart Throb right now and I’ve made it to the part at the diner where Jed talks about the yellow dog and how he now knows what made it mean and it seems like Kate doesn’t get the analogy to what just happened to him but instead focuses on what happened to young Jed and his homework…and I’ve got to say that I hate, hate, hate her character. Jed isn’t exactly a nice guy but I can emphasize with his struggles while she’s coming off like a giant bitch and maybe this is because the contract that she keeps blackmailing him with is a giant deal breaker for me. If you sue us for the assault it will violate contract terms and I will fire you?! Really?!

    So if I am hating her guts and how she keeps manipulating him with the humiliating and degrading contract, do you guys think that it is worth it for me to keep reading? Is there some type of plot line relating the humiliating prison terms to slavery that works out in the end? Because if she can’t redeem herself in a big way I don’t want to keep reading. I would have already put the book down but I picked it up because of this review and follow up comments.

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