BREAKING THE RULES Suzanne Brockmann
Troubleshooters , Book 16
Ballantine Books
ISBN: 978-0-345-52123-1
February 2012
Contemporary Romance

Afghanistan and Las Vegas, Nevada 2009

Afghanistan finds several members of SEAL Team Sixteen on assignment when a street bomb goes off and Danny Gillman is shot through the leg by a sniper.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, as luck would have it, Danny's worst nightmare, Izzy Zanella is with him.  Izzy and his quick thinking has him going to the medic and getting needles and tubing to give Danny a man to man blood transfusion that saves his life, but almost takes Izzy's.  Ever since Izzy married Danny's sister Eden a year before, Danny can't stand Izzy.  They both end up in Germany to recover, with everyone carefully not telling Danny that Izzy's blood is flowing through his veins.  Yikes!

Jennilyn LeMay is in New York  working for New York State Assemblywoman Maria Bonavita trying to prevent disabled veterans from staging a takeover of a Vet Center and has been taken hostage by them.  When the Assemblywoman calls Jenni and asks to speak to one of the vets, she soon is informed that her boyfriend Danny has been shot and is recovering in Germany .  Jenni made Danny leave before his last mission and told him to decide if he was really serious about their relationship and to come back to her after thinking it over.

Neesha is being held in a cell someplace in Las Vegas , and has been there for years.  After being taken to this awful place after her mother died, she has to endure strange men lying on top of her and jabbing themselves between her legs.  She tried crying and screaming when the men did it, until a man who enjoyed her screaming and crying was allowed his way with her, and since then Neesha thinks of nothing but escaping.  After years, her guard falls to the floor gasping and wheezing, and Neesha escapes and begins her life on the streets.

Eden is also in Las Vegas , determined to rescue her younger brother Ben from living with their mother and stepfather.  They are both alcohol abusers and determined to send Ben to a special place to get the gay prayed out of him with Jesus.  Eden married Izzy over a year ago, after he found her dumped off in a parking lot and pregnant.  Though she was only eighteen years old, Izzy married her to give her health insurance and somewhere to stay, determined to leave her alone sexually.  But after Eden miscarried, she ran to her father in Germany and refused to write or call Izzy.  Izzy is crazy in love with Eden and flew over to Germany several times to try to see her, but was always turned away.  Now she needs money, and stripping might provide the large amounts she needs to get Ben away and provide an apartment and safety for him, and to provide bribery money to their mother to get him released into her custody.

Ben hangs out in the mall after school to avoid the bullies that are everywhere, when one day he sees a young girl picking up leftover food on tables at McDonalds and eating the remains.  A tentative friendship starts between him and Neesha, and when he has an attack of low blood sugar, she helps him to his sister's apartment and he tells her where the key is if she ever needs to use it.  Ben's diabetes is hard to control. With the tension between his mom and stepfather and the both of them against him, he frequently ends up in the hospital.  Then one afternoon, men come to his house and he is tranquilized and taken to Crossroads, where he is sure to see the error of his ways and give up his gayness.

As you can tell, there is much going on here between Danny and Eden trying to get their mother and stepfather to sign over custody of Ben before he commits suicide.  Three men are after Neesha, and the other two couples and Ben become involved as they are sucked into the fight to find Neesha and protect her from her captors.  Danny must convince Jennilyn he really cares for her and doesn't just need her to present a united family front so they can obtain custody of Ben.  Izzy has tried for years to convince Eden of his love, and her rejection has him disbelieving anything she has to say and not trusting her.  Eden loves and feels safe with Izzy, but thinks he is just waiting for her to screw up so her can leave and blame it on her.

Suzanne Brockmann is giving up her Troubleshooters series temporarily, and BREAKING THE RULES is the final hoorah, so to speak.  Told from each person's point of view, the story is enough to have your heart pounding and head reeling at all the action.  They all have trouble knowing and recognizing love, let alone convincing others that they love them.  And child kidnapping is certainly alive and well here, where men with no morals, and even people who help them, ignore all knowledge of right and wrong and live for the money they can get.  Ms. Brockmann has lately concerned herself with the dynamics of dysfunctional families and the gay experience.  There is action here and danger behind every door as Ms. Brockmann tries to tie up all the knots of the Troubleshooters' group.

Apart from some short appearance by other Troubleshooters who have had their own books, all characters are primary, and not secondary.  Like an intricate puzzle, each character helps the others see deep into themselves and deal with the feelings they all try to hide, and accept that love makes them weak for their beloved.

BREAKING THE RULES may be book sixteen, but as with all Suzanne Brockmann's books, it can be read alone, and this one certainly has the conflict between friends and lovers.  Danny has to work hard to accept Izzy as a friend, and also, heaven forbid, his brother-in-law.  Izzy struggles to believe in Eden again.  Jennilyn worries that Danny is playing with her feelings, and Danny can't believe how essential Jenni is to him.  Perhaps in awhile Suzanne Brockmann will rejoin the Troubleshooters, but until then, BREAKING THE RULES will satisfy your heart and bring tears to your eyes.

Carolyn Crisher