Top critical review
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The book that defines Melton's style.
on 7 November 2007
If you want to decide if Ms. Melton's books are for you, this is the one to start with. From my (limited) research, this is the book that got the reviews, and cemented her reputation for this sort of thing.
Before we begin: A caveat. Ms. Melton's male characters are SEALS. This is a big deal. While you wait for your books in the post, read up on what the US Navy SEALS do, and how they do it. Read up about what a platoon is, and who does what. The books are peppered with terms like BUD/S, XO, PO1, PO2, Coronado, HALO jumps and the like. I for one appreciate the fact that these terms aren't spelt out, because it assumes that you know, and the tone of the book is very authortative as a result of that. If you don't do the background reading, it doesn't detract from your enjoyment of the books, but the background reading makes you understand the mindset of the men that much better.
Synopsis: Gabe Renault is a SEAL: one of the few, the brave, the proud. He's disappeared, and after a year, the Navy thinks he's dead. In the year that he's been presumed dead, Helen Renault, his (estranged) wife has moved on with her life. She's independent now, living for herself and her daughter. Only to find that Gabe isn't dead, and the world that she's built for herself and her daughter is rocked to the core.
In addition, it seems that Gabe has amensia, and doesn't remember about their past, and is thrown off by his wife's turns of cool reserve and heated resentment. In addition to that, it seems that if he gets his memories back, his family will be in danger as well.
To her credit, Ms Meliss actually makes the problem sound plausible, and there is no quick fix to Renault's pyschological and domestic problems either. As he muddles through his past, he tries to atone for his actions, and tries to reach out to his family. At times, you do feel bad for Gabe, but then you can't really blame Helen, because she's been burnt before. His relationship with his teenage stepdaughter is treated relatively well. Not too pat, and with a prickle on both sides as they try to come to an understanding.
The tension in the book is not only between the two main protagonists, but in Gabe and his relationship with his superiors. There's the tintilling suspcision of the whodunit, and the reader wonders if Gabe will remember his enemies in due time. And if he does, will he be too weak to fight them off, because his fitness isn't what it used to be? Will his platoon believe him or dissmiss his suspicions as PSTD? Wowzers.
The secondary characters are pretty cool, too. If you're a new reader to Ms. Melton, you know that the secondary characters are just as important to her as the characters in the forefront (because they get their own stories eventually). We met Vinny DeInnocentis (yay, my crush on this guy is embarassing), Luther Lindstrom and Chase Westy to name a few, and you're gladdened to see the genuine affection between Gabe and his fellow SEALS.
The main grouse with this book is the author's writing style and its tendency to be a tad uneven. When writing action sequences, Melton's pretty good. The prose flows, and can be exciting. Where she fails is her attempt at wordsmithing, where she tries to narrate highs of emotion for the reader's consumption.
The prose attempts to be purple, but ends up embarrassingly hackneyed at times. To wit, "Labor Day gave Echo Platoon an excuse to celebrate their victory over corruption." Ha, ha, what? Or, Helen's eyes being compared to "amber pools". Bleurrgh. Or when Helen compares the pop of a bubble to her affection towards the hubby.
Thankfully, this sort of writing doesn't overtake the novel, but it comes up at enough corners to be annoying and can mar the enjoyment of a chapter. Melton seems to be getting better at it in her later books, so here's to a four star review in 2008.
Overall, a good read. I enjoyed it.