Infamous by Suzanne Brockmann
© 2010, Ballantine Books
Stand alone contemporary romantic suspense
When history professor Alison Carter became a consultant to the film version of the Wild West legend she’d dedicated her career to researching, she couldn’t possibly know that she would not only get a front row seat to a full-blown Hollywood circus, but that she would innocently witness something that would put her life in danger. Nor did she expect that a tall stranger in a cowboy hat would turn the movie — and her world — completely upside down…
A.J. Gallagher didn’t crash the set in dusty Arizona to rub elbows with Hollywood’s elite. Unable to ignore ghosts from the past that refuse to stay buried, A.J. came to put an end to the false legend that has tarnished the reputation of his family. But when he confronts Alison, sparks fly. And when she becomes targeted by ruthless criminals, suddenly she and A.J. must face the intense attraction that threatens to consume them, in order to survive the danger that threatens their very lives.
Why this book? I’m a long time reader of Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series and her early category novels. I’ve become a bit jaded by her series books for a variety of reasons, but thought I’d check this one out since it’s different. [Except there are even SeALs in this book peripherally.]
There was relatively little buzz about this book on the internet, and I haven’t seen many reviews at all. The reviews at Amazon are generally negative for a variety of reasons.
Potential spoiler: one of the main characters, not the hero, but a significant character, is a ghost. I had serious reservations about this gimmick: a ghost visible only to one the hero, a ghost with his own first person POV in the book. The ghost thing probably seems obvious, since “ghosts of the past” are mentioned in the back blurb, but that’s pretty generic romance blurb language so it could be taken as metaphor.
Alison Carter is a history professor whose specialty is the American west; she’s written the definitive history of Silas Quinn, U.S. marshal and hero, and is consultant on the film about him. In her book, Quinn is nearly god-like, and kills Kid Gallagher, bank robbing kidnapper. A.J. is an Army veteran who hit rock bottom, ending up addicted and homeless, before struggling back to equilibrium of sort. He’s living quietly in Heaven, Alaska, and dealing with the sudden appearance of his great grandfather in ghost form. No one else can see him, which is problematic for A.J., who was discharged due to mental issues. The two meet when A.J. shows up on the movie set and attempts to set the record straight about who was the hero and who was the villain back at the turn of the century in Jubilation, Arizona. A.J. has more or less been driven there by the ghost of his great grandfather. What follows is their immediate attraction, followed by a getting-to-know you period that includes A.J. attempting to convince Alison about the real history of Quinn and Kid (who prefers to be called Jamie, thank you). Mixed in is a suspense thread that involves a threat to an actor, a dead body in a burned car, and FBI agents undercover in craft services.
What did I think of the book? It had so many good elements, but somehow they failed to coalesce into a great read. Brockmann’s voice is distinctive and remains so here. She has a wonderful turn of phrase and writes great dialogue. But. There was a great deal of telling rather than showing. The characters were flat. It’s explained that Alison’s mother was an alcoholic and her home life was dysfunctional, but otherwise she’s kind of vague on the page but for her reluctance to trust and her attraction to the hero. A.J. fares slightly better, in part because readers get the POVof his ghostly grandfather, who shares a lot of information about him. I do appreciate that Brockmann took a risk with him, because often in romance the big issues for the heroes are not as permanent or damaging as PTSD or addiction. Ultimately, I found Jamie, the ghost narrator, to be the most interesting of the characters. I wasn’t thrilled with the gimmick, but readers have the opportunity to get to know him best between his narration, his interaction with his great-grandson, and the information revealed through the diary snippets and storytelling by A.J.
The paranormal aspect of the ghost character felt poorly planned. What were the rules of Jamie’s appearance to A.J.? He didn’t know, no one knew. No one else could see him or knew he was there until suddenly he could make his presence felt to others…and then suddenly Alison can see him.
The suspense felt disconnected from the conflict between A.J. and Alison, and a bit tacked on. I found the personal conflict and the details about filming a movie to be much more engaging than the mystery thread. As the suspense ramped up toward the end of the book, I felt less and less interested and it took several days to get through the last hundred pages or so. The Scooby Doo recitation of who, what, why, where, when, at the end of the book was disappointing; why not integrate all that information into the plot better rather than telling it?
Would I recommend this book to others? Generally, I think if readers like Brockmann’s style and voice, they’ll probably enjoy this book. However, the Amazon reviews seem to indicate otherwise. For me, the book was fine; not great, and likely not a reread, but it was an okay read on the train ride home over a week or so. C+
Anything else? I enjoyed the diary entries written by Jamie’s wife, Melody.
Keep or pass on? Probably pass on eventually.