Navy SEAL Ian Dunn went rogue in a big way when he turned his talents to a lawless life of jewel heists and con jobs. Or so the world has been led to believe. In reality, the former Special Ops warrior is still fighting for good, leading a small band of freelance covert operatives who take care of high-stakes business in highly unofficial ways. That makes Ian the hands-down choice when the U.S. government must breach a heavily guarded embassy and rescue a pair of children kidnapped by their own father, a sinister foreign national willing to turn his own kids into casualties. Shockingly, Ian passes on the mission… for reasons he will not–or cannot–reveal.
But saying no is not an option. Especially not to Phoebe Kruger, Ian’s bespectacled, beautiful, and unexpectedly brash new attorney. Determined to see the abducted children set free, she not only gets Ian on board but insists on riding shotgun on his Mission: Impossible-style operation, whether he likes it or not.
Though Phoebe has a valuable knack for getting out of tight spots, there’s no denying the intensely intimate feelings growing between Ian and Phoebe as the team gears up for combat. But these are feelings they both must fight to control as they face an array of cold-blooded adversaries, including a vindictive mob boss who’s got Ian at the top of his hit list and a wealthy psychopath who loves murder as much as money. As they dodge death squads and play lethal games of deception, Ian and Phoebe will do whatever it takes to save the innocent and vanquish the guilty.
Or die trying.
Ian Dunn is a former Navy SEAL now serving time in prison. One day, two lawyers show up at the prison–Martell Griffin and Phoebe Kruger. Phoebe has been newly hired by the law firm that represents Ian and was unexpectedly given the job of coming to the meeting when her boss is incapacitated by a serious accident. She cannot understand why he would immediately reject the incredible deal Griffin offers–the US government will get Ian out of jail if he agrees to help rescue some kidnapped children believed to be held at the Kazbekistani Embassy. Despite Ian’s objections, he is released from jail and the plot begins.
There is a LOT going on in this book! First, there is a mystery around Dunn’s past. What exactly was his “job,” and why was he really in prison? Then, for reasons not immediately apparent, Ian’s release from prison puts his brother and his brother’s family in jeopardy, so the first task when Ian gets out is to rescue them, which ends up getting Phoebe irrevocably involved. Finally, Ian, Phoebe, Martell Griffin, Ian’s rescued family, and a couple of FBI agents all have to devise a mission to save the kids with little-to-no backing from the US government and at the risk of creating a major international incident. Oh, and did I mention that the mob is also after them? Whew!
Ian and Phoebe are a great couple. Their relationship does move a bit fast, but no more so than most other romantic suspense stories. Ian is a pretty textbook alpha male hero. While his motivations are always selfless, he is used to controlling everyone and everything around him, which he starts to realize has hurt his relationships with those he loves, especially his brother Aaron. Of course, Ian thinks he can easily manipulate Phoebe, too, but she turns out to be smarter and stronger than he anticipates. While there are a few moments near the beginning of the book where Phoebe does things that put her in danger, those come across as genuine moments of inexperience rather than outright stupidity. In fact, Phoebe is exceptionally perceptive and clever. She doesn’t imagine herself to be invincible, but she also isn’t afraid to participate in some dangerous and tricky situations. The two of them felt like a real team by the end. I loved seeing the way she understood Ian in a way no one else did, and her candor and intelligence got beneath Ian’s defenses. We all know how hard those alpha males fall when they meet their match, right?
There are so many things I like about this book. The complex cons and interpersonal relationships remind me a little of that TV show Leverage (anybody see that one?), where a team works together to run elaborate, dangerous missions for good reasons. The cast of characters in Do or Die is fairly large, but they’re not window dressing. I feel like you really get to know and like most of them. The book does switch around between a few different characters’ perspectives, not just Ian and Phoebe. If that kind of thing bothers you, you might want to steer clear, but I felt like it was well done and allowed the reader to keep track of the many sub-plots. My favorite sub-story was definitely between Aaron and his spouse. They have an incredibly touching, sweet love story that’s slowly revealed through flashbacks and current interactions. It was a really moving, graceful portrayal of an established couple facing some challenges.
I thought Brockmann mostly held all the story threads together, no small feat given how much was going on in this book, but perhaps it was inevitable that there would be some things that never quite made sense. For instance, if Ian’s case was so sensitive, it’s not clear exactly how Phoebe could end up with it, despite the turmoil at the law firm. Plus, I wasn’t convinced she could simply return to her former life. Would her employer be understanding? Would she be safe? The fact that the US government has FBI agents working with Ian also seemed weird, since they are so adamant that the US not be implicated in the mission. I also didn’t quite understand how things are resolved so easily at the end with the mob, especially since the danger had been there for so long.
Still these are minor complaints that only arose when I looked for them. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and as this is the first book in a series (Reluctant Heroes), I’ll definitely be anxiously awaiting the next story!
Grade: 4.25 out of 5