The Unsung Hero
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I’ve mentioned in several reviews that you can’t judge a book by its cover, and The Unsung Hero by Suzanne Brockmann is no exception. I was naturally drawn to this book when I saw it on the bookstore shelf, for reasons that will become obvious in a second. Upon closer inspection, I saw several glaring errors in the cover art, and I began to worry that the book would, well, suck. But I was most pleasantly surprised—this turned out to be one of the best romance novels I’ve ever read.

The “hero” of the title happens to be a Navy SEAL, and, therefore, the cover features a man in the Navy Dress White uniform. Since I’m a Navy Wife myself, you can see why I’d be drawn to this particular book. My husband is the expert on all things military, but even I could see that something was wrong with the cover art. The mistakes were so numerous that it’s actually easier to list them:
  1. The book’s hero, Tom Paoletti, is a Lieutenant in the Navy; however, the cover art depicts a cover (or hat) that should actually belong to an Admiral.
  2. There is a SEAL warfare pin, but no pin denoting parachute school (“jump wings”). You can’t become a SEAL without earning your jump wings.
  3. Tom is only around 35 years old. Yet, according, to one of the ribbons on his chest, the person on the cover served two tours in the Vietnam War.
  4. The cover model wears a ribbon earned by reservists after they’ve been in the Navy for more than ten years. Tom is active duty, not reserves.
Now, I know that authors rarely, if ever, have a say when it comes to the cover art for their novels, so I don’t blame Brockmann. Also, the models on romance covers aren’t necessarily supposed to be representations of the actual characters, but I tend to use them as guides for how to imagine the characters while reading the book. I do, therefore, take issue with the graphic artist. I took a QuarkExpress class in grad school; it’s not that hard to go to Getty Images and find the correct art.

Okay…now that I have that off my chest, I can begin this review in earnest. Tom Paolletti is a Lieutenant in the Navy SEALs who suffered a massive brain injury during a mission. As part of his convalescence, he returns to his hometown of Baldwin’s Bridge, Massachusetts, a quaint seaside town. While collecting his bags at Logan International Airport in Boston, he sees a man who’s a dead ringer for The Merchant, an infamous international terrorist. Tom doesn’t know, though, if it really is The Merchant or if his injured brain is making him see things that aren’t really there.

Kelly Ashton is Tom’s high school sweetheart and the daughter of his uncle’s best friend. She’s dealing with some problems of her own, least of all the fact that her father is dying of cancer. Tom is only supposed to be in town for a month, but, during that month, he reconnects with Kelly, learns that his uncle is actually a WWII war hero, and has to make the decision whether or not to go after The Merchant on his own, since he isn’t getting any support from his commanders.

Part of what makes this book so fantastic is how complicated it is—yet it never becomes confusing. There are several plots and subplots involving major characters and even secondary and tertiary characters; Brockmann manages to weave all of it into one cohesive and riveting story. She obviously knows her stuff when it comes to the military, and it was refreshing to see the Navy accurately depicted, from the military mindset to sailors’ sometimes-colorful language to the inner machinations of Special Operations teams.

All of the characters are wonderfully fleshed out, and they all interact in a way that’s surprising but never forced. The dialogue is realistic and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny. There are plenty of swear words, though, which isn’t surprising, considering that the main character is a sailor, after all. The love scenes are positively scorching but never pornographic, and they often contain such poignant and powerful emotions that I actually teared up a couple of times.

Finally, the book’s climax (no pun intended) is thrilling and touching at the same time. I think this book would make an excellent movie, provided that it fell into the right hands. Romantic military movies can be tricky to make—after all, we don’t want another Pearl Harbor.

So, to make a really long review short, The Unsung Hero is a superb romance novel. It’s so good, in fact, that I immediately began re-reading it after finishing it the first time—something I haven’t done since I first read the Harry Potter series. I would absolutely recommend it—not only to those who know people in the Navy but also to anyone who simply loves a good book.

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