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Beyond His Control, by Stephanie Tyler

(With major thanks to Beki, from TEAS’s BB—when I mentioned that I wanted to read it, she sent me her copy.)

Beyond His Control is one in a loosely connected series of books about members of a SEAL Team (previous books are Coming Undone and Risking It All). This one is a friends to first love and, eventually, friends to lovers story.

Back cover blurb:

She’s always been beyond his control…
Assistant District Attorney Ava Turkowski knows about leading a dangerous life—her father was a risk taker who died in the line of duty and her beloved brother is taking just as many chances. Now a high-profile case has landed Ava herself in the crosshairs—and the only man standing between her and certain death is the one she can’t forget.
Justin Brandt was Ava’s brother’s best friend, her protector during her wild-child teenage years… and the object of her hottest fantasies. Now he’s a highly trained Navy SEAL with a body to die for and he’s been tasked with keeping Ava alive. Which means keeping her close—the closer the better…

Ava’s brother, Leo, calls Justin out of the blue and asks him—not for the first time—to help him protect Ava. The difference is that, this time, it is a life and death situation. Leo is undercover and one of Ava’s cases is about to blow his cover up. Much against his wishes, yet with commendable alacrity, Justin drives to Ava’s house just in time to get her out of the way of a car full of hired thugs, and now both are on the run.

For her part, Ava has a secret. She is a successful, if young, ADA involved in one of the biggest cases of her career, and a member of an underground railroad for abused women whom the courts have let down. Ava got involved in this secret endeavor through Callie, one of the social workers with whom she’s worked on domestic abuse cases. On top of that, she’s been in love with Justin pretty much since she met him, back in high school, nine years ago.

While Justin and Ava dodge the bad guys, remember their mutual attraction and the event that split them apart, and learn to deal with each other as adults, Leo and Callie manage to escape and have their own adventures. Which, incidentally, were the parts I enjoyed the most.

Readers of romantic suspense may have noticed that there seems to be a flood of military heroes in the genre. During the last decade or so, SEALs have become some of the most favored heroes in romance. Their extreme training, the usually covert nature of their work, the danger, testosterone, and adrenaline they seem to carry around with them—these all have helped SEALs become a sort of shorthand for “Alpha male.”

It seemed to me that this was one book in which the hero’s profession was chosen mostly because of this factor, rather than as an intrinsic part of who this man is. Personally, I feel that most any other uniform/ branch of service would have worked better. Heck, a resourceful and determined accountant would have worked just as well for me.

There were too many instances of awkward phrasing, of trying too hard to remind the reader Justin is a SEAL. As an example, one of Justin’s teammates is asked to ‘secure’ Justin’s house. He “had gotten into Justin’s house easily enough without keys” and thinks to himself, “You’d think a SEAL would have better security.” Why? It’s not as if SEALs keep military secrets at home, really, and from what I hear, they don’t get the big buck for their service either.

A couple hours later, this same teammate is “mission accomplished” someplace else, having a conversation about Justin’s feelings with another teammate. My mind boggled here—without going on about just how unlikely is it for anyone to think of himself as being “mission accomplished,” I just don’t know many men who talk about their own feelings let alone other men’s.

But even beyond the unlikelihood of such a conversation, I didn’t get the point of that scene, or a couple others like it. Cutting away from the action to SEAL teammates—why? It interrupts the flow of the story, and provides no insight that couldn’t be provided (and was in fact provided, more than once) through one or more of the four main characters.

Then there is the over the top drama—one great issue on top of another one, with yet another one coming down on their heads like the proverbial piano. A forced marriage, murdered coworkers, the threat of career ending repercussions, agonizing over choices made while they were both teenagers not even old enough to vote… Everything seems too big, too important, just too melodramatic.

Another issue with this novel for me is the jumping around. Two characters are having a conversation, and suddenly one of them is remembering something that happened nine or ten or however many years ago—with full detail and meandering explanation. Then bam! back to the conversation. It’s not that this technique can’t work, it’s that it didn’t work here.

All in all, Leo and Callie’s secondary plot was by far more interesting to me than the main plot; better characterization and far less extraneous agonizing and soul searching.

The novel feels like too many stereotypes strung together without enough depth of characterization to make up for it.

Though I’m reluctant to give low grades because I’m aware that any review is simply one person’s opinion, I have to be honest about my impressions and feelings about the books I read. Any other reader may feel very differently than I do, but for me, this one is 5 out of 10.

{K: She’s being way too generous in my opinion, this was a total snoozefest for me, and I would have given it a 2. I don’t often read many Blaze books these days, but when I do, I expect the author to at least try not to delve into Planet Cliche.}


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