Book Review

Prince Joe by Suzanne Brockmann


Title: Prince Joe
Author: Suzanne Brockmann
Publication Info: Silhouette 2007
ISBN: 155166948X
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book CoverPrince Joe is among the most beloved old categories. It’s a vintage Suzanne Brockmann, featuring her hallmark SEALs fighting terrorists while meeting up with fine noble women. When I mocked a bit of the novel on Twitter, the small taste of outrage that I would snark on Prince Joe leads me to believe that this review will not be too popular. Honestly, Prince Joe didn’t do it for me.

Hark! A plot summary: Joe Catalanotto is a Navy SEAL who happens to look just like a selfish, boorish buttnoid of a prince of some small mythical country named -stan, and when Prince Borrish Buttnoid finds himself the target of an assassination attempt, Joe steps in to pose as the prince, draw out the terrorist, and kick their grody asses. Media consultant Veronica St. John, who is cultured, classy, and sister-in-law to Prince B. Buttnoid, is on hand to instruct Joe on how to act, walk, talk, and pose entirely as the prince so as to fool everyone from the media to the ambassadors he sees every day. The two of them have instant attraction, but they try like people who know they must remain professional to resist the draw they feel towards one another.

While I liked Joe, some of the plot and much of the heroine left me disappointed. First: the terrorist organization is called “Cloud of Death.” CLOUD OF DEATH. I read that to Hubby and we giggled like 12 year old boys. Extremely flatulent terrorists only! And, as I said on Twitter, if anyone walks up to the hero and says “Pull my finger,” I’ll know who the villain is! They’ll fart in his general direction.

Cloud of Death. HA! Seriously. I’m amazed that Joe isn’t a member of the Basic Entry-level Armed Naval Organization (B.E.A.N.O.).

WARNING: The rest of my review details what I didn’t like about the book but discusses a plot point towards the end that could be construed as a spoiler. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK, K? K.

Air biscuit terrorists notwithstanding, what pushed the book into high-C territory for me is the idea that Joe would realize he cares for Veronica, and on the basis of a few days’ involvement and a short-term mission, he’s going to bust out with the geologic expression of his love, then get all asshurt when she says, “Wait, what now?” He may be able to assess a situation in seconds and plan his tactical maneuvers accordingly but he might as well have used a tank to give a Yugo a parking ticket for the finesse and forethought he showed in jumping the gun with Veronica. It was too much, too soon, and too out of step with his character. Veronica recognizes the danger of his job; how does Joe not consider her side of the situation – or the danger to himself of being possibly distracted and changing everything about his off-duty routine? I get that he must live in the extreme present because his job demands his total focus on whatever is happening right now, but tactical planning is part of his auto-pilot and how does he not do even a bit of that?

The other main conflict between them, though, was based on misunderstanding and presumption. Joe presumed that Veronica was “slumming” with a lower class guy, when the thought never entered her mind – and none of her actions backed up his presumption either. Most of his misassesment was in his head. Veronica, however, correctly assessed that his job was dangerous, that he’d disappear into classified assignments on active duty with an hour’s notice and might not come back – and that fear made her want to squish her feelings down so they wouldn’t be so large that she couldn’t ignore them. (Yeah, because that always works).

The primary plot that forces Joe into the role of Prince Tedric is orchestrated by a villain who isn’t chilling because he talks a lot and spends time grandstanding and pontificating. It was like watching Heinz Doofenschmirtz tell Perry the Platypus all about his plans to over take the tri state area. Diosdado would swing from heartless slaughter to show off his cruelty to self-important sermonizing about what an almighty terrorist badass he is. It wasn’t quite enough to make him fearsome; it made him seem weak and beatable.

But in between the giant jumps in relationship status and the weird villain, the attraction and growth of the relationship between Veronica and Joe was contained mostly in dialogue, and even when he didn’t interpret what she said correctly (and repeatedly), it was a crackling good time to listen to them speak to one another. Veronica is unfamiliar with the entire concept of the Navy SEALs, so the answers to her questions reveal the skill level and the training required to attain that status, as well as the dedication and truly physical and mental elite condition of the men who become SEALs.

The story finds its foundation in a romance standard I never tire of reading. In historicals it could be the difference between a gentleman and a nobleman, but in contemporaries like this one, it’s a little different. The comments on the difference between Joe and Tedric, who look alike but are so different in character, position them in a comparison of nobility as well. Tedric, who is noble by birth and elite due to his status as a member of a royal family, is reduced a thousand times in attractiveness and heroism by Joe, who is of lower status by birth, but increasingly noble through achievement and character, and who is elite due to his talent, training, and mental, physical and intellectual strength. Joe’s heroism is built through small moments and bits of revealed information, and while his elite status rests on the fact that he’s a SEAL, Brockmann doesn’t allow that to be a shortcut in his character development. She shows him working out, responding to calls for duty, and interacting with his team, and each scene combines to make the whole of Joe’s character fascinating.

I can see why so many readers hold his book in high regard: it’s very much about the hero, and it’s a good example of Brockmann’s ability to craft a character in dialogue, in small scenes, and in tiny details. I wish that Veronica had been more distinct, or that the continuation of tension between them had been based on more than “We just got to scrumpin’, and now I want to make your my permanent scrump-buddy.” “OMGWUT?” Joe is a great hero, and the manner in which he’s constructed is totally swoon-worthy. I wish the rest of the book had been as swoony, too.

Prince Joe is available from, eHarlequin, Book Depository and Powell’s.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Juju says:

    Sorry you felt that way. I have to disagree.

    First, I’m not bothered by “cloud of death,” because “Shining Path”
    isn’t exactly the the most intimidating name either, and it’s real. I figured it was supposed to sound like a translation and made more sense in the original language. I also didn’t worry so much about the villains of the piece. Frankly, I don’t read romantic suspense for the villains, and usually skip them altogether. I only want them there to raise the stakes between the hero and heroine, which they did effectively here.

    I thought, like you, that Joe was a terrific hero, and Veronica was good enough for him but not someone I’d read a book for on her own. One thing I loved about Joe was the SHOWING. Instead of hearing over and over (as we do in her later SEAL books) how SEAL X is the cleverest, fittest, whatever-est man alive, here, Joe actually does things. I loved the scene where he climbed the hotel, and the scene where somebody enters in Tedric’s gear and they can’t figure out if it’s Joe or Tedric.

    My only quibble is the ending, which is predictably the same ending as most Brockmanns: “I can’t live with knowing you’re in danger. Wait, never mind! Yes, I can!”

    Aklthough it’s not perfect, this book is on my keeper shelf. I give it at least a B or B+.

  2. 2
    Sheila says:

    Well I’m super glad it wasn’t just me who didn’t like this book.  It was the first book I read by Brockmann and the last because I simply didn’t like it.

    Part of it was the plot device of ‘taking the place of the prince’ which seemed somewhat contrived to me.

    And part of it, as you said, was the heroine who just didn’t feel as real to me.

    Maybe I’ll work up the gumption to try another book by this author but since my reading time isn’t extensive it will be a while.

  3. 3
    Christine says:

    I haven’t read the book.  I doubt I’ll read the book.  But can I just say that I laughed out loud at the Perry the Platypus reference?  I’m 39 years old.  But I love Phineas & Ferb.

  4. 4

    I loved Prince Joe and it sits on my keeper shelf, together with most of the rest of Brockmann’s books.
    Brockmann excels at writing men and even at this early stage in her career, she makes Joe real. He’s not the brightest spark, that is, not in personal relations, and he just doesn’t see Ronnie properly for what she is. He needs her to tell him and show him. He’s a leader, he’s spent all his time around men and fighting and army stuff, and the world of balls, diplomacy and correct behaviour just isn’t his style. It puts him on edge. And then a classy girl takes a fancy to him. Without hammering it into us, Brockmann shows, by using Joe’s backstory, why he feels inadequate.
    Brockmann doesn’t write ciphers, not usually, though there are a few along the way, she writes real men. She can make dim men adorable, and geeks sexy, not by bursting them out of their mould, but by going inside their characters and making them real. They make mistakes – a lot of them – but they try to make up for it.
    The heroines are usually a match for the heroes, but they don’t shine as much as her men do, they aren’t as memorable. I read a lot, and I haven’t read Prince Joe for a few years now, but I can still bring their characters to mind pretty much effortlessly.

  5. 5
    Nadia says:

    But can I just say that I laughed out loud at the Perry the Platypus reference?

    Perr-rry!  One of the few shows my girls watch that I will sit down with him.  Excellent reference.

    It’s been too long since I read Prince Joe give it my own grade.  It was not my first Brockmann.  I picked up Flashpoint at the library off the new books rack, and after that I had to go back and start at her beginning.  I prefer romantic suspense as a genre in general, so over-the-top villains have to go pretty far to ping on my radar.  I agree, Brockmann does action heroes right (extension mullets and all), and that’s ultimately what I remember from this book.

  6. 6
    Carin says:

    I think I liked it better than SBSarah, but it’s not on my top ten of all time or anything.

    I remember being amazed that Veronica had NO idea what a SEAL was, but maybe if this was the very first Navy SEAL hero?

    Really the most memorable thing for me what the crazy-dancing my stress out in my leotard sexy flashdance scene.

  7. 7
    Jenica says:

    Sarah’s absolutely right – I had purchased and read this book and set it aside as a “blah” read, not intending to look for anything else in the series.  I accidentally got back into the series with the Admiral’s Bride and ended up reading all of them :-)

  8. 8
    Tina says:

    I remember being amazed that Veronica had NO idea what a SEAL was, but maybe if this was the very first Navy SEAL hero?

    I think she was raised primarily outside of the US…in boarding schools and whatever.  I am unfamiliar with pretty much every other countries military ranks.

    I have to say that I am disappointed in your grade.  The terrorists seemed pretty menacing and evil when I first read the book considering that I first read it pre-9/11.  And in face, they seem pretty menacing still. 

    The funny thing about your review is that you mention how out of character it would be for Joe to propose so quickly(after roughly 3 weeks of knowing someone).  Brockmann herself has said that she sets up her novels with the idea of how to best torture her heros and with her SEALs novels it was how to force the hero to act against his SEAL training(being a target,  instead of aggressor).  Seeing as the entire plot of the book goes against every instinct that Joe has does lend credance to the idea that he is completely thrown off his game.  This idea worked for me…apparently it didn’t for you

  9. 9
    raj says:

    Juju, it’s worth noting that the Shining Path started out as a political party, not a terrorist organization, and the moniker came from something said by the founder of Peruvian communism (I believe the phrase was “the shining path to revolution” and was in reference to communism).  So no, it doesn’t sound particularly threatening, but I don’t think it was ever supposed to.  Generally, when you throw the word “death” into a group’s name, you’re intending to be threatening.

  10. 10
    azteclady says:

    I agree with a lot of what you say, SBSarah—both quibbles and strengths. As I’ve said before, the fact that this was my first Brockmann colors my perceptions, I like it more than you do :grin: but yes, a lot of the suspense plot was contrived.

    Issek, on the other hand, agrees with you completely about the way the main characters misunderstand each other.

  11. 11
    SheaLuna says:

    @Lynne Connolly… I agree 100%. 

    It’s been way too many years since I read Prince Joe or any of Brockman’s other novels to give this a grade of my own, but I did love the story.  Not because the bad guys were scary or the heroine was fantastic, but because Joe was so amazingly REAL and, dare I say, SCRUMMY (Ok, so he could have skipped the hair extensions.).

    Male characters like Joe were the reason I kept reading Brockman (More like gobbling, but I digress.).  In fact, my all time favorite male character of hers was a seriously adorable comic strip writing geek (Can’t remember his name… Adam maybe?) who dated Tom Paeoletti’s niece. 

    Of course the plot devices were way OTT.  Of course the villains were usually a bit smarmy.  Of course the heroine wasn’t always completely believable.  But the hero?  Be still my beating heart.  And that’s why I loved ‘em.

  12. 12
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    Is it just me, or does this soud like the plot of Prisoner of Zenda?

  13. 13
    Randi says:

    Generally, I agree with SB Sarah. Prince Joe is a DNF for me and I’m glad I started reading her with the Trouble Shooter series, because if I had started with Prince Joe, I never would have picked up another book of hers. With that said, I see the Prince Joe series (is it Seal Team 16 or something like that?) as the precursor to the Trouble Shooter series. While I can’t seem to finish Prince Joe (and am afriad of starting any of the others in that series, even though I own them), I’m still glad she wrote them, as it eventually led to Trouble Shooters.

  14. 14
    Kristina says:

    I must concur, I read this book many many moons ago with the original cringe-worthy cover.  BUT I do remember loving Joe but slogging through the rest of it.  At that time I was a Brockman fan because of the book Navy Baby (?) and her general focus on military men which I loved (back then, now I know military life isn’t all hunky men and happiness).

    Good review, I totally agree.

  15. 15
    Robin L says:

    @Randi Price Jo is SEAL Team 10, Troubleshooters are team 16. 
    I am unable to make a non-biased assesment of Prince Joe because I am on a Navy kick.  Last year one of my roomies got me hooked on NCIS.  Now to add to that obsession I adore the Troubleshhoters and SEAL Team 10, along with JAG (and I suggest all of these to anyone who will listen).

    The reason I loved Prince Joe is because Joe seems like a real man; he even smells like fish when he meets Ronnie the first time.  I also love how Brockmann uses dialogue to tell the story.

  16. 16
    Mary Stella says:

    Count me among the Prince Joe fans.  I read the book when it first came out, put it right on my keeper shelf and have read it several times over the years.

  17. 17
    Bianca says:

    Great review.  Like Randi upthread, this book was a DNF for me.  Haven’t touched another Brockman since, because I found the plot, the villain and, occasionally, the writing to be kind of ridiculous and goofy.  I do agree with the high points that you talk about—the character development of the hero through little details and dialogue.  But, that wasn’t enough to sustain my interest in the book.

    spamword: “outside77”.  I know my opinion places me on the outside minority of this debate.  ;)  Also, not trying to offend anyone, this is just my opinion.

  18. 18
    JamiSings says:

    Cloud Of Death to me still sounds like bad guys who eat onions and then breath on you.

    As for jumping the gun – I think that part I could take because my parents were married five weeks after their first date. (And it was a blind date at that.) Mom was actually dad’s first girlfriend. She was recently out of a really bad and abusive marriage and left to raise three boys alone. Dad decided right away she was who he wanted to be with. He had to propose to her seven times before she said yes though.

    They’ve been married 38 years.

    And my grandpa Pavlick, he decided to marry my grandma the instant he laid eyes on her. She was on the porch painting a chair and he said, “I’m going to marry you.” She said, “Oh no you’re not!” And he said, “Oh yes I am!” Her reply was “Well, you better ask my father then.” Since great-grandpa was at work my future maternal grandfather marched down to great-grandpa’s workplace and waited – until 1 AM – to ask permission to marry my future grandma.

  19. 19
    MB says:

    It’s certainly not one of the best of her books, but you almost need to skim it because it is the first in the series and sets up the characters for the rest of the series.  (They do get better, btw.)

  20. 20
    Mera says:

    @SheaLuna:  I also love that geek hero from one of her books :o)

  21. 21
    Tae says:

    David is the one who marries Malorie, Paoletti’s niece.  I remember asking Suz, when I met her, if we’d ever find out what happened to them – so I guess she wrote the wedding bit into the books later on.

    My first Brockmann was Taylor’s Temptation.  i still go back to to it and read bits of it, but I find that I don’t really re-read the Team 10 books, but I’d re-read almost any of the Team 16 books again and again.  My favorite is Ken “Wildcard” Karmody.  i also find the earlier Team 16 books better than the Troubleshooters books.  There seemed to be more focus on the couple and the romance in the first 7 or 8 books.

    There have been a few storylines and conflicts that had me going “oh come on!” like Joan and Mike.  Seriously, she was having a kaniption (sp?) fit because of their age difference, and it only turned out to be 6 YEARS?  Really 32 and 26 is SUCH a huge difference.  26? he’s such a baby!  Anyways, LOVE Brockmann, will read everything she’s likely to put out.

  22. 22
    Diane/Anonym2857 says:

    I haven’t read that book since it first came out, so I’m going on extremely vague memories here, but I don’t disagree with you, Sarah. 

    I have Brockmann’s entire backlist up to a few years ago … I stood in line and had them all signed, even…  but I must say Prince Joe was never my favorite.  It was well-written, and I she definitely has a way with dialogue, but it just didn’t do it for me.  I could see why others might enjoy it, and even know several rabid fangirls, but never could see why people loved it ever SOOOOO much. I figured it was just a personal taste thang, and I was most likely just underwhelmed with SEALS and para/military plots in general.  And I never would have thought it would spawn an entire shelf full of connecting stories and whole batallions of special ops books.  To each her own, I guess. ~shrug~

    I do love Howard’s Mackenzie SEAL (Zane), but as a rule I can take or leave ‘em as a plot device.  That’s just me, tho.

    Diane :o)

  23. 23
    Kristina says:

    Re: SEALS as a plot device.  I would be interested in a SB review of Sandra Hills time traveling Vikings / SEAL heros and the two merging in her books.  I personally have loved them.  There was maybe one or two I didn’t like but I love her sense of humor and usually the guys are yummy and too die for.  IMHO.

  24. 24
    Tina S says:

    I do like Prince Joe but it’s not my favorite. Heroes make the book for me, and I love Joe, so as a result I like the book. But I can definitely see why some people wouldn’t like it.

  25. 25

    Ohmigod, SB Sarah’s totally going to Romance hell, where the shelves are lined with nothing but Danielle Steel and bad sex scenes are piped in 24/7 read by a helium-sucking Rush Limbaugh.

    Joe Cat owns my keeper shelf. The rest of them are there, too, because I’ve always preferred the TDD guys to the Troubleshooters, but Joe Cat’s a signed copy and I heave a moony sigh whenever I see it.

  26. 26
    JamiSings says:

    @Tae -

    Seriously, she was having a kaniption (sp?) fit because of their age difference, and it only turned out to be 6 YEARS?  Really 32 and 26 is SUCH a huge difference.  26? he’s such a baby!  Anyways, LOVE Brockmann, will read everything she’s likely to put out.

    ONE year difference between a man and a woman can be bad. Most women mature faster mentally then guys. That’s why I prefer older men. I just do NOT get along with men younger then me or my own age because they can be such whiny little babies that I want to smack them.

  27. 27
    azteclady says:

    Shannon Stacey sayez

    Ohmigod, SB Sarah’s totally going to Romance hell, where the shelves are lined with nothing but Danielle Steel and bad sex scenes are piped in 24/7 read by a helium-sucking Rush Limbaugh.

    Eeeeevil… truly evil!

  28. 28
    Suze says:

    Frisco’s Kid was my first Brockmann, and I loved it enough to track down Prince Joe and Forever Blue.  Gotta say, I think Brockmann really hit her stride with Frisco.  The first two books were okay, but not memorable.

    Solid review, imho.

  29. 29
    dele! says:

    By the end of the first paragraph of this, all I could think was “I liked it better when it was called Prisoner of Zenda”, ngl.

  30. 30

    Sounds like an old Jude Deveraux novel, The Princess which is set in WWII. Only she’s the one who’s switched and forced to play…herself. Yeah, there are all kinds of plotholes and she refers to the Pentagon which wasn’t built until after the war, but it’s still a fave. I liked Prince Joe okay, but I never got juiced on Brockmann and the SEALS. My fave by her is actually Letters to Kelly. Hero is definitely beta, but then I like betas.

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