Given the breadth of Brockmann's oeuvre, I suspect one could write an entire book attempting to answer these questions. This post attempts to give an abbreviated answer by looking at the main male character in Brockmann's latest novel, Do or Die, the first book in her new Reluctant Heroes series.
As in many of Brockmann's Ballentine-published books, Do or Die features multiple romantic storylines: the developing one, between former Navy SEAL and currently-jailed bad boy Ian Dunn and his would-be lawyer, Phoebe Kruger; the already-established one, between Ian's younger brother, Aaron and his high-school sweetheart, Shelly (Sheldon) Dellarosa; and a third, unresolved one, between Shelly's half-sister, Francine, and several potential love interests. Ian, though, is the hero of this particular volume, not only because he's the leader of the group who must rescue two kidnapped children from a foreign embassy while avoiding the wrath of Shelly's murderous gangster Dellarosa family, but because he is the one who experiences character growth over the course of the novel.
Ian, much older than Aaron, served as his brother's parent during much of their childhood, taking on the responsibilities that should have been shouldered by a mother who abandoned them and a father who drank far too much. His desire to protect, as well as his supersized body, military heroism, and leadership skills, marks him as a typical romance alpha male. Interestingly, though, up until now, his protective instincts have focused largely on his gay younger brother rather than on the more typical genre romance figure of a woman. When the novel opens, in fact, Ian is fulfilling a deal he made with Manny Dellarosa to keep the gangster from killing Aaron and Shelly, a deal which had Ian spending the last eighteen months in jail after taking the rap for a crime Manny's son actually committed. A deal about which Ian has not told Aaron, leaving Aaron upset and worried, wondering what has happened to his missing brother.
But in several other instances later in the novel, when Ian instructs Phoebe to remain behind while he trots off into danger, Phoebe initially agrees, but then disregards Ian's instructions when the situation changes and she must warn Ian about a new threat. Though Phoebe's disregarding of Ian's orders complicates each situation, the novel makes it clear that her decisions are the correct ones, saving both Ian and their larger mission. Blindly obeying orders, even those of the alpha male leader of your team, is not always wise, especially when conditions on the ground are rapidly changing. Over the course of the novel, Ian will learn that he cannot always control all situations, and that he must learn to trust the skills, knowledge, and instincts of those around him, especially those about whom he feels the most protective—his female lover and his gay younger brother. Neither women nor homosexuals need the protective alpha to infantilize them by condescendingly protecting them.
There's lots of other gender-related questions that the novel asks us to consider, or that we could ask after reading it: Is a romance between gay men the same as one between heterosexuals? To what degree are women and gay men equated as "other"? Is it morally right for a woman to use sex to forward a mission? Is it for a man? (My favorite line: "I was lying here thinking I'm guilty of being sexist... That it's somehow okay when James Bond does it—sleeps with someone in order to learn the secret code, but then I realized that I kind of hate James Bond. Probably because he sleeps with people to learn the secret code"). When does the "we're all alike once you get to know us" type of diversity celebration shade over into homogenization and appropriation? Is there room in the Brockmann world for masculinity (or femininity) that isn't always competent?
If only I had the time to go back to school and earn another Ph.D., this one in Suzanne Brockmann studies...
Firefighter saving woman: Women's Happiness
Do or Die