Review: Warrior’s Cross

Reviewed by Jen

I am such a fan of Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux. They write m/m loving like nobody’s business. This book’s got heart; it’s got action; it’s got sex; and it’s got a mysterious tortured hero in menacing package. (*purrs*)

For months now, Julian has been coming to the restaurant where Cameron is a waiter. Every Tuesday he is there, but beyond a few words, he has never spoken to him. Until now. Julian asks Cam to take a walk with him one night. And all of a sudden, Cam no longer has to admire him from afar. They fall into bed, kicking off a  tumultuous relationship. Julian is a killer, though the particulars of it are unclear… and he wants to shield Cam from that part of his life. That means secrets, and occasionally, lies.

The book was very, very strong in the first half, as the two men fall in love. But it stuttered a little in the second half. Cameron is painted as needy and insecure, when he asks questions and has doubts that are completely reasonable. While I love Julian and all his sexy angst, he really puts Cam through the wringer. And it made me angry on Cam’s behalf. (Plus, we needed a least one of those smokin-hot love scenes in the latter part of the book!)

It’s not an easy road. I didn’t get the answers to all of my questions. (Especially in the particulars surrounding Julian’s job and who Blake really is.) There’s also a time-jump at the end that I didn’t love. But it was a good book. Not quite on par with the Ty & Zane, but I am excited for all the characters to come together in the next Cut & Run book. 4 stars.

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Warrior’s Cross
by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux
Release Date: August 31, 2009
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Review: Divide and Conquer

Reviewed by Jen

OK, people. I am utterly, totally, hopelessly in love with Ty Grady and Zane Garrett. This book took the relationship between these two to an entirely new level. And it knocked my socks off.

The mystery de jour surrounds a group of domestic terrorists wreaking havoc on Baltimore. They’re calling in threats or setting up bombs in one place to divert the authorities, while they rob banks somewhere else. But this isn’t the part of the book that fans will care about. What everyone is waiting to see is how things will play out now that Ty has told Zane that he loves him.

The book is about Zane’s journey to accepting and understanding his love for Ty. And in the meantime, Ty must balance his own feelings as he puts himself more and more out there, while Zane hasn’t been able to do the same. It’s gratifying to watch these two damaged men help each other heal through their loyalty and acceptance of one another. It’s also awesome to learn more of what’s beneath some of the layers in their pasts and personalities.

There are some pretty big twists and turns. Some were endearing –others pissed me off. But the ending. –I’m not going to spoil it– But that ending has me all knotted up. I must read the next book. Like now.

(**sigh**) I would be remiss if I failed to mention the sex. This book has lots of action, and heart and depth of characterization… but holy cow, the sex is thermonuclear hot.

I’m so bummed that it’s over. 5 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

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Divide & Conquer
by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux
Release Date: October 14, 2011
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Review: Fish and Chips

Reviewed by Jen

This series has changed so much over the course of three books. It started out as a suspense-thriller, where the action took center stage along with the highly dysfunctional relationship between the two main characters. But now, it feels like a real love story. Yes, there is still a case the guys need to solve, but here it’s more of a vehicle to prompt the continuing evolution of their relationship.

Ty and Zane have to go undercover, posing as a gay married couple on a cruise ship. They need to ferret out the bad-guy contacts of the real couple they are impersonating. For the first time, the men allow themselves to stop hiding their affection for one another. In fact, they have to let people see, in order to maintain their cover. And it feels good.

Ty realized he was in love with Zane at the end of the last book. And Zane is trying to deal with his own confusing feelings for Ty. The sex is amazing and plentiful. But this also tugs on the heartstrings. Both men seem noticeably less crazy-pants… and amazingly, nobody gets shot, stabbed, mauled, run over or pistol-whipped. There are a few tense moments, sure, but more than anything, they serve as catalysts for the men to acknowledge their deeper feelings for one another.

It was really good, but like I said, very different in tone. Now, we just need Zane to come around a bit more to give us the HEA I finally believe these two are capable of. 4 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

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Fish & Chips
by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux
Release Date: December 6, 2010
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Review: Sticks and Stones

Reviewed by Jen

When I finished Cut & Run, I had real concerns about how where this series would go. Both the male leads were so damaged, I couldn’t see how they could ever really get over their issues in a believable way. But in this book, I got my answer: they’ll do it slowly, and with the unwavering support of each other.

It’s only been a few weeks since Ty and Zane were reunited and neither has been cleared to return to the field. Their psych evaluations aren’t where they need to be. So their boss sends them on vacation to get their heads on straight. With a bit of prodding, they set off to West Virginia to visit Ty’s family. Once they arrive, they quickly embark on a hiking trip with Ty’s dad and his brother, Deuce.

Of course, there is danger on the mountain. You know there’s trouble ahead as soon as we hear that phone towers are down and they’ll be cut off. It may be a new setting, but Ty and Zane can get into just as much trouble in the backwoods as they can in the city. They get their asses kicked again, from grenade attacks, pistol whippings, traditional butt-kicking and even a cougar mauling. And their bodies manage to keep going.

But the real meat of the story isn’t in the action. It’s in sorting through all the emotional baggage. Deuce is a shrink and his observations help Ty and Zane discover hidden truths about themselves and their relationship. We finally get a glimpse inside Ty –and it’s obvious that this may be the first time he’s ever examined his own feelings as well. For all his strengths, we see how truly fragile he is. And frankly, my heart is starting to hurt… wanting these two to make it.

There’s not as much sex in this installment as in the last book, but there was one scene in the woods that made a lasting impression. Let’s just say, I ended that chapter feeling a bit flushed.

So… the guys are still really screwed up. But I have hope for their future. Good stuff. 4 1/2 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

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Sticks & Stones
by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux
Release Date: January 25, 2010
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Review: Cut and Run

Reviewed by Jen

There is somebody for everybody in this world. Even if you are as completely and thoroughly screwed up as FBI agents Ty and Zane. You’d never think that they are two people who could fall for each other. As the story begins, Ty comes off as this flippant, rebellious asshole with an enormous chip on his shoulder. Zane is a by-the-book, uptight brown-noser with something to prove. But looks are deceiving. As the book progresses, we learn that both men wear masks that cover who they really are… and underneath, they are each a big, fat mess.

The guys are thrown together to help solve a bizarre serial killer case. They hate each other from the get-go. But both men are talented agents in their own way, and slowly, a grudging respect forms between them. As they work the case, things continue to evolve between them. Each man begins to see the real person beneath the other’s facade… and an attraction begins brewing, which ultimately proves too powerful to resist.

There were several things that surprised me about this book. First, is that this is a real thriller. It’s not a romance with a mystery backdrop. It’s a true romantic-suspense, where both love interests happen to be guys. (I wish I could say the identity of the killer came as a shock. I can’t, but it was a roller-coaster ride to get to the ending anyway.) I was also surprised by how much time passes over the course of the book. Twice, we jump over months with our main characters apart. They continued to live and to change off-page.

By the time we get through most of the book, we see the real Ty and Zane. And it’s no picnic. Zane is an addict with reckless tendencies and abandonment issues; Ty is emotionally cut-off and afraid of anything real in his life. They lust after each other, but often don’t like each other. They need each other, but can’t extend themselves enough to risk heartbreak. All the while, they get their asses kicked over and over and over again. Car crashes and shootings and overdoses… suffocations and explosions… you name it, they endure it.

It’s not light reading. But it’s gripping.  I didn’t want to put it down.

The sex: super hot. And the tender moments were touching. But these two really need some therapy. And a good health insurance plan.  A little more than 4 stars.

*ARC Provided by NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon or The Book Depository
Cut and Run
by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux
Release Date: September 29, 2008
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Series Reading Order: Cut & Run / Sidewinder

This is the reading order for the Cut & Run and Sidewinder series by Abigail Roux:

*Sidewinder story, featuring characters in the Cut & Run world