Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
After a leave of absence, Nick O’Flaherty is back at his job as a detective for the Boston PD. When he is called to the scene of a double homicide, Nick learns that there is a witness to the crime in custody which should make this an easy investigation. Instead, Nick finds that the witness’ injuries have resulted in a case of amnesia. The witness doesn’t know who he is and he is not carrying any identification. That the witness happens to be extremely good looking and drawn to Nick both helps and hurts in Nick’s attempts to manage the case and provide protection for the nameless man.
Adding to the stress of the situation, Nick’s boyfriend and ex recon partner, Kelly Abbott is visiting him for some necessary “vacation” time together. Living in two different states is harder on them then they had anticipated and their alone time is precious to them both. Kelly Abbott is in Boston to spend needed time with his lover, Nick. Kelly was responsible for Nick returning to work but he never realized how much they would miss each other or how hard it would be to coordinate their schedules to visit each other.
When Kelly arrives in Boston, Nick’s investigation has already become far more complicated than anyone expected and soon Kelly finds himself pulled into the search for the mystery man’s identification and something more ominous. Because shadowing their operation is none other than Julian Cross, a retired CIA hitman on a desperate mission of his own. Julian too needs their help and intends to get it any way he can.
All the clues point into the past…the United States Revolutionary War, Boston’s history and their own. As the situation threatens to ignite, all their lives are put in danger as various groups clash on the same mission. The hunt is on for the crown jewels and more. With the situation precarious, their future in jeopardy, and alliances uncertain, Nick and Kelly must solve the mystery of the missing crown jewels quickly before more people are killed, including themselves.
Cross & Crown is the second in the Sidewinder series from Abigail Roux. This series emerged from the popular Cut & Run series and Ty Grady’s band of brothers from his Recon unit. Over the last several stories, Nick O’Flaherty and Kelly Abbott have gone from the closest of friends to lovers to committed partners. It has been a wondrous journey for both the men and the readers who have been following the course of their relationship. Now in Cross & Crown, we get to see the men in the first stages of their new committed relationship, juggling their different work and living situations while in the middle of a murder investigation that turns into more.
One of the joys of the combined series is the growth and change the reader is able to chart in all the characters involved in these stories. Roux’s ability to maintain continuity between series and novels is amazing as her gift for characterization. While the details of the Sidewinders last mission is unknown, its long term effects upon the men we have gotten to know is not. The author builds upon the tragedies and personal implosions of Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run, #7) in New Orleans where Kelly almost died. Then continuing on through Shock & Awe (Sidewinders #1) and Ball & Chain (Cut & Run, #8), Abigail Roux has each story doubling the stress and strain upon these men and their lovers.
The first in the Sidewinder series, Shock & Awe focused on Kelly’s recuperation under Nick’s supervision and the beginnings of their love affair. Then the remaining Sidewinders, with the exception of Kelly “Doc” Abbott, are pulled away for one last mission, one that changes them all permanently. This thread of change flows through all the stories, no matter the series. Interpersonal relationships are shattered, others are formed, and everyone is in a state of flux. Some are those alterations in personality and behavior is revealed in Ball & Chain where PTSD and other issues start to reveal themselves.
Abigail Roux makes this time of disillusion and unbearable strain feel authentic and painful. Over time, the author has brought the reader into the intimacy and close knit ties of these men and it hurts to watch them flounder in the aftermath of a mission they can’t and won’t talk about. As Cross & Crown begins, O’Flaherty is still suffering from the effects of the team’s last mission (as is all the other team members). With the reader already heavily invested in Nick and Kelly’s romance (yes, I am making that assumption), their early relationship struggles will resonate with many readers as they try to manager a long distance romance along with Kelly’s adjustment to Nick’s easy PDA’s. Big issues and small, Nick and Kelly seem more and more like a permanent couple than men in the first stages of attraction and affection. Their ease with each other, their balance and equality of their relationship is wonderful. I love these two and here their partnership deepens as they work through their disagreements and insecurities that still remain.
Another marvelous element in Cross & Crown was the reappearance of Julian Cross. I have obsessed over that character since his story, Warrior’s Cross. Afterward Julian and his lover, Cameron, made other appearances in the Cut & Run series, always to marked explosions amidst tumultuous events. To have Julian and Cameron back is something to be celebrated! I can never get enough of these two and although this might be the last we see of them, I love that we got them in one last story.
There is never a dearth of ingratiating or intriguing characters in an Abigail Roux stories and Cross & Crown is chock full of them. This includes the dubious characters from O’Flaherty’s upbringing and those of the archaeological and pharmaceutical factions in Boston. Each character was built with care and attention to detail with regard to their profession, nationality and background. With layers upon layers for each person,they all came across as genuine and quite alive, from dialog to their backgrounds and even locale. This author does this sort of thing so easily that you can take it for granted as you read through the stories. Only through meticulous research and organization does the hard look behind a story depth and cohesion seem as easy as it does here. If you don’t want to take my word for it, visit the author’s blog sometime for her visits to various story locations and background workups to see what it takes to bring the whole picture to life.
Am I a fan of Abigail Roux? Yes, I am and these two series are ample reasons why. So many pluses inherent in this story. The historical workup and investigation is absorbing and terrific. I loved the growth in the love and deepening relationship between Nick and Kelly as well as the painful loss of closeness between Ty and Nick. It’s a neat development to see the Ty Grady/Nick O’Flaherty relationship from Nick’s viewpoint instead of Ty’s. And yes, Zane makes a fleeting yet important appearance here, even if it is over the phone. As with all the stories recently, there are big changes in store for all the characters at the end of the book. Nothing is settled except their love for each other, that is the given and the constant.
I will admit it is hard for me as a reviewer to remain objective about this and it’s connected series, Cut & Run. I have read and followed these men and their stories from the beginning and have invested so much emotion in their love and relationship growth. How will someone new to the series and lacking any sense of context feel about the Sidewinders if they haven’t read the other stories? That is a question much harder to answer. I bring all the knowledge and background of Cut & Run with me unthinkingly to this story and the Sidewinder series. But if you are new to Nick and Kelly, you are lacking a wealth of information and an almost collective group of affections built up over time and stories.
To you, the new reader, this might seem a little confusing in some of the character histories and lacking in the mens backstory. How these men are connected, what their interpersonal relationships and backgrounds mean to the reader and each other might be hard to grasp here. I get that too. But it doesn’t need to be. There is a whole shelf of books waiting for you to discover them and the men inside the covers. Start with the first of the Cut & Run stories written, include Warrior’s Cross among them. Then continue on to the Sidewinder books listed below. I recommend them all along with Cross & Crown. You will fall in love with these complicated sexy men and their stories. Don’t miss out on a single one.
Cover artist for Cross & Crown is the amazing L.C. Chase
Book Details: ebook, 225 pages
Published June 9th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published June 7th 2014)
original titleCross & Crown
url http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/cross-and-crown seriesSidewinder #2
Books in the Sidewinder Series to date in the order they should be read:
Cross & Crown (Sidewinder, #2)