Review of Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run #6) by Abigail Roux

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Rating: 5 stars

Zane Garrett has moved in with Ty Grady, his lover and FBI partner and life is good.  There are no dangerous cases pending at the FBI,their workload consists of paperwork to be completed on back cases.Now they are enjoying the lull in action and adjusting to living together with all its perks, including their temporary pesky cats.  But a phone call from his sister in Texas interrupts Zane’s equilibrium and he stalls in answering Ty’s questions about the call.  In fact, Zane has never been very forthcoming with information about his family.  Ty can only guess from the tenseness in Zane’s body language and pained silences when the matter comes up that Zane’s relationship with his family is strained at best.  The only family member Zane occasionally talks about is his sister, Annie and his niece.  Ty’s family, on the other hand, is a known factor to Zane and both men travel to West Virginia after Mara, Ty’s mother calls them home.

While at the Grady homestead an acute observation brings out revelations about their current relationship as well as the Ty’s past and the Grady family dynamics may never be the same. And while Ty and Zane are dealing with the emotional aftermath of the Grady family visit, Annie calls Zane again, this time to say their father has been shot.

Family relations and responsibilities reach out to ensnare Ty and Zane from West Virginia to Texas even as they try to solve the mystery of  the shooting on the Garrett ranch.  Can their relationship withstand the pressure from their families as well as their own insecurities? Ty and Zane have to solve the mystery behind the attacks on the ranch and work for their families acceptance before they can go forward into a shared future.

I got the book at midnight before the server crashed, read through the morning and then started over again. So now I sit here, tired and yet throughly satisfied the story, with Abigail Roux, and the direction Ty and Zane’s relationship is headed.  Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run #6) is less action adventure then it is an exploration of both mens past, their present relationship, and the possibilities that their future might hold.  In each previous book, another layer gets pulled back and more of either Ty or Zane’s history is revealed.  Up until now, it has been mostly Ty.  In the last book (Armed & Dangerous), we learned of Ty’s ordeal, taken hostage and tortured, during a secret mission for the Marines.  We will hear more about that during the events here.

In Stars & Stripes, both men have to deal with family issues of past hurts, parental love, as well as family acceptance that have been lurking just under the surface since book one. Ty has always had a strained relationship with his father, wanting his approval while feeling that he never quite measured up to Earl’s standards.  Tense scenes between both Earl and Ty have played out throughout the series. As Ty and Zane’s relationship deepened, Zane’s opinion of Earl and his treatment of Ty colors Zane’s view of Ty’s family. And while Zane has had a front row seat for some of the Grady family altercations and squabbles, Ty has no knowledge of Zane’s background with his family, as Zane refuses to talk about them and his past.  Between them, it is both all and nothing, a status that is about to change for Ty and the reader when the setting changes to Texas.

Once upon the Garrett family ranch, Ty and the reader start to see a totally different Zane.  Here Zane’s past is laid out before us and part’s of Zane’s character development is clarified to all.  Once more, Abigail Roux, reveals additional depths and dimensions to the characters Ty and Zane that we thought we knew.  I love that even after five books, we are discovering new emotional territory with both men even as they discover it themselves.  I find this highly realistic as it is a true measure of a relationship’s growth that a person can shed more of their inner walls to become vulnerable to the person they love, just as Zane and Ty do here.  And if we are talking characterizations, and we are, then Roux grabbed my expectations of Earl’s behavior, shook them like a cat with a mouse, returned them to me in a completely different state.  Do not look for cardboard characters or a one trick pony here, you won’t find them.  The people you meet between these pages, whether they live in West Virginia or Texas, are as authentic a bunch as you will meet, complete character portraits.  I love Harrison Garrett, what a great creation. Same goes for all of Ty’s family,Earl, Mara, Deuce, including the irrepressible Chester and his shovel.I loved Annie and Sadie and hope we will see more of them too.

Let’s talk location, shall we?  It’s all about vivid descriptions and homework needed to make the places come as alive as the people in it.  Abigail Roux is great with the first one and does the second in abundance.  Her blog was full of her travels to Texas and her visit to the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Boyd, Texas, complete with photos.  And it shows.  As Ty and Zane visit the Animal Sanctuary next to the Garrett ranch we get a feel for the look and sounds of big cats rescued, both their appeal and the fear.  We feel the heat and the sounds, the smells that come with summer in Texas where the air is so dry the dust coats the skin, and manure is both pungent and pervasive. Roux made me want to get on the plane and experience it all myself, just as Ty and Zane do.  I wasn’t in my bed reading my Kindle, I was on horseback traversing uneven ground past cacti and heat baked plains.  Just marvelous.

Yes, there is action and adventure but the focal point here is Ty and Zane’s relationship and how it affects their families. That can be far more treacherous and scary than any spy or traitor.  Throw in an injured father and explosive family dynamics, and this newest addition to the Cut & Run series equals anything that has come before.  But Abigail Roux leaves us with a mystery and a hint about Zane’s past that may be returning to threaten them all.  I hope I am reading this right.  The anticipation is building again.  The author says we are getting nine books.  That’s 3 more to go.  I can feel explosions on the horizon.  So here I sit.  Waiting.  Is that a Shelby Mustang I hear coming?  Please don’t make us wait too long.

Cover.  Love the covers by LC Chase.  They were listed in my best series cover.  Find it here.

Ten percent of the sales of Stars & Stripes are going to IEAS per Abigail Roux’s website and author’s note.

How to support Big Cat and Exotic Animal Rescue:

International Exotic Animal Rescue (IEAS) link here.

Cut & Run Series:

Armed & Dangerous , #5 – read my review here  written by Abigail Roux

Divide & Conquer #4, Fish & Chips #3, Sticks & Stones #2, Cut & Run #1 – all of these written by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Abigail Roux’s Save The Kitty Contest and Compass Rose Pendant from Cut and Run series

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Abigail Roux is running a wonderful contest over at her website called Save The Kitty Contest.   As I had mentioned in my review of Armed and Dangerous, Abigail does extensive research into subjects covered in her books and the new Cut and Run book #6, Stars and Stripes, is no different.  Ms. Roux flew to Texas and visited the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Boyds to learn about the plight of captive big cats and their increasingly threatened status in the wild.

It made a huge impact on her as she states in her blog, Shop To Save The Kitties.  Here she is offering a contest (and what an amazing contest it is) with all eBook copies of the entire Cut and Run series, including those not yet written – at least 9 total.  Then on top of that you get Ty’s Compass Rose pendant, a  Team Zane or Team Ty t-shirt.  Unbelievable.  But you have to visit the blog above and get the instructions on how to enter.  Abigail Roux has already donated the proceeds of her research trip to the Sanctuary while she was there and she is donating 10 percent of her royalties from Stars and Stripes, the next Cut and Run book. You can also purchase Ty’s  pendant, seen to the right, by itself.  Sigh! Or get one of their Team Zane or Team Ty t-shirts.  Treat yourself, help an animal!

So let’s recap shall we? Go read all the Cut and Run books, you will love them if you don’t already.  They are listed in order at the end of my review for the outstanding Armed and Dangerous novel.  Visit Abigail Roux’s blog, read in her words the impact the Sanctuary had on her and enter the contest.  You will be helping a tremendous cause that can use every dollar that is donated.  Visit Abigail’s website now.

Here is the link for the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Boyds, Texas.

Review of Armed and Dangerous by Abigail Roux

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Rating: 5 stars

“I’m sorry.  The walls are closing in and I need to go. Love you.” And with that note, Ty Grady was gone leaving Zane Garrett to wake up alone after finally declaring his love for his partner.  Missing Ty and his frustration levels rising by the minute, Zane prowls the hallways of the Bureau in search of anything to occupy his time.  When the Bureau Chief sends him as backup  to an agent on a specialty mission, Zane is astonished to find out that the agent he is meeting is none other than his missing partner, Ty.  Their mission?  To retrieve and escort part-time CIA operative and assassin Julian Cross (Warriors Cross) to Washington, DC to testify against his former employers whether Cross wants to or not.  In this case, its definitely not.  Cross won’t go.

Julian Cross retired after the events of Warriors Cross and has moved in with his love, Cameron Jacobs in Chicago.  And nothing, including a couple of FBI agents is going to take him away from that.  Garrett and Grady have orders that say otherwise and when the four come together, the explosions and gunfire reverberate from Chicago to Washington, DC.  Fighting not only each other but agents from other agencies as more and more people pursue them across state after state, Ty and Zane must also work on their newfound relationship as the present mission and Ty’s past threaten to come between them. Sometimes being Armed and Dangerous is just not enough to see them through the dangers ahead.

Armed and Dangerous is the 5th book in the Cut and Run series started originally by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux in 2008, and in my opinion, is the most satisfying book of the series. Armed and Dangerous is a remarkable book made even more so by the fact that Abigail Roux is now writing the series alone, as Madeleine Urban has quit writing.  To take nothing away from the terrific job Urban did together with Roux on the previous books, it is clear that Roux was right to carry on with Ty and Zane without her.   Years of coauthoring the books have given Abigail Roux decisive knowledge of both Garrett and Grady (and their unique personalities) that the writing is seamless between A&D and Divide and Conquer, the previous novel.  Only in the absence of Urban’s name on the cover does the difference between the books become apparent.

Abigail Roux is a master of location and she visits the cities where her characters reside and travel to.  Roux often posts pictures of her research travels on her website.  Such thoroughness and authenticity is appreciated and apparent in the way she captures the flavor of the neighborhoods in Baltimore as well as Chicago. As someone who lives in the DC area and visited Chicago, she has Chicago, Baltimore and the District spot on, including the Verizon Center and The Greene Turtle.  I really applaud that extra effort in an author and thinks it contributes so much to the story that a realistically described locale can become a character all its own in a novel.

In addition to location, her descriptions of the fighting, explosions and in an hilarious scene, TSA search methods, are all so incredibly written that the story moves forward at a pace that keeps time with your heart, beating rapidly with anxiety  and anticipation as the story builds to its conclusion.  But its with the characters, and what characters they are, that Abigail Roux really shines.

Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are two of the most complicated (and charismatic) protagonists in a relationship that I can remember.  Absolutely wonderful creations at the beginning, each has continued to evolve and strengthen as the series continued, the reader learning about them as they learned about each other, adjusting by small increments to the partnership the Bureau foisted upon them.  This journey continues with A&D as Ty and Zane’s relationship reaches a new stage.  The insecurities that have hounded both men  and kept them from acknowledging their love are slowly let go, the men finally on the same page at the same time.  To appreciate the struggles these men have gone through to get to this level, it is imperative that the books be  read in the order they are written. Ty and Zane have faced down their own demons, including drugs and alcohol, as well as the Bureau’s use of their abilities and still gone forward in their relationship, to each others surprise.  These men are beautifully  written, each with their own unique personality and a dialog that reflects that individuality in each phrase they utter.  It is no wonder that these men have rabid fans with Team  Zane or Team Ty t-shirts of their own.  I *cough* am a fan of both.

In each book, a layer of the past is pealed back, revealing more of one of the main characters background.  Here it is Ty’s turn and some of the revelations are truly unexpected, including the real reason he joined the military.  I really wasn’t expecting that one.  And that is just another one of the many pleasures these books, and this one in particular, deliver.   I never know what will happen next.  Roux kept me guessing right up until the end and then some.  I love that.  Also it’s the tricks of the trade that Ty, Zane, and Julian employ to frustrate, roadblock, and totally disable those trying to apprehend them that amaze me as well.  What until you get to the doorknob maneuver.  Amazing.

But all the neat bells and whistles won’t help if you don’t have a great plot filled with tremendous characters.  That Armed and Dangerous has in spades.  Ty and Zane are joined here by Julian Cross, an enigmatic Irish assassin and his lover, Cameron Jacobs, a waiter in an upscale restaurant.  Yes, you read that correctly, that would be Cameron the waiter.  Definitely not a person you would expect to find paired up with such a dangerous individual as Julian Cross.  But   Cameron is more than his unremarkable exterior and a lovely layered character in his own right.  Julian is not your typical assassin either as he comes complete with his own driver, Preston and a pair of wicked Maine Coon cats named Smith and Wesson. I have loved all of them since their introduction in Warriors Cross and was thrilled to see them brought into this story.  To fully appreciate both characters, again I will direct you to read their backstory in the book I just mentioned.  To read Armed and Dangerous without reading Warriors Cross or any of the other Cut and Run books, is only to skim the surface of the ocean, missing all the life, formations and depth that make up the whole.  If you are already a fan of these books, you know what I mean.  If you are new to the series, stop reading this and head out to get Cut and Run.  No reading from the back!  I know who you are!

Abigail Roux is an amazing author.  Armed and Dangerous is an exemplary example of her talent.  I haven’t heard if she plans to write another story in the Cut and Run series.*  I can only hope she does.  I need to know what happens next to Ty and Zane. And to Julian, Cameron and those darn cats.  That’s what happens with great characters, they live beyond their pages and reside in our hearts.  Ty and Zane do both.

*(Reviewer note: There is a 6th book coming out in August by Abigail Roux, published by Riptide Publishing. See below)

Here is the series in the order they must be read to fully appreciate the characters and the growth of their relationship:

Cut and Run,  Cut and Run series #1 by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Sticks and Stones, Cut and Run series #2 by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Fish and Chips, Cut and Run series #4 by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Warriors Cross ( Julian and Cameron’s story – side novel to Cut and Run series) by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Armed and Dangerous, Cut and Run series #5 by Abigail Roux

Stars and Stripes, Cut and Run series #6 by Abigail Roux due out in August

Cover:  I love the covers on this series.  Simple yet elegant.  And yes, handcuffs appear often in this story so this is perfect. Love it.

More about the author can be found here at her blog:

Freedom Is Not Free and the week Ahead

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It looks as though the sun might come out for our Memorial Weekend here in Maryland after all, humid but at least it’s sunny.  I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend.  Please don’t forget to spare up time to think about our veterans, what they have sacrificed for us and the Nation.  With so many still fighting abroad and many more fighting to survive their injuries here at home, take the time to send a prayer if you are religious, send thanks if you are not and perhaps visit a memorial.  If you are close by, start with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial here in DC and Arlington Cemetery in Virginia.  Two places where service, honor, and sacrifice spreads out before us in stark contrast to each other.  One in black, one in white.  Unforgettable and painful in every way.

Freedom Is Not Free is a website dedicated to aiding wounded service members, their families and the families of the fatally wounded. Listed here are poems from the enlisted honoring veterans and sharing what it means to them to be a part of the military.  Be prepared with tissues, as many of these poems strike straight into your heart.

My thoughts also turn to the fallen gay soldiers for whom the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was far too late.  Let us not forget their additional sacrifice as well.  I would leave you with these images for Memorial Weekend:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now for the week ahead and some outstanding new books:

 

Monday:                                Reviews of several short stories by Silver Publishing

Tuesday:                                Armed and Dangerous, Cut and Run series #5 by Abigail Roux

Wednesday:                          Infected: Shift  (Infected #4) by Andrea Speed

Thursday:                              Acrobat by Mary Calmes

Friday:                                    One Small Thing by Piper Vaughn and MJ O’Shea

Saturday:                                New Vocabulary Gone Bad – When A Bare Rises To the Occasion Due Ewe Here A Yelp?