Review: Cross & Crown (Sidewinder #2) by Abigail Roux

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Rating:  4.5 stars out of 5

Cross&Crown_500x750After 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.

Happy Reading!

Cover artist for Cross & Crown is the amazing L.C. Chase

Buy Links here:    Riptide        ARe             Amazon 

Book Details: ebook, 225 pages

Published June 9th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published June 7th 2014)
original titleCross & Crown
ISBN139781626491335
edition languageEnglish
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:

Shock & Awe (Sidewinder, #1)

Cross & Crown (Sidewinder, #2)

Ty & Zane Are Back in Ball & Chain! Visit with Abigail Roux (Inside Info and Amazing Contest)

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Welcome to the Ball & Chain virtual tour! If you’re following along, you’ll be able to win yourself some goodies that might just save your life! I’ve got five Survival Kits in a Sardine Can, perfect for traveling and hiking or taking with you to remote island weddings where people might be dying. And I’ve got five sets of trading cards with original artwork and character work-ups for the less adventurous readers!Ty & Zane Survivial Kit

Contest: Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing to win one of five Survival Kits in a Sardine Can or one of five sets of trading cards with original artwork. Entries close at midnight, Eastern Time, on April 1 , and winners will be announced on April 3rd. Contest is valid worldwide.

 

STRW: Abigail Roux was kind enough to answer some of the questions I have been dying to ask her since I found Ty and Zane in the Cut & Run series and about her latest novel, Ball & Chain (Cut & Run #8). Let’s get started….

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STRW:  I know you (Abigail) always do extensive research on the locations for your stories.  Ball & Chain is set in Scotland.  Where you able to travel there?

Abigail Roux:
I was! I went to the UK and Ireland last summer and spent almost three weeks traveling with two friends. I post about my research travels on a Tumblr I made specifically so people could follow along. You can find it at abitravels.tumblr.com. It follows my adventures, and the adventures of Nelson the om nom, who goes everywhere with me. I like to share those adventures with readers; it makes the process even more hands on.

STRW: • What was your inspiration for setting the story in Scotland?

Abigail:
Originally the book was supposed to be set in the Caribbean. After a little research, though, I realized it would never work for my purposes. So I did a Google search for isolated wedding locations, and the name that caught my eye first was a place called Knoydart. We actually traveled there to scout it out. It wound up not being right for the book either, but I was able to see enough of Scotland, which is absolutely breathtaking, to create an amalgam of the things I needed. So the book takes place on a fake island, but everything about it is as authentic as I could make it.

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STRW: • What was the biggest challenge to writing this penultimate story to the Cut & Run series?

Abigail:
Oh gosh. It’s so stressful. I want these last two books to be worthy, and I want them to be memorable and perfect and I want readers to end the series on a high note. And that’s going to be so very hard to do. It keeps me awake at night. But when I got into this book and started writing, all that slipped away and it was just about the story and the characters again. So the biggest challenge is compartmentalizing it to keep me from freaking out!

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STRW:• So many people have fallen in love with Nick and Kelly; did you find it hard to balance out the readers’ devotion to Ty and Zane with our need to see more of Nick and Kelly when putting them in the same story?  Especially this story that we have been waiting for-the reunion of Ty and Zane?

Abigail Roux:
I didn’t find it hard, no, because Nick always had a huge role in this book. He’s actually the driving force behind a lot of the tension and drama. Adding Kelly to him was no trouble at all because Kelly is an easy character. He doesn’t make waves, basically, because he just rolls with it. I don’t think they take away from Ty and Zane, and they certainly don’t subtract from Ty and Zane’s romance or their tale. I know some readers have been worried about Ty and Zane sharing page time, but at this stage they have to or the books would be all about them hiding under the covers refusing to answer their phone.

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STRW:• Do you think you will be able to let go of Ty and Zane at book 9, or will the series continue?

Abigail Roux:
The series will definitely end at book 9, whether I like it or not. That’s always been the plan, and there’s no reason to change it now. I will miss them terribly, because at this point they’re both a part of me. But I have surprises for readers coming in the Sidewinder Series. No one will have to say goodbye to Ty and Zane until I kill them off!

STRW:• Is there a Ty and Zane wedding to look forward to?

Abigail Roux:
Well, someone does get married in Ball & Chain . . .

STRW: Now that’s just evil…
• Both characters have undergone so much growth over the series.  It has been wrenching to read about at times, joyful at others. Is there one special scene that is your favorite with the men?

Abigail Roux:
My favorite scene between Ty and Zane will always be in Divide & Conquer when they dance in Ty’s living room. It wasn’t planned as we were writing; it was just something Ty did almost without my permission. It made it feel very authentic, even to me, and I love the quiet romance of it.

STRW:• Ty and Zane are definitely an A List couple.  People are mad for them.  Why do you think they have such staying power for readers?

Abigail Roux:
I wish I knew so I could bottle it! I think both men are so flawed, people can relate to them easily, but they also do things most of us don’t’ allow ourselves. Zane is hard on himself and he lets his past and fears dictate his actions, and that’s something a lot of people do and can sympathize with. They root for him to pull past that. Ty is impulsive and fun and frankly kind of crazy, and that’s a luxury a lot of people aren’t allowed in life. Ty and Zane offer us a combination of pieces of ourselves we recognize, and pieces we wish we had. I think people have latched onto them because they see a bit of themselves in one or both characters.

You can contact Abigail Roux at:

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???????????????????????????????????????Ball & Chain (Cut & Run #8): Home from their unexpected deployment, the former members of Marine Force Recon team Sidewinder rejoin their loved ones and try to pick up the pieces of the lives they were forced to leave behind. Ty Grady comes home to Zane Garrett, only to find that everything around him has changed—even the men he went to war with. He barely has time to adjust before his brother, Deuce, asks Ty to be his best man. But that isn’t all Deuce asks Ty to do, and Ty must call for backup to deal with the business issues of Deuce’s future father-in-law.

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Nick O’Flaherty and Kelly Abbott join Ty and Zane at the wedding on an island in Scotland, thinking they’re there to assuage Deuce’s paranoia. But when bodies start dropping and boats start sinking, the four men get more involved with the festivities than they’d ever planned to.

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With the clock ticking and the killer just as stuck on the isolated island as they are, Ty and Zane must navigate a veritable minefield of family, friends, and foes to stop the whole island from being destroyed.

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You can pre-order Ball & Chain from Riptide and get it two days early!

Contest:  Abigail Roux is giving away five Survival Kits in a Sardine Can, perfect for traveling and hiking or taking with youTy & Zane Survivial Kit to remote island weddings where people might be dying. And I’ve got five sets of trading cards with original artwork and character work-ups.Leave a comment to be entered into the drawing. . Entries close at midnight, Eastern Time, on April 1 , and winners will be announced on April 3rd. Contest is valid worldwide.