Title and Link: Stars & Stripes
Author: Abigail Roux
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase
Publisher URL: Riptide Publishing
Amazon Buy Link
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Action/Adventure
Length: Novel/99K words/275 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Review Summary: Ty’s and Zane’s romance blooms, but not before some really scary felines make Ty their love interest. However I thought that the action and adventure were not at the usual high octane level.
Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett have managed the impossible: a few months of peace and quiet. After nearly a year of personal and professional turmoil, they’re living together conflict-free, work is going smoothly, and they’re both happy, healthy, and home every night before dark. But anyone who knows them knows that can’t possibly last. When an emergency call from home upsets the balance of their carefully arranged world, Ty and Zane must juggle family drama with a perplexing crime to save a helpless victim before time runs out.
From the mountains of West Virginia to a remote Texas horse ranch harboring more than just livestock and childhood memories, Ty and Zane must face their fears—and their families—to overcome an unlikely enemy and bring peace back into their newly shared world.
It’s been a few months since Armed & Dangerous ended and Ty’s & Zane’s personal relationship has evolved – a lot, as they are now living together. Their cover story is that they are shacking up because they’re sharing the cost of Ty’s mortgage. I thought it was very funny that they were hiding their sexual relationship in plain view of their colleagues and friends, having public displays of affection apparently with no concern about being seen, and going home every night to take care of — and get ravished by! — their house guests, Julian Cross’s two cats, Smith & Wesson. In the midst of all this love and togetherness Ty’s mother calls to tell him that she had cut off Earl’s (his father’s) pinky finger, [probably more by design than accident] and she needed his help to repair the roof of the shed since Earl couldn’t do it with his injury. He and Zane rushed to West Virginia to do her bidding, only to walk into some fireworks as Ty’s best kept secret is exposed innocently by the least likely person. Ty ends up with a broken hand and Earl with a black eye after the fisticuffs were over, while the “innocent” exposer remains ignorant of the deed — or maybe not.
No sooner had the excitement abated that Zane’s sister Annie phoned to tell him his father had been shot, so he took off for the family ranch in Texas leaving Ty all by himself, something neither man could tolerate even for a few days, so Ty showed up at the ranch a week later. When they investigated the shooting, which seemed on the surface to be tied to a simple poaching operation, it turned into something much bigger involving some big cats on an exotic animal sanctuary.
In Stars & Stripes Ty’s & Zane’s relationship is even more romantic and caring than what it was in book 5. If you’re a fan of the series mainly because of the romance you’ll be very happy with this book because the guys can’t stay away from each other. However, on the action /adventure front, although there is a lot of shoot-em-up action at the end, the sustained, non stop action and adventure throughout the story, a series trademark since the beginning that I call “action/adventure on speed,” with lots of tension and chills and thrills, were not as evident.
I felt that the tone of this book was quite different and the pace was much slower than most of the others in the series. This is a seismic shift from the norm of an incredible action/adventure series starring two competitive Special Agents who fell in love with each other over the course of several books, and tried to balance their professional and budding personal relationships. I loved how Ty and Zane disliked each other initially in Cut & Run and worked their way through their combative professional relationship to eventually fall in love. They had always been fiercely loyal to each other but Ty was unpredictable, high strung, short tempered, acerbic and irascible and I never knew when he would react physically to something Zane said or did. I miss the flawed, snarky, tough as nails Special Agent who took offence at almost everything and everyone. I enjoyed the oneupmanship in Ty’s and Zane’s friendship and the way they kicked each other’s butt, but most of this seems to be missing here. Ty changed from a tiger who growled at any slight, imagined or real, to someone who went with the flow and sometimes even took it on the chin when he was insulted, which didn’t seem consistent with his character. Zane’s character did evolve a bit but he remained basically the same temperamentally as he was always the more easy going of the pair. Best of all he was no longer stressed and his alcoholism was a thing of the past as he moved on from grieving about his dead wife Becky and committed himself fully to Ty.
If I seem to be dwelling a lot on Ty that’s because IMO he became a different person from the character in Cut & Run, Divide & Conquer and Sticks & Stones. In Stars & Stripes he’s too laid back, mellow and passive. I expect characters to grow and change, especially in a series, but their basic personality should remain the same. Here Ty seems to have lost his edge, something that made him so much fun as he got into trouble and fights at the drop of a hat and didn’t seem to care that he was pissing off everyone. I also miss the conflict and excitement in Ty’s & Zane’s relationship, as everything is too perfect between them in Stars & Stripes and all the conflict is external.
Although Stars & Stripes has the usual shoot ‘em up violence at the end of the book, in my assessment the plot was not as strong as the other books in the series, but of course that could be because my expectations were so high. It’s tough to maintain the excitement in a series and keep all the balls in the air. The perpetrators here weren’t the high rollers we’ve seen in other books (and none too bright, either! ), and there was no opponent of the stature of a Julian Cross capable of outwitting Ty & Zane and taking things up several notches to edge-of-your-seat excitement. In addition, the real action didn’t get going until about more than half way into the book, which is a change from the previous books that started off with a bang and kept on accelerating like a runaway train.
This has been a tough review to write because, as all of you know, I absolutely adore this series and the characters. The writing is always excellent and Abi Roux did her usual great job as the one liners and zingers kept on coming. In terms of the new characters, I loved Zane’s sister Annie and his father Harrison; his mother Beverly was so well drawn I felt like smacking her. I can’t wait for the next book to see where the story arc is headed. Most fans of the series will enjoy Stars & Stripes because of the focus on Ty’s & Zane’s romantic relationship. Action/adventure fans, however, may feel that this aspect of the book was not as high octane as in previous books, although there were some exciting moments, including those with Ty and his favourite feline. The sex was probably hotter in this book as our heroes took full advantage of their down time together. Loved Ty’s Stetson action.
I don’t know how much longer this series will continue as we seem to have reached a crossroad in book 6, but I look forward to the next adventures of my favourite Special Agents.
10% of the author’s first-quarter royalties for this title will be donated to the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Boyd, TX. To learn more about the important work the IEAS does, please visit their website at http://www.bigcat.org/