Reviews by Jessewave

The Male/Male adult themed romance book archive

Sticks and Stones

Title: Sticks & Stones
Author: Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Action/Adventure
Length: Novel (322 pages)
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5, DIK

 

 

 

THE BLURB

 Six months after nearly losing their lives to a serial killer in New York City, FBI Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are suffering through something almost as frightening: the monotony of desk duty. When they’re ordered to take a vacation for the good of everyone’s sanity, Ty bites the bullet and takes Zane home with him to West Virginia, hoping the peace and quiet of the mountains will give them the chance to explore the explosive attraction they’ve so far been unable to reconcile with their professional partnership.

 Ty and Zane, along with Ty’s father and brother, head up into the Appalachian mountains for a nice, relaxing hike deep into the woods… where no one will hear them scream. They find themselves facing danger from all directions: unpredictable weather, the unrelenting mountains, wild animals, fellow hikers with nothing to lose, and the most terrifying challenge of all. Each other.
 

THE REVIEW

FBI Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are back in a new adventure, one year and 4 months after the release of Cut & Run reviewed here.  The second book in the series, Sticks & Stones, is a delight from beginning to end with vividly drawn characters, more action and adventure than fans could ever want, hair raising excitement and danger, and emotional highs and lows as the protagonists try to discover what they mean to each other and how to make their dual relationship work.

Sticks & Stones opens with a training exercise in typical Ty & Zane style. They were spending a few weeks in D.C. after enduring 5 months of separation since the end of the Tri State serial killer case. Lots of action and one upmanship between the two guys who are still trying to outdo each other months after their last case together.

Ty is still hot headed and Zane is a little calmer after being close to death and seeing his partner almost killed by a crazed murderer.  Ty doesn’t want to admit his feelings for Zane even though he realizes they are drifting apart.  He  doesn’t know how to fix the problem until an opportunity presents itself when Assistant Director Burns requested that they take some time off to regroup because he was concerned about their ability to work together. In addition, both of them had failed their mental evaluations, which meant they could not be cleared for field work. Burns’ news was was a major blow, but realizing that Zane hadn’t had any time to make plans to spend his unexpected time off, Ty invited him to stay with his family in the mountains of West Virginia. Zane was still under a lot of stress and had not recovered fully from their last case, and although he, too, recognized that things were not right with Ty, he didn’t know what to do to make them better so that they could be partners again, professionally and personally.

This visit turned out to be way too dangerous for both of them, physically and emotionally, but before they could get any kind of resolution to their personal issues they had to go through the fire again.

Ty’s family was very different from what I pictured and I didn’t expect to like most of them as much as I did, especially Deuce, Ty’s brother, who was a standout. Probably the most complex and flawed character was Ty’s father Earl, a difficult character to like. During the week they spent together he was demanding, overbearing, and imposed his will on Ty – I’m not sure I will like him any better if he’s in future books unless he undergoes a personality transplant. The other exceptional character was Mara, Ty’s mother, who kept everyone sane and was soft until she had to be tough in order to save her family. Last, there was Ty’s crazy grandfather Chester who lived in his own world and always had his shovel close by in case of an attack. 😀

Ty, Zane, Deuce and Earl go on a planned hike in the Appalachian mountains and that’s where everything fell apart. After a couple of days of backbreaking trekking they are put in harm’s way because Earl refused to acknowledge the danger they faced, and the need to act in a manner that would protect the lives and safety of everyone, until they ran into a brick wall – vicious armed men who would kill at the drop of a hat, in a place “where no one will hear them scream.”

Meeting Earl illustrated why Ty was almost an emotional cripple, because it was clear that he looked up to this man whose his life was all about duty, who expected blind and unquestioning obedience from his sons.What was amazing was that Ty was another person when his father was around and almost unrecognizable. The confident, intelligent person from Cut & Run disappeared and he became withdrawn, almost subservient to his father, never argued with him even when he knew his judgment was flawed.  Why am I stressing Ty’s relationship with his father? Because this dynamic between father and son was a critical element in Sticks & Stones and almost ended Zane’s and Ty’s partnership forever. Once again one of the protagonists is critically injured and I wonder how sustainable this hurt/comfort strategy will be over a series that runs for years, even though they are FBI agents and it is expected that they will be placed in dangerous situations in each upcoming book.

What of the relationship between Ty & Zane? That was the best part of this book as their emotions ran very high and a lot of what was left unsaid in Cut & Run was now out in the open like a wound that never healed. I think this comment defined their relationship –

“As partners they could read each other’s minds, but as lovers – they barely knew each other at all”

There were many firsts as the guys try to understand and unravel their emotions. Has their relationship matured? The answer to that question would be a resounding ‘yes,’ and the vulnerability that was seldom, if ever, seen in Cut & Run, is quite evident in Sticks & Stones. Yes, there is wonderful sex between them in case you were wondering.  😀

Sticks & Stones is a revelation and a game changer between two characters who had gone through so much but found that there was still a long way to go. This book is a great deal about Ty’s emotional journey –  being open and admitting his feelings for Zane who also experienced his own epiphany. These two men who were bisexual in Cut & Run had a lot of personal baggage to resolve as well as job related secrets that Ty never shared with Zane.  What of Ty and Earl?  This is what Ty tried to tell himself in order not to show his deep anguish at the way his father treated him: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” until he found out how wrong he was. Your heart will break for Ty as you gain an understanding of this very complex character and why he is the way he is, as well as the challenges he faced in his life. His relationship with Burns is revealed as well as Burns’ ties to his family. What was remarkable about this story was the emotional depths of the characters, especially Ty who didn’t want to admit his tender feelings for Zane even though he had brought him home “to meet the family.”

It’s my opinion that Sticks & Stones is more than a wonderful follow up to Cut & Run – it’s better! This story is a study of human nature as the two characters’ layers are revealed and their motivations explained, and I think that readers will get a real sense of who they are at this point in their relationship. You will love the ending! Highly recommended. Two thumbs up!

Sticks & Stones is not a standalone book and will be released by Dreamspinner Press on January 25th.

Author

I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports - especially baseball

57 comments

  • Great review, Wave!
    *
    I loved Cut and Run, so have really been looking forward to Sticks and Stones. So excited to see that you liked this sequel even more than Cut and Run– now I really can’t wait!
    *
    *off to re-read Cut and Run before Monday*

    • Hi Nichem
      I so loved this story. Ty and Zane are much more open in Sticks & Stones and the readers will get to know them and what makes them tick.
      *
      There’s a third book on the way as well, Fish & Chips . 😀

  • Nice review, wave. I loved Cut and Run and so I am looking forward to this! I’m glad I read your review because this story line is not one I would have expected!

    • Wren
      This story is much different from Cut & Run even though there is the obligatory danger/injury from criminals. Sticks & Stones is more about Ty’s and Zane’s relationship – remember he takes Zane home to meet his family. When is that not a serious statement?
      *
      You should check out Madeleine’s and Abigail’s interview where they talk more about what’s behind the story.

  • OMG, I’m freakin’ hyperventilatin’ here. It is no secret the C&R is one of my favorite books, period, and I’ve been waiting for this follow-up FOREVER. Now to find it’s even better?!? Give me a paper bag to breathe in!! Just re-read C&R a few weeks ago in prep for this. I’m not sure I can wait until the 25th, it’s all too much! *vapors*
     
    :)
     
    Seriously? Thanks for the fab review. Seriously? Can’t wait.

    • I think Lynn needs mouth to mouth. 😀
      *
      Next week will come soon enough Lynn – just think – I could have posted this review a week ago and you would have killed me because the wait time would have been so much longer. 😀 The wait is worth it.

      • Hmmmmm…. Mouth to mouth. And both of our boys are bi? The possibilities… 😉
         

        just think – I could have posted this review a week ago and you would have killed me because the wait time would have been so much longer.

        You are devious, Wave.

        • >>Mouth to mouth. And both of our boys are bi? The possibilities…<<
          *
          Down girl. They are no longer bi I don’t think. There’s real sex in this book not the paltry stuff that passed for it in C & R.
          *
          I DIDN’T post it a week ago because I was thinking of my continuing good health. 😀

    • Madeleine
      I do like Sticks & Stones …. a lot. 😀
      *
      When a book is not only 5 stars for me but a DIK (Desert Island Keeper) it means that I anticipate reading it again and again. I have already read my favourite parts twice since I wrote the review. 😀

    • Hi Abigail

      Thanks for dropping by.

      *
      >>Score<<
      I hope this means that you like the review! 😀 It was my pleasure. I really tried hard not to include any spoilers and I hope you think I succeeded.
      *
      I really like Deuce who I think was the best new character outside of Chester. 😀

  • Thanks for the great review, Wave. :)
    *
    I loved Cut & Run and can’t wait to read this one. Especially if you say it’s even better. Yay!!

    • Lily
      For anyone who is a fan of Cut & Run this book gives the reader a lot of answers to questions about where the relationship was going. The action was terrific as usual, and I don’t mean just under the sheets. :)

  • Thanks for the review, Wave! This is one I will not miss. I am glad (and relieved) to hear you say that it’s better than the first one. While I loved it, I thought “Cut and Run” was a slow burner, now that the two characters have been established, I do think I will enjoy the sequel more.

    • Eve
      I think that Sticks & Stones will please fans of Cut & Run and go one better. This time there’s no ambiguity about their feelings for each other and there’s lots of sex – not the pale variety in C & R. There are also no girl cooties in S & S thankfully :)

      *
      The best part of the story I thought was the emotion as well as the plot. Let me know what you think after you read the book. As you know, I value your opinion a lot and not only about Adrien and Jake. :)
      *
      Madeleine and Abigail talk a lot more about the characters in their interview which is also posted on the site today.

  • I’m so glad! I always fret the sequel will diminish my enjoyment of the original book and I’m glad you think it’s a great follow up to Cut & Run because I really, really liked the guys there. I am apprehensive though whenever one of the characters goes through the serious personality change, but I have faith the authors made it believable. I read the excerpt with Ty’s grandfather and it was hilarious. I can’t wait, I can’t…

    • Hi LadyM
      The follow-up is better than the first book IMO. There’s no personality change – Ty had to deal with the issues he had with his father and the effect that he had had on him for a long time. You will really love the emotion in S & S and the plot which I think is wonderful.

      *
      Chester, Ty’s grandfather, is a wonderful character and I hope he will be back in future books as the series evolves.

  • Thank you for the great review!
    I had difficulties with “Cut&Run”and I hope there are less with “Sticks&Stones”.Sounds a bit like Josh Lanyons “Dangerous Ground” Am I wrong?
    I don`t mind.I`m looking forward to the 25th.

    • Hi Simsala
      I’m not sure what aspects of Cut & Run you had difficulties with so I can’t answer your question. If you want to elaborate I will try to answer without giving away any spoilers.
      *
      Now that you mention it, there are a few similarities to DG – the isolation, camping, the criminals who drop by – but other than that this story is totally different.
      *
      I think you will like it because there’s a lot of scenes with the family and you’ll be surprised at the emotions between Ty and Zane.

      • Hi wave,
        that`s so nice!
        By the time I´ve read the book I had language/comprehension poblems with it.(No easy read) You can`t help me with that.A translation to german language would be VERY nice……..*sigh*.
        I´ll try it again soon. Learning by doing!

        • Simsala
          Now I understand. 😀 Well I can’t help yuou with the German translation. You’ll have to talk to Christian who is also German.
          *
          You might want to ask Madeleine and Abigail to have their publisher do a German translation of the story. Judging by the many bloggers who access this site from Germany I would think that there’s a large audience for M/M books there.

          • Oh yes!
            Please,please Christian- translate the book(s!)for us poor Germans.
            I´m sure he´ll be overjoyed!!..he,he,he!
            A few published M/Mromances,no e-books.It`s a desert here!

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