Warrior’s Cross (Aunt Lynn’s Review)

Warrior's CrossTitle: Warrior’s Cross
Author: Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Suspense
Length: Novel (316 pages)
Rating:  4.75 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn

THE BLURB

Cameron Jacobs is an open book. He considers himself a common waiter with normal friends, boring hobbies, harmless dogs, and nothing even resembling a secret… except a crush on a tall, dark, devastatingly handsome man who dines alone at his restaurant on Tuesday nights. All it takes is one passionate night with Julian Cross to turn Cameron’s world on its head.

Julian’s love and devotion are all Cameron could have hoped for and more. But when his ordinary life meets and clashes with Julian’s extraordinary lifestyle, Cameron discovers that trust and fear can go hand in hand, and love is just a step away from danger.

THE REVIEW

Warrior’s Cross is the latest work by the wonderful writing team of Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban. I admit upfront that they are one of my favorite author pairs, with Caught Running and Cut & Run being firmly on my keeper shelf (in signed PRINT, no less!). 🙂 In WC, though there were a few small niggles that bothered me, I found another well-written tale with interesting, fleshed-out characters. It’s emotion and character driven — which I happen to like — as opposed to action-packed (though there are a few scenes that make the blood pump), and I found it to be gentle and slow in its overall pace. Oh, and that cover? It’s fab.

Told via an alternating third-person POV* (yea! no more head-hopping! thanks, ladies!) — though more through Cameron’s eyes than Julian’s — WC tells the tale of two men in love when one leads a dangerous life full of secrets and lies. Cameron is the head waiter at a four-star Chicago restaurant, Tuesdays, where every Tuesday night an enigmatic, handsome, silent man comes in alone, always ordering the same thing. One the night that the story starts, this mystery patron speaks to Cameron for the first time, shocking and confusing him while at the same time causing him to crush further on this brooding fantasy come to life. Over the course of several weeks, a few words turn into several sentences and soon they are having some steamy smexxin that turns into more. But Julian’s job is dangerous and as time goes on, Cameron has more and more difficulty with the fear that Julian may never make it back and that his own life may now be in danger. Sometimes love may not be enough…

In some ways, I felt this story had some yaoi undertones, with more-emo-than-not Cameron pairing up with the physically larger sensitive alpha Julian. I read this book twice since I got it and my opinion of Cameron changed in the second reading.  As such, I admit to having mixed feelings about him as a character, the one part of the story that left me wanting a little. In some ways, I totally sympathize with him; he doesn’t understand Julian’s lifestyle because Julian refuses to be straight with him about what he is/does. He also can’t help but be fearful for Julian’s — and his own — safety after some of the things Julian has said and how he often comes back injured. I get that he resorts to speculation when Julian is so closed about his life and what he does with himself in the remaining five and a half days he doesn’t see Cameron. But after a while, Cameron’s angst, insecurities, self-doubt, and fears wore on me. Regardless of how many times Julian has told him that he loves him, Cameron still doesn’t understand what beautiful, wealthy Julian is doing with a plain, ordinary man like him.

He didn’t get it. He knew why he thought about Julian, why he was infatuated with him. He just didn’t get how someone like Julian, a man who obviously had looks and money and adventure to spare, could possibly be interested in him. He was just an average guy, nothing spectacular.

On the other hand, I loves me some Julian. Strong yet fallible (he more than not gets hurt on the job), cold yet caring and sensitive, private yet funny, all cold-blooded business yet he has cats (who he thinks are evil!), he is a wonderful alpha character who I was sorry to leave behind at the end. We have less narration from Julian and, for me, that just added to his mystery. And for all that he is supposedly a pretty bad guy, I couldn’t help but feel that he must be redeemable with the way he treats Cameron and the animals in the book and the fact that he feels even a smidgeon of guilt over what he does.

Secondary cast members include the wonderful, dryly droll, scene-stealing Preston, who is Julian’s driver/partner; Blake, the owner of Tuesdays and Julian’s friend/handler/main stitcher-upper; Arlo Lancaster, the baddie; and Miri, Cameron’s irritating Nosey Parker co-worker/friend. Also, much of the story takes place in Tuesdays, and as such, the restaurant itself became to me a secondary character, as does the weather — mostly snow — that is around our heroes and the six animals that share their lives.

There are only a very few smexxin scenes in the beginning and the rest of the story focuses on either on their relationship, Cameron’s angst or the action taking place around them. I didn’t miss the sex at all, and its absence worked well for me. The last part of the book has a dramatic action scene that left me sitting on the seat of my chair, and there was a part that made my eyes tear up in its sadness.

A few little niggles that, along with Cameron’s issues above, caused me to deduct a fraction of a star:

There is a scene where Julian gets angry at Cameron for asking pointed questions about his life, and it didn’t ring true to me considering what had come before. I felt that Julian’s anger was misplaced and out of character based on previous scenes where he discusses his inability to be honest with Cameron and why, either internally or with Blake. He had always felt hurt and sadness knowing that Cameron could never know everything about him, and had always been gentle and kind with Cameron in answering questions (even if he lied about the answers) so the anger and coldness he displayed seemed out of place.

* In addition to the protags having alternating POVs, both Blake and Miri have small parts of narration, too, and it became distracting. I felt the story easily could have remained just with the two POVs and have been successful.

Okay, I’ll admit upfront that this may be something really stupid: Cameron has four puppies yet not once do we see him take them to go potty. He leaves them all day at work, overnight and longer, sometimes having someone else take them in or not. Are they paper trained? Does he have an indoor doggie potty? Or a doggie door to a balcony where there is something set up? As someone who has raised several dogs, this seemed very odd to me and frankly there were times that I thought about that, taking me out of the book. It’s possible no one else will notice, though.

OVERALL

Despite the few issues I had, I would not hesitate to highly recommend this wonderful book to those looking for a romantic suspense story. The Urban/Roux team remains firmly situated on my keeper shelf with this one, and oh, yes, I bought this one in signed print, too.

Madeleine Urban

Looks like I’m late to the party, so I’ll just say hi and thank you to Aunt Lynn for the review.

Aunt Lynn

Right on, Mary. Let us know how you like it when you’ve finished.

Mary M

4.75 sound splenty good enough for me :). I don’t care enough about puppies to worry about their peeing habits, and I loved the blurb and excerpt for this book. Plus, a somewhat weaker book from these authors is probably better than a lot of what else is out there, so I’m still buying the print for this book :). Thanks for the review Lynn :).

Aunt Lynn

Thanks for your comments, Ann. As you can see, most of the readers who responded agree with you. I really enjoyed it as a whole, but I liked the other two better.

annie
Unfortunately this is my least favorite story from these authors. I just didn’t connect with either character. I liked Julian Cross better than Cameron Jacobs but only marginally. Cameron spends so much time describing himself as average and non-descript and nothing special that that’s the way I came to view him. For me it doesn’t spark that magical connection between the characters and the reader that is present in all their other stories especially Caught Running and Cut & Run. I have enjoyed reading Urban and Roux books both solo and co-authored and this book is well crafted and an… Read more »
Abigail Roux
Thank you for the review, Lynn! As always, it’s a pleasure to read. I don’t know what to say about the peeing puppies. I do wonder, though, if readers would have enjoyed reading about their forays to the grassy parts of the sidewalk, or if we were better served leaving those tidbits to the imagination? Stuart, forgive me, but semi-automatics do have safeties for the most part. Some are internal, some are external. Double-action revolvers and Glock pistols most notably have internal safeties, meaning you can’t see them or manually activate them. But most do have the external switch that… Read more »
Stuart
Hi Abigail, First, you’re a great writer. I read Caught Running for the 3rd time last week and the relationship between Jake and Brandon is a wonderful and I never tired of reading it. * Re guns: yup, you’re absolutely right about in what you wrote. I thought you had Julian using an external safety, from the following quote: * Julian looked from Cameron to the gun and back again. “It’s loaded,” he answered, obviously worried that Cameron would send him away. “Safety’s on.” * I just assumed a man like Julian would go the internal route, his training having… Read more »
Aunt Lynn

Thanks for stopping by Abigail, and you’re welcome. It was a wonderful book.
 
Yeah, the puppies. This may forever be known as the one where the puppies didn’t pee. 🙂 As I just told Wave, just a line about taking them out without actually witnessing it would have okay for me, but I’m also not bothered by little walks along the grass. Sorry to make such a big deal about something that seems minor.
 
I’ll stay out of the guns discussion as I have no clue.

Abigail Roux
The next printing, I’m going to lobby for that tagline. Writing about letting the puppies pee – or even mentioning that it was done – honestly never crossed my mind. I can’t speak for Madeleine obviously. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve referred to one of my main characters peeing! I guess it’s just one of those things I assume readers will just… assume, you know? I am actually writing a story right now where a character takes the neighbor’s dog out to pee regularly, but it’s a plot thing. I think you… Read more »
Aunt Lynn

The next printing, I’m going to lobby for that tagline.

 
🙂
 

Is there a reason I can’t seem to make my spaces space? Or is it just that my internet hates me?

It’s WordPress and it hates all of us! *g* To make para breaks, you need to inset some HTML code or use the runaround of the enter-asterisk-enter that the others use. The HTML code is cleaner, but more cumbersome:
(take out any spaces in this next line)

& nbsp;

Wave
Lynn I haven’t read WC as yet but the same concerns would bother me throughout the book that seem to bother the other readers. ** I’m very much a dog person and if there’s no mention of walking or generally taking care of 4 puppies in a book I would have to wonder why they’re there at all other than as a convenient way to elicit emotion. ** Stuart made some excellent points and he has emailed me separately on this topic which led to me doing a little research and he’s right. I’m doing a post on the incidence… Read more »
Aunt Lynn
Wave, the puppy thing was, for me, one of the most bothersome parts of the story, even though it has nothing to do with the characters themselves. I would have been placated by just a “hold on a sec while I take the pups out” line when he, say, got back from being at the restaurant all day without actually seeing it in action. If he was indoor training them, which some people do do for smaller dogs, then mention it.   I didn’t notice the injury/illness theme until Stuart brought it up, and I guess it doesn’t bother me… Read more »
Wave

Lynn
**

“I think this may have been a good book for a dueler…”

**

You and Kassa perhaps?*g*

Aunt Lynn

Wave:

You and Kassa perhaps?*g*

Perhaps, since I know she did review this recently, too. *g*

Jenre

Thanks for the great review, Lynn.
I’m bothered by the puppy thing. I’m not a huge fan of dogs in general but I don’t mind them in books as long as they are well behaved and don’t take over the story too much. I hate it when they jump up and lick the faces of the protags cos I hate that in RL so maybe the puppies in this book would put me off.

Aunt Lynn
Jen, I wouldn’t say that the dogs (and cats) took over the story, but they were very present. I can think of several other stories where the pets/animals play a larger role. In this case, the puppies are very small in most of the book and were scampering fluffballs that attacked Julian’s shoelaces or cuffs or scarf, that kind of thing. And like Stuart said, it was another way to show how large Julain is and what his personality is like outside of work. How Julian is with his two huge cats is funny, too. Certainly it’s up to you,… Read more »
Ingrid

*sigh* I would have liked to say that I adored this one just like their other books but it did not. The relationship did not work for me. The plot was ok but somehow I did not see Cameron and Julian together as I did with the couples in the other books.

Aunt Lynn

Hi Ingrid. I can see how others may not like this book as much as the others — I didn’t either, but I did like it very much as a whole. I think we’re going to find readers who either really liked it or had big issues with the characters and the relationship, which just shows us once again that every reader is different.

nichem
LOL, Aunt Lynn, I had the same thought about the puppies. Bothered me throughout the entire book. On the whole I liked this book, but not as well as their previous works, mostly because I couldn’t relate to the characters as well. Julian was obviously somewhat of a bad guy, and Cameron was a bit too whiney. Also, I didn’t quite buy them as a couple– like Stuart, I kept wondering why Julian was attracted to Cameron. And on Cameron’s side, I couldn’t figure out why someone would settle for a partner they didn’t really know anything about and could… Read more »
Aunt Lynn

Good morning nichem. Those are good points and something further to think about with this book. I’ve bought less compatible matches, but Cameron’s whining prevented me from liking him overmuch and as such, I did wonder at times why Julian put up with him. And yes, Julian’s secretive nature would have been an issue with me, though I would have handled it differently than Cameron did. But like you, I liked the book overall.

Lily

Great review, Lynn!
You hit exactly on the points that bothered me too. Cameron’s constant self-doubts and inability to find himself enough to attract Julian grated on me.
*
As for the puppies, wow, four of them and no mention of walking them or cleaning up after them. That just didn’t ring true.
*
While I don’t think it’s their best work I did like the book. Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux are fantastic writers.

Aunt Lynn

Hi Lily. Characters with self-esteem problems I can get, but usually by the end they’ve grown and made aware of exactly why the other person is attracted to/wants them. I’m not sure that happened here.
 

While I don’t think it’s their best work I did like the book. Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux are fantastic writers.

I agree.

Stuart
Dear Aunt Lynn, I am so glad you mentioned the puppies!! I don’t think you are being stupid at all. It really distracted me that Cameron never had to take them out when he got home. They only served the plot in order to contrast their smallness with Julian’s size and as a way to demonstrate that Julian was willing to tolerate them as a sign of his love for Julian. But if the authors include them, they have to at least function like actual puppies. As long as we’re on niggling points here: handguns don’t require safeties. I’m pulling… Read more »
Aunt Lynn
Welcome to Gay Book Reviews, Stuart. To answer your last question, you may absolutely rate the books as you see them. Wave and the rest of us guest reviewers are always looking for contributions from those who have read the books (and those who eagerly add them to TBB lists or shy away from the failures), so feel free to respond to either something in the review, something we overlooked/missed, anything you’d like to add.   As long as we’re on niggling points here: handguns don’t require safeties. I’m pulling rank as an NYPD copspouse here. My partner’s Smith and… Read more »
Wren Boudreau

Nice review, Lynn! I enjoyed the book muchly, too. And I have to say I had the same niggling thoughts about those goofy puppies from the very beginning. I had to keep telling myself that Cameron just takes them out when I’m not looking!

Aunt Lynn

Hi Wren. It’s a wonderful book, even with me worrying about the bathroom habits of the pups! 🙂

Tam

I have it in my TBR file and am looking forward to it. I really enjoy their work. Your puppy comment made me laugh. Then I thought “Holy hell, FOUR dogs in an apartment? Have they been fixed?” Yeah, sometimes that common sense thing can be annoying. 🙂

Aunt Lynn

Tam, if you like this team’s past efforts, then you’ll like this one, too. And yes, FOUR Westie pups that run around like crazy and playfully attack Julian every time he comes in. Quite funny. In the beginning of the story it sounds like they are quite young — a few months? — and by the end, they’re full grown, but there is no mention of spay/neuter. I need to go back and see if they’re all girls, now that you mention it…

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