Title: Warrior’s Cross
Author: Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Suspense
Length: Novel (316 pages)
Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
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.
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.
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.