Big Cypress Crossroads

Title: Big Cypress Crossroads
Author: Bren Christopher
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Publisher: Loose Id
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance, Paranormal, Suspense
Length: Novel
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 rating stars

A Guest Review by Raine

Summary Review: Really good sense of place, blessed by a special and original main character, but too many bad guys for me to keep up with.

Blurb: From the deep swamps of the Everglades to the glittering night clubs of South Beach, Miami-Dade police detective Scott Chandler is hot on the trail of the drug running cartel that killed some good officers in a firefight and left him with a steel rod in his leg. The last thing he expected to find was love in the form of a seemingly innocent wilderness guide–a guide who inexplicably knows more than he should.

Noah Taylor lives for the wild backwoods, spending days camping alone and only returning to town on the weekends to lead kayak tours through the dark waterways of the Everglades. But when he finds the remains of a ritually sacrificed body hanging from the twisted limbs of a mangrove tree, his life’s going to change in ways he can’t possibly predict–or can he?

Now Scott must untangle a web of deceit while struggling with his passion for Noah. Because loving him is easy. But trusting him could be deadly.

Review:

I was thinking about the title of this book, Big Cypress Crossroads and decided it was nicely appropriate and in more than one way. Most obviously is the reference to location which is very effectively and successfully established. The opening scenes in the swamps were excellent, I enjoyed Noah’s bone-deep familiarity with his environment. I also appreciated his commonsense approach to taking photo’s of the body, often lacking in other heros when faced with a corpse.

The idea of crossroads is taken further than that of the crime scene however. It is clear both main characters are at critical points in their life. Noah has arrived at this moment after losing his first lover to drugs and his heartfelt determination to deal with Kyle’s death is the driving force that has got him to his crossroads. I found Noah a lovely character, ambiguous but not irritating, unexpectedly complicated, but warm, loving and very instinctive in his approach to life. His strange dreams are played just right without over balancing the story into paranormal melodrama, but adding a patina of fascinating difference to Noah’s personality.

Scott is still recovering from a major injury which is having a deep impact on his career and is still coming to terms with all the implications. Consequently the sudden love affair is all the more of a surprise to him. The sex between the two men kicks off very quickly, but it worked for me as the link with Noah’s dreams established it as almost inevitable. Noah brushing his hair free of tangles and hiding the reason from his mother had both heat and sweetness. I thought Scott’s attitude to Noah was realistically played out, his recurring doubts fighting with his attraction. The heat level of the sexual attraction is somewhere round red hot but perhaps there are one or two too many encounters.

The larger scale suspense plot with all the drug running, and police involvement I found less engaging. Who was doing all the double-crossing — what and why — left me feeling detached. I think this was because there were too many bad guys, I got slightly overwhelmed by the different levels of bad and evil struggling through the night clubs and swamps. I also didn’t like the over-dramatic escape and “here we go again” plot. Noah’s constant physical involvement was unrealistically overplayed for me, but I found his emotional and mental involvement just about right (though I couldn’t have taken another revelation about his entanglement with the drug smugglers).

I found Bren Christopher’s writing most successful on the smaller more intimate scale. The sense of community around the town and indeed all the scenes with Noah’s family were delightful. The bleakness of the drug scene that swallowed up Kyle and the effect on Noah and his family is described with moving care.

“Then my dad will be able to put that picture of Kyle away in the drawer, just like he’s been wanting to all these years.”

I think this book worked beautifully in creating Noah and his family and the environment that held them so closely. As a character, Scott grew on me and I thought his doubts and fears were a realistic brake on the speed of the long term relationship. The action side of the story, for while it was fast moving, dramatic, and created tension eventually there were just too many elements for me to engage with. However once the story moved back to the relationship between Noah and Scott I found the resolution very satisfying and will enjoy thinking of them together just where they should be.

17 comments

  • Hi Raine, so I bought this one and finished this today and just wanted to say for another awesome recommendation :). I think you pretty much nailed a review too. Noah was a delight, and such unexpected layers of personality too. Loved the romance, thought adventure was fun on one hand, but OMG, here pops up another baddie. I mean as you said, it was paced well, but I kind of lost count of how many villains can one story have you know? It is a bit of exaggeration, but you get what I mean. I liked the twist with Noah’s involvement actually and quite a lot, but you are right, the level of his *physical* involvement started to grate a bit, while emotional involvement rang so very true.

    Very good review 🙂

    Reply
    • Oh thanks Sirius it is so good to know I’m on the right track, and you know what it’s like when there are some things in a book you love and others that don’t work for you. This appreciation balancing act is tricky.

      Reply
  • Thanks for a great review, Raine! I just read this book a few days ago and it really didn’t work for me. I’ve been struggling to figure out why, since I loved Friday Night Jamie. I could barely put that one down, whereas this one I put down several times and struggled to pick back up – including one time when the heroes were running for their lives! 😯

    I’m wondering if your observation about the bad guys might have been part of it. We apparently have similar tastes, as I love all the books you mentioned in your reply to B.G. (except Come Unto These Yellow Sands, which I have yet to read). I think I found the romance a little unrealistic, and I was ambivalent about the characters. But I have no idea why and it’s driving me a little nuts. :wallbash:

    Reply
    • Ouch I know that feeling!

      If the relationship didn’t work for you and I can understand why even- as you know it did very much for me, you are left with the location and that can’t carry the book so then I think your screwed with this one jeayci. 🙁

      I could suggest you grab CUTYS cos that is a treat.

      I will check out Friday Night Jamie. Thanks for that recommendation. 😀

      Reply
  • Hi Raine,
    I read this book not too long ago and really enjoyed it too!!
    And, like you, I found myself having to go back over some of the same pages twice during the “bad guy” pages just to keep up with the who’s who. 😕

    Reply
  • Good review. Looks like something I may want to check out. I do have a question. It is something I just want to know if you are being fair about; please understand I am just curious and am not being critical.

    I just don’t understand comments like, “but too many bad guys for me to keep up with” and “The action side of the story, for while it was fast moving, dramatic, and created tension eventually there were just too many elements for me to engage with. However once the story moved back to the relationship between Noah and Scott…” I am confused.

    It sounds to me like what you are saying (and I could be totally wrong!) is that you want romance and some sex, but if there is an involved story, you aren’t interested. I know I could just be reading into your review something that isn’t there.

    It is what I think I am seeing here at Jessewave. It feels to me like anything that detracts from characterization, the budding romance and the erotic moments bore a lot of reviewers. I say this because of comments like “However once the story moved back to the relationship between Noah and Scott….”

    This bothers me. I myself want a good story, all kinds of stories, from mysteries, fantasies, adventures, Westerns, science fiction, steampunk, and more. But instead of reading about Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenswood, I want the central romance to be about two or more men.

    So I guess what I am asking is this: Did the plot elements you mention get in the way of a good story? Or were you just not interested in them personally? The answer means a lot to me on whether I would want to spend the money on this book.

    Thanks! and hugs.
    B.G.

    Reply
    • Hi BG

      I understand what you are asking. I’ll try to clarify what I’m saying and it is strictly relevant to just this book. For me the most successful elements were the characters and the setting, in this case I found the suspense/action side of the book worked less effectively: as Helena said too many twists and turns which was, for me, personified by a lot of different bad guys all contributing to the drug smuggling scene. It just felt a bit messy. So it the execution of the plot I had a problem with not because it was a complicated plot.

      I have reasonably eclectic tastes and while I have my individual preferences, when I write a review I try to balance that with the quality of the book no matter if it isn’t to my perfect taste.

      For me this is not a perfect suspense/thriller/romance novel, ones I think are mighty fine would include- Josh Lanyon’s Fair Game or Come Unto These Yellow Sands, Jane Seville Zero at the Bone, Harper Lee Driftwood, ZAMaxfield The Long Way Home, James Buchanan Hard Fall, Kaje Harper Life Lessons……….Sorry getting carried away there I could carry on too! But it gives you an idea of my taste.

      However there are things about this book that I did really like. I think the stars really came out between 4 and 4.25, but as I may have said Noah was a big hit with me…..and that is a bias. 🙂

      Hope this helps. Oh and I think the extract gives a good idea unlike some. Thats what I chose it on anyway.

      Reply
      • (((HUGS))) Thanks for your FABulous reply! 🙂 You answered me perfectly and just made my afternoon. I have read Zero by the way and WOW.

        Now I need to get my ass back to working on my next story! LOL! Thanks again for your review!

        Reply
  • Your reviews are always so well written Raine, I think I may be tempted by this one again. You are so bad for my pocket ;). Thanks for the review.

    Reply
  • I think that more than too many baddies, I found unsettling too many (Noah) twists (and I love twist btw) 😕
    Anyway, overall I enjoyed the book 😀
    Thank you for your review 😎

    Reply
    • Yeah Helena I have to agree that Noah was a rather unreliable narrator in some ways, I couldn’t have accepted another twist from him either.

      The first time I read it I found those revelations unexpected, but second time round I was more aware of Scott’s attitude helping to forwarn the reader on the trust issue.

      Thanks for your comments.

      Reply
  • Great Review Raine. I think this is something I need to read soon, sounds very interesting. I’s nothing like CSI Miami, or is it? That Ive been afraid of…. 🙄

    Reply

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