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
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.
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.