Author: Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban
Cover Artist: Mara McKennen
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Action/Adventure
Length: Novel (320 pages) 104K approx.
Rating: 5+ stars, DIK
Review Summary: Divide & Conquer is a triumph. It will make you cry, it’s fun, it will lift you up, and ultimately give you the best reason to continue reading books.
Baltimore, Maryland, is a city in alarming distress. Rising violence is fanning the flames of public outrage, and all law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, are catching blame. Thus the FBI’s latest ideas to improve public relations: a municipal softball league and workshops for community leaders. But the new commitments just mean more time Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett have to spend apart when they’re happily exploring how to be more than by-the-book partners.
Then the latest spate of crime explodes in their faces—literally—throwing the city, the Bureau, and Ty and Zane’s volatile partnership both in and out of the office into chaos. They’re hip-deep in trouble, trying to track down bombers and bank robbers in the dark with very few clues, and the only way to reach the light at the end of the tunnel together requires Ty and Zane to close their eyes and trust each other to the fiery end.
Book four started off with a bang, literally, as an angry mob used hand-made weapons against the FBI agents to express their anger and frustration because they were fed up with the rising crime rate in Baltimore, MD. It was too bad that Ty and Zane were in the shower when the fire alarm went off at their headquarters that particular day so they had to run outside almost naked in the frigid January air smack into a wave of water balloons. This set the tone for the story as Ty was so incensed that federal agents were being attacked by the public they had sworn to protect he didn’t let discretion get in the way of making his displeasure known. Unfortunately that made him the main target of a small-time perp who loved making bombs and didn’t like being shown up on television, so he aimed his bombs at Ty.
In Divide & Conquer what I noticed from the beginning were the raw emotions of a different kind between Ty and Zane. The extreme competitiveness was still there but Ty seemed to lean a lot more on Zane and vice versa, and there was a heightened tenderness between them I never saw in the previous books, even Fish & Chips where Ty revealed that he loved Zane. Zane changed a lot as he realized, more than he ever had before, how much Ty meant to him and that he couldn’t live without him – Ty had become as essential to him as breathing and there was only one explanation, even though his past kept colliding with moving forward. Here’s an excerpt that explains Zane’s confusion:
It was important to Zane to understand where craving Ty had become needing him, and when needing him had become caring for him, and if it was possible for that caring to truly become even more. Because Ty deserved nothing less. Zane could see it now. The craving he worried about wasn’t an addiction. It was far more wrenching. Something significant enough that Zane was changing his entire life to be worthy of it, and there just wasn’t any other possible explanation.
Both MCs went through every emotion in the book: Anger, love, rejection and a passion so all encompassing that the constantly changing landscape made the sex erotic and moving, tender and brutally hot, as Ty showed his mastery over Zane who gave as good as he got while they measured every surface in the apartment in the context of how and where they could lay other each out. Ty being possessive was a thing of beauty.
There is a new character: Nick, Ty’s best friend since boot camp, and their relationship is complicated by their old friendship and new revelations. Ty’s insecurities are never more apparent than when he’s with his Recon buddies. He’s uncertain and conflicted and he worries about maintaining his tough image as he lives with one foot in the present with Zane and the other in the past.
For the first time since they met and became more than partners on the job Zane had to face one very troubling question. Could he lose Ty? The likely answer took an emotional toll on him at a time when he had no defenses, and he wondered whether they could survive the stress and come out intact, if they made it out alive.
There is one character in the book that I absolutely loved, and it’s not human – it’s Ty’s Ford Bronco. It had been with him for most of his adult life, he had built it from spare parts and it was his baby; the stickers and decals on the vehicle told the story of his life. He lavished love and tenderness on the four wheel drive that was his oldest and most beloved possession and it repaid him in the most incredible way.
In book four there’s a lot of hurt/comfort and one devastating problem for Zane required that Ty be even more supportive towards him, and their feelings underwent a metamorphosis of sorts. The emotions were so thick at times you could cut it as they experience need, desperation, love unspoken, and a lot of it was painful to read especially when they were fighting a real menace that could end their lives at any moment. The last 10% of the book was the most harrowing and dangerous as Zane and Ty had to race against the clock to avert disaster and loss of life, but it was worth every second as in the end Zane was the one to offer Ty comfort in critical moments to stave off his complete breakdown. For the first time I really understood Ty, what drove him and how conflicted he was; his trust in Zane was absolute but there were issues around that trust, his love for Zane, and the uncertainty about whether it would be returned or if he would always play second fiddle to Zane’s dead wife.
Divide & Conquer had many “moments” but one picture that sticks in my memory is Ty in dress blues. What an incredible gift. You will understand why this impacted me so much when you read the book.
To summarize: Urban and Roux gave the fans of the series a book for the ages in thrills, chills and emotional content and context. They are skilled in knowing when to go full tilt for the “kill” and how to rein it in. The characters are like living, breathing human beings with feelings and you live through all of their emotions as well as the inevitable tensions, but the best times are the quiet moments that allow you to feel the punch in the gut and dread when they are at their weakest and can’t find their way back to each other.
Divide & Conquer has the usual personal blowups as well as explosions of a different kind, and our heroes’ trust in each other is tested due to challenges from a direction neither saw coming. For the first time Ty has to face a personal donnybrook without the usual fisticuffs, and Zane has to fight new demons in a world where it seems there’s no light in the darkness.
There are many revelations in this book that will rock your socks and you realize how clever Urban and Roux are in using the action/adventure plot as a distraction for what was the real story – Ty’s and Zane’s very complex relationship – as they set the stage for what comes next.
Is this the best book in the series so far? I certainly think so because the authors really stretched here and didn’t phone anything in. They put their hearts on the line and created characters that touched me because they are memorable, flawed, tender AND kick-ass which very few authors know how to do as well. Ty and Zane are heartbreaking and their pain gave the characters a luminous quality that sparkled and shone brilliantly. Divide & Conquer never lets up until the big finale, and it was a finale that only Ty could have dreamed up for the fans. I totally LOVED this book and I don’t see how Urban and Roux can top this but I never underestimate them.
This book is not a standalone and should be read as part of the series, starting with Cut & Run.
Divide & Conquer is available from Dreamspinner on Friday, October 14.