Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run, #6)

Title: Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run #6)
Author: Abigail Roux
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Action/Adventure
Length: Novel/99K words/275 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Review Summary: Ty’s and Zane’s romance blooms, but not before some really scary felines make Ty their love interest. However I thought that the action and adventure were not at the usual high octane level.

THE BLURB

Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett have managed the impossible: a few months of peace and quiet. After nearly a year of personal and professional turmoil, they’re living together conflict-free, work is going smoothly, and they’re both happy, healthy, and home every night before dark. But anyone who knows them knows that can’t possibly last.   When an emergency call from home upsets the balance of their carefully arranged world, Ty and Zane must juggle family drama with a perplexing crime to save a helpless victim before time runs out.

From the mountains of West Virginia to a remote Texas horse ranch harboring more than just livestock and childhood memories, Ty and Zane must face their fears—and their families—to overcome an unlikely enemy and bring peace back into their newly shared world.

Cut & Run Series

THE REVIEW

It’s been a few months since Armed & Dangerous ended and Ty’s & Zane’s personal relationship has evolved – a lot, as they are now living together. Their cover story is that they are shacking up because they’re sharing the cost of Ty’s mortgage. I thought it was very funny that they were hiding their sexual relationship in plain view of their colleagues and friends, having public displays of affection apparently with no concern about being seen, and going home every night to take care of — and get ravished by! — their house guests, Julian Cross’s two cats, Smith & Wesson. In the midst of all this love and togetherness Ty’s mother calls to tell him that she had cut off Earl’s (his father’s) pinky finger, [probably more by design than accident] 🙂 and she needed his help to repair the roof of the shed since Earl couldn’t do it with his injury. He and Zane rushed to West Virginia to do her bidding, only to walk into some fireworks as Ty’s best kept secret is exposed innocently by the least likely person. Ty ends up with a broken hand and Earl with a black eye after the fisticuffs were over, while the “innocent” exposer remains ignorant of the deed — or maybe not.  🙂

No sooner had the excitement abated that Zane’s sister Annie phoned to tell him his father had been shot, so he took off for the family ranch in Texas leaving Ty all by himself, something neither man could tolerate even for a few days, so Ty showed up at the ranch a week later. When they investigated the shooting, which seemed on the surface to be tied to a simple poaching operation, it turned into something much bigger involving some big cats on an exotic animal sanctuary.

In Stars & Stripes Ty’s & Zane’s relationship is even more romantic and caring than what it was in book 5. If you’re a fan of the series mainly because of the romance you’ll be very happy with this book because the guys can’t stay away from each other. However, on the action /adventure front, although there is a lot of shoot-em-up action at the end, the sustained, non stop action and adventure throughout the story, a series trademark since the beginning that I call “action/adventure on speed,”  with lots of tension and chills and thrills, were not as evident.

I felt that the tone of this book was quite different and the pace was much slower than most of the others in the series. This is a seismic shift from the norm of an incredible action/adventure series starring two competitive Special Agents who fell in love with each other over the course of several books, and tried to balance their professional and budding personal relationships. I loved how Ty and Zane disliked each other initially in Cut & Run and worked their way through their combative professional relationship to eventually fall in love. They had always been fiercely loyal to each other but Ty was unpredictable, high strung, short tempered, acerbic and irascible and I never knew when he would react physically to something Zane said or did. I miss the flawed, snarky, tough as nails Special Agent who took offence at almost everything and everyone. I enjoyed the oneupmanship in Ty’s and Zane’s friendship and the way they kicked each other’s butt, but most of this seems to be missing here. Ty changed from a tiger who growled at any slight, imagined or real, to someone who went with the flow and sometimes even took it on the chin when he was insulted, which didn’t seem consistent with his character. Zane’s character did evolve a bit but he remained basically the same temperamentally as he was always the more easy going of the pair. Best of all he was no longer stressed and his alcoholism was a thing of the past as he  moved on from grieving about his dead wife Becky and committed himself fully to Ty.

If I seem to be dwelling a lot on Ty that’s because IMO he became a different person from the character in Cut & RunDivide & Conquer and Sticks & Stones. In Stars & Stripes he’s too laid back, mellow and passive. I expect characters to grow and change, especially in a series, but their basic personality should remain the same. Here Ty seems to have lost his edge, something that made him so much fun as he got into trouble and fights at the drop of a hat and didn’t seem to care that he was pissing off everyone. I also miss the conflict and excitement in Ty’s & Zane’s relationship, as everything is too perfect between them in Stars & Stripes and all the conflict is external.

Although Stars & Stripes has the usual shoot ’em up violence at the end of the book, in my assessment the plot was not as strong as the other books in the series, but of course that could be because my expectations were so high. It’s tough to maintain the excitement in a series and keep all the balls in the air. The perpetrators here weren’t the high rollers we’ve seen in other books (and none too bright, either!  🙂 ), and there was no opponent of the stature of a Julian Cross capable of outwitting Ty & Zane and taking things up several notches to edge-of-your-seat excitement. In addition, the real action didn’t get going until about more than half way into the book, which is a change from the previous books that started off with a bang and kept on accelerating like a runaway train.

This has been a tough review to write because, as all of you know, I absolutely adore this series and the characters. The writing is always excellent and Abi Roux did her usual great job as the one liners and zingers kept on coming. In terms of the new characters, I loved Zane’s sister Annie and his father Harrison; his mother Beverly was so well drawn I felt like smacking her. 🙂 I can’t wait for the next book to see where the story arc is headed. Most fans of the series will enjoy Stars & Stripes because of the focus on Ty’s & Zane’s romantic relationship. Action/adventure fans, however, may feel that this aspect of the book was not as high octane as in previous books, although there were some exciting moments, including those with Ty and his favourite feline. 🙂 The sex was probably hotter in this book as our heroes took full advantage of their down time together. Loved Ty’s Stetson action. :blush:

I don’t know how much longer this series will continue as we seem to have reached a crossroad in book 6, but I look forward to the next adventures of my favourite Special Agents.

Highly recommended.

10% of the author’s first-quarter royalties for this title will be donated to the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Boyd, TX. To learn more about the important work the IEAS does, please visit their website at http://www.bigcat.org/

Cut & Run Series

Author

I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports – especially baseball

68 comments

  • WAVE, YOU WERE VERY BRAVE! It’s a great book. However, I miss the cranky, cantankerous, irritable B Tyler Grady. I loved his rapid mood swings, and his take it or take it attitude! I am hopeful he will be back, along with the action, which I missed! I want Ty the trained weapon, and Zane the ruthless killing machine!

    P.S. I also read Cut & Run reluctantly as well because of the perceived violence, and it quickly became one of my favorite books! After that, I read everything that Abigail Roux wrote because she has such a distinct voice!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      I love it when characters evolve and change but this was WAY too much change in such a short time. Ty was always my favourite because of his characteristics. Now that they’re gone I’m left with someone I don’t really know.

      It took me a while before I read and reviewed Cut & Run, not because of the violence but because it was almost 400 pages. 😆 Now it’s one of my most read books in the series.

      Reply
    • Hi Lisa.

      Thanks for commenting. Some fans of the series disagreed with my assessment of S & S but I could not, in all conscience, say that it was up to the standard of the earlier books in the series. As you said, I liked it a lot but I didn’t love it.

      Reply
  • I just have a couple of comments. Am I the only one that noticed the excessive use of the word messy? I wanted to get them some wet wipes! Second, I missed Ty. I missed his snark and attitude. That is what I fell in love with and that’s what I expect from him. Both of those things decreased my enjoyment of the book.

    Reply
    • Hi M

      I must admit that I was so engrossed in the changes to Ty’s personality I never noticed the overuse of the word “messy.” However I will definitely be on the lookout when next I read this book. 🙂

      You and I are on the same page about missing our Ty. Many fans try to tell me that he was this person all along, but I don’t buy it – this is a massive shift. I want my Ty back.

      Reply
  • First post, so I’m a little nervous!

    I had several thoughts after reading all the reviews so here goes!

    First of all, I love this series and I really enjoyed this book, though I agree it wasn’t necessarily perfect.

    If I had to chose a book in the series I liked less than the others I think I would say A&D, not S&S2. Partly this is because I never connected with either character in Warrior’s Cross, but mostly because I thought the changes that Ty was going through previously were not highlighted enough. At the end of D&C he is so stressed he runs away, but this is glossed over more in A&D than I would have liked.

    I personally think the big Ty shift started in F&C. He didn’t get to really try out the revelations he had in that book in his own life until S&S2 because of the stress piled on him in D&C and A&D.

    I think here we are finally seeing the Ty that Deuce grew up with and that is hinted at in S&S1, the fun loving, happy-go-lucky Ty from before the marines. I was very happy to see him finally emerge.

    In all honesty, I personally am more surprised by the shift in Zane. Several people remarked that they found him more laid back than Ty throughout this series, it honestly made me wonder if we were seeing the same character. There is a major shift from someone who is self destructive and can only cope with life through drugs and alcohol to the more relaxed character that hardly seems to be struggling with his alcoholism and doesn’t seem to be going to AA anymore. Am I the only one who finds this hard to believe?

    I understand and am pleased that loving and being loved by Ty has given him a new lease on life, but I think that the man we are seeing here is completely new. I don’t think this Zane ever existed before and to me this is a more major change in personality than we see with Ty.

    As far as a continuation of the series, I think there is more left unresolved than we think. This was more of an interlude before they have to deal with possibly being outed at work.

    Reply
    • Hi Mems

      Thanks for being courageous enough to post your first comment. 🙂 Congratulations!

      Based on the comments from everyone, about half of the commenters disagreed with everyone else and we all have our own thoughts about Ty and Zane, characters that we love A LOT obviously, and we’re probably all WRONG. 😮

      I understand and am pleased that loving and being loved by Ty has given him a new lease on life, but I think that the man we are seeing here is completely new. I don’t think this Zane ever existed before and to me this is a more major change in personality than we see with Ty.

      There is no doubt that Zane is different from the character we first saw in Cut & Run, but IMO his evolution happened throughout the series, not like Ty’s, starting in A & D and then completing his transformation in Stars & Stripes. We saw Zane in his drug addicted stages in the beginning and gradually he weaned himself off the drugs and alcohol through several books because of his love for Ty. He is still going to AA (as indicated in S & S) and like everyone who is an addict, that’s a lifelong process. We got his perspective in this book as to why he didn’t find it too difficult to stay off his addictions. The answer was simple – Ty.

      I think here we are finally seeing the Ty that Deuce grew up with and that is hinted at in S&S1, the fun loving, happy-go-lucky Ty from before the marines. I was very happy to see him finally emerge.

      Of course Ty is not one dimensional and he was always changing his personality when he was not running after crooks, but I see him now as an almost completely different person. What I miss is the volatile, flawed, flaky person he used to be – he’s way too perfect now. Anyway, that’s my take. 🙂

      I hope you’re right that perhaps there may be a book about Ty & Zane coming out to their work colleagues. That would be something. 🙂

      Don’t be a stranger. Come back soon to talk books again.

      Reply
  • I don’t think Ty had a “personality change” at all. What we see in S&S2 is what was there all along. It was the “Ty” Ty buried when he ran away to the Marines. And also, remember, he’s at his beloved’s family in this book. He’s on his best behavior.
    I’ve been married for over 2 decades, and can still remember my bro-in-law’s incredulity at my husband’s behavior change after we were together for a few months.
    Before me, he was always the guy that had it “together”. Broke a lot of hearts because he kept his to himself. He was the guy that fought hard, and played hard, but you always knew you were being held at arm’s length emotionally.
    Within a few months, his real, warm, kinda dorky, patient, sweet side came out and his family was shocked. They never saw that side.
    “What did you DO to him?” Moi?
    Oh, he still can slam down the walls to his heart, and can be a badass when he needs to be, but he’s still the man I met. So, no issues with the way Ty is in S&S2.

    Reply
    • I completely agree on why Ty was “different”.

      He was essentially on vacation. Yes, there was a mystery theme going on, but it wasn’t heavy and fraught with danger until the latter parts of the book. There was no big case, no co-workers or bosses to hide from. Ty could be mellow, he could be out, he could be affectionate.

      He is also just….happier. He and Zane are finally in a secure place. Nothing seems to be waiting to jump out and tear them apart. He knows he loves Zane, and he knows that love is really, genuinely returned. His family knows. Really, the only stress left is work, and they weren’t at work in this one.

      Also, it was Zane’s family, and I felt Ty curbed a lot of his “Ty-ness” with Beverly and the people at the bar, because he didn’t want to make things tougher on Zane than they already were. Zane seems to have a hard enough time with his family, without Ty being his most Ty.

      I do admit to some of the same worry though. I missed the breakneck speed, the back and forth, the fighting, the tension. I don’t want some silly misunderstanding-breakup thing to cause unnecessary conflict, but I do want more than just this lovey dovey honeymoon phase.

      I want the series to keep going, but I don’t want it to get stale either.

      Reply
      • Bitchie

        You may have something there about why Ty was different in this book, i.e. he was on vacation and there was no stress. However I did notice this change in his characterization emerging in A & D (and I mentioned it in my review of the book), although it wasn’t as apparent because Julian Cross provided a whole lot of action and Ty had to be on his game. In this book there was action but even then Ty seemed to be “off”.

        I do admit to some of the same worry though. I missed the breakneck speed, the back and forth, the fighting, the tension. I don’t want some silly misunderstanding-breakup thing to cause unnecessary conflict, but I do want more than just this lovey dovey honeymoon phase.

        I am concerned and I hope it doesn’t happen. Every series must change and evolve or it would become boring. Obviously I want the characters to evolve as well or they will become stale but I’m sure Abi is too good a writer to let that happen. This was such a huge difference (to me anyway) that I couldn’t relate to this Ty. Maybe if there are future books I will become accustomed to the new Ty – he is my favourite MC in this series. Even though I love Zane Ty stole my heart.

        Reply
    • Hi Orange Pekoe

      Thank you for stopping by and giving us your perspective, using the analogy of your own relationship. 🙂 It’s amazing the different scenarios that fans of this series have come up with for what seems to me to be a 180 degree change in Ty’s personality.

      I know which Ty I love and I’m hoping that at least part of him will return once the “honeymoon” is over. If not, I guess I’ll have to suck it up.

      Reply
  • I really enjoyed this one, I liked that there was no conflict in their relationship for a change, threats were external and that the whole theme of the book was about family…….with the guys having that unexpected conversation.

    My only quibble was the about the very forgiving tiger who I adored but I felt his homing act around Ty happened rather too often.

    I fell a bit out of love with this series after the silly cliffhanger, but I liked the last one, mainly I confess becos of Julian Cross, with S&S I’m back in the game. 😀

    Great Review Wave, I find it almost impossible to review books I’m very emotionally invested in. :flowers:

    Reply
    • You could be right Raine, that maybe it was time to slow things down a bit and have a book devoted mostly to love and togetherness and family.

      This is just strange for me because I originally started reading this series because it was mostly about action and adventure with a bit of hot action between the guys thrown in. I miss the adventure and action. I know there was some but not at the level I’ve grown accustomed to. Guess I’ve been spoiled.

      I’m very happy you enjoyed S & S so much Raine. You have lots of company. 🙂

      This was a tough review to write especially since although I like the book it wasn’t my #1 in the series. I knew that fans would line up on either side of the discussion and they did… in spades. 😆 I’m even getting emails from readers who don’t want to comment on the post because they are afraid of being verbally beaten up. 😮

      One of the sure signs of the success of a series is when so many readers are emotionally invested in it.

      Reply

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