Rating: 4.75 stars
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In this second book of the Cut & Run series, we find FBI agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett still recovering from the events of their first case together. Both men are a little shaky and stressed and stuck on desk duty until they are ready to go back into the field. Zane in particular is struggling, still unable to pass his psych evaluations to get back on active duty. And although they remain close, the mental stress is taking its toll on their relationship with each other. In an effort to get the men to relax a little and regroup, their supervisor (and Grady family friend) makes the strong suggestion that the guys take some vacation time, along with some less than subtle hints that Ty spend it at home in West Virginia with his family.
So without much choice, Ty heads home and brings Zane along with him. The plan is to spend some time with Ty’s father Earl and brother Deuce hiking up in the mountains. Things start off all right. Zane enjoys meeting Ty’s somewhat crazy family and getting a little more insight into his partner’s life and upbringing. The men enjoy the beauty of the mountains, and being out of their work environment begins to help settle them both down. But before long, trouble hits as the group stumbles upon some men in the mountains up to no good. What starts out as a relaxing vacation turns deadly as predators both man and beast threaten their safety. It will take everything the men have to stay safe and make it out of the mountains alive.
Wow, another fabulous installment in this great series! Sticks & Stones gives us another side to this couple and their story. In Cut & Run, the book focuses on Ty and Zane’s developing partnership and relationship, combined with a full scale mystery element in the criminal investigation. Here, although the story is filled with excitement and suspense, the guys are acting outside their formal role as FBI agents. I enjoyed this different direction and seeing the men rely on their inate skills and strengths, trapped in the wilderness and forced to count on only on themselves (with the help of Earl and Deuce) to catch the bad guys and get to safety. Once they get into the mountains, this story is incredibly exciting and suspenseful with almost non-stop action.
We also get a lot more focus indivually on Ty, as we see him with his family and learn a lot more about his background and what makes him tick. Fighting for his life with his partner and family around him brings out Ty’s protective instincts and his military training kicks in. But he also struggles with flashbacks and bad memories that threaten his hold on sanity as he sees his loved ones in danger. In this story Ty really battles his personal demons and there are times when it is unclear if he will hold it together. And I really loved how Zane is the one person who is able to reach him, helping him work through his mental stress and hold it together when things get crazy. Althought this book focuses more on Ty and less on their relationship development, we still get to see the men work through this situation together and realize how much they mean to one another. For these guys facing their feelings is hard enough, let alone sharing them, so seeing them express the importance of their relationship, however hesistantly, is really rewarding.
My only small complaint here is once again the head hopping. We primarily switch back and forth between Ty and Zane’s POV and I did find myself needing to stop and get myself reoriented quite a few times as we changed viewpoints. Things were even trickier when we occassionally got the POV of side characters, like Ty’s brother or mom. POV switches are common in romance so I am not sure why I am having more trouble here, but I did find myself pulled out of the story on occassion.
I really enjoyed Sticks & Stones and am loving the series. Roux and Urban really do a great job blending the relationship side of things with fabulously exciting and suspenseful stories. I love Ty and Zane and am enjoying seeing these tough men struggle with their softer side, realizing their feelings and struggling to handle them. This was another great installment and I can’t wait to pick up the next book!