Nick O’Flaherty and Kelly Abbott are trying to recover from their latest adventure in Miami. Nick is still healing physically, and both men are still struggling mentally. Nick and Kelly love one another, but there is so much baggage in their past and both men are having trouble moving forward, causing tension in their relationship. The easy companionship they once had is strained as both struggle with past secrets and hurts.
While recovering from his injuries, Nick found a box of things from deceased Sidewinder teammate Elias Sanchez. It turns out Eli left Nick a stack of letters with strict instructions to gather the Sidewinders and follow the guidelines laid out in the letters. Each step on the journey has another letter and a new set of instructions. Eli was hoping that this adventure will help the guys from Sidewinder reconnect with one another and rebuild the team that has gotten a little lost over the years since they served together.
All of the guys agree to come when Nick calls and they begin their trip, recreating a journey they took when they all just got out of the Marines. Along the way, the guys have a chance to bond, to open up to one another again, and to exorcise some personal demons, bringing them closer than they have been in years. Nick and Kelly face their own demons, and the journey both challenges their relationship and gives them a chance to work out some long standing issues. By following Eli’s instructions, all of the men will have a chance to move forward and reconnect in ways they will see them stronger and ready to face the future.
Part & Parcel is the third book in the Sidewinder series (a spin off from Roux’s Cut & Run series). One of the things I love about both these series is the camaraderie of the Sidewinder team and watching them interact. For me that was the best aspect of Part & Parcel as we have these guys together on a road trip of sorts and we get to see them in all their bickering and bantering glory. It is so clear that these men love one another, would do anything for each other, and always have each other’s backs. But they also all have some unresolved issues about the past that have kept them from having the same connection now that they did in the Marines, and on this trip they get a chance to face that. I loved seeing them all together. They make me laugh and added a lot of fun to to the book.
I also love Nick and Kelly and have been a big fan of their romance from the start. So I was eagerly looking forward to this installment of the series, as I loved the first two books (and gave them both 5 stars). So I will say I enjoyed reconnecting with these guys, but I did find myself frustrated with their storyline here. Basically when the book opens we can see that there are unresolved issues between them. Nick’s lies about his mission regarding Burns, him pretending the marriage proposal never happened, Kelly leaving the group years ago to settle in Colorado, etc. There are a host of issues that these guys have hovering over them, and Nick’s recovery from being stabbed in Miami just serves to highlight the man things that are rolling beneath the surface. Over the course of the book, the guys go through a cycle of having an issue come up, working through it, seeming to be fine, and then suddenly something else crops up. This happens over and over throughout the book, each time seeming like THIS time things are settled, only to have something else surface that sets them spiraling again. It was just incredibly frustrating as a reader and I found myself almost exasperated with this cycle. Honestly, there was a point where I began to wonder if maybe these guys shouldn’t be together after all, if maybe there was just too much baggage in their past for them to keep trying to make things work. Not how things would mange to work out in the end, but whether they even should. And that is not a thought I want to be having about a couple I love so many books into their relationship. I can see that Roux was trying to show these guys finally purging all the issues that have been boiling under the surface, but I felt like it was way too repetitive, to the point that I found myself exasperated with them and doubting their fit for each other.
As Nick and Kelly are dealing with their issues, Sidewinder is going through their own cathartic experience, recreating their old trip and bonding again. As I said, I love these guys together, and they were the highlight for me. But I’ll be honest to say that I missed the excitement and suspense that is such a hallmark of these two series. With the exception of Shock & Awe, which is pretty much just mushy, sexy romance (and which I loved), the other stories all have a thriller aspect to them. However, in this case, basically not much happens besides a lot of talking. These guys drive around, they deal with their issues, they talk things out, they argue, they make up. I couldn’t help feel like things were just a little flat in comparison to the usual style of these stories. Yes, I enjoyed these guys hanging out together, but at over 300 pages, I needed more than so much talking. It just really slowed the story down and I needed more action.
And just one more tiny quibble. Elias sets rules for these guys to follow, including no sex while on the trip. And whenever something starts between them, their phones start playing Eli’s favorite songs spontaneously as punishment. I’m not sure what is supposed to be happening here. I guess we are to accept that Eli is haunting them from beyond the grave, but this paranormal element just didn’t fit for me with this type of story. I can believe that Nick “saw” Eli when he was stabbed and about to die, but not that his ghost is controlling their radio.
So I am really of mixed feelings here. I think if you are a fan of Sidewinder and Cut & Run, you are probably going to want to read this. I still enjoyed their interactions and I liked seeing things work out for them. I just wanted more action here and not so much repetition of happy/argue/makeup with Nick and Kelly, and so much endless analysis of their various relationships. I think if this had been a story featuring different characters, I would have had a much harder time with it, but loving these guys like I do helped a lot. So good, but I didn’t love this one nearly as much as I did the first two and the related series.