Cross is the second book in S.E. Harmon’s exciting Formicary duology. The books directly connect and Cross follows immediately after the end of Chrysalis. The story must be read in order and this review will reveal some spoilers from events in the first book (but not from Cross).
While his amnesia means that Christian Cross doesn’t remember stealing the “super soldier” serum from his grandfather and Formicary leader, Petar Dobroslav, that doesn’t stop Dobroslav from holding him responsible now that it’s gone. That means that not only is Chris’ life on the line, but his lover Grayson Laurie’s as well. The only bargaining chip Chris has is to promise to track down the missing scientist who created the super soldier program and get her to provide the information Dobroslav wants. Chris has two weeks to find her and, after that, both Chris and Gray’s lives will be forfeit if he fails.
Having Gray with him on the search is both a blessing and a curse. Even as Chris barely remembers his past, everything in him calls out for Gray. He knows he loves Gray and would literally do anything for him. So having Gray around is a comfort, but Chris can’t help but worry. He’d keep Gray totally protected if he could, but Gray is determined to help and will not be left behind. The pair are joined in their quest by Chaos, the assassin who shot Chris, but who has somehow almost become a friend and who is almost as highly motivated as Chris to succeed on this mission. And Chris’ friend, Nick, a computer genius, also gets involved. But finding the missing doctor is only part of the challenge. The more they learn about what is going on at the Formicary, the worse it is. And the revelations about Chris’ past aren’t much more comforting. But Chris knows that the only way to end it, the only way to stop the threats once and for all is to take down the Formicary. With their lives on the line, Chris, Gray, and their allies will do everything they can to stop Dobroslav and end the madness for good.
When I read Chrysalis, the first book in this set, I totally went crazy for it. I loved the high-suspense, amnesia plot line, as well as the relationship between Chris and Gray. Plus, the story had just the right amount of humor to balance out the intensity, and I loved Chris as the POV character. So I was super excited when this follow up came out, and I am happy to say, I loved it even more than the first book.
The main focus of this story is set up in the first book, as Dobroslav is about to kill Christian and Gray until Chris offers to try to find the doctor who conducted all the research. As with Chrysalis, we get high-octane suspense here with a lot of intensity and excitement as Chris battles it out with enemies who are often as skilled as him, or better. Mixed in with the adventure, we get the continued revelations of all that is really going on with Formicary and with Christian’s past. It is horrifying and amazing and everything seems insurmountable as the team hits one hurdle after another. We learn some shocking things, and I love that the story keeps us guessing after one key reveal. I truly wasn’t sure how it was all going to play out and that is a sign of a good story. This is a contemporary, but we are dealing with research and technology that doesn’t exist (or at least, let’s hope it doesn’t!), so there is a bit of a sci fi/futuristic element to the book that works well.
In addition to all the exciting suspense, I loved the team focus of this story. In the first book, Christian is sort of a lone wolf as he is struggling to figure out his past while unknown attackers are after him. But here, he is working with Gray, Chaos, and Nick for most of the book, and I found it a lot of fun to see them all together. Chaos and Chris sort of are like bickering brothers (who also try to kill each other), so it makes for some nice humor. But my favorite part of the dynamic is Gray, who is seemingly the one most out of his depth in this situation. Yet not only is Gray steady, brave, and determined to help, he is also quite skilled in his own way. While Chris and Chaos are all brute force and strength, Gray is charming, smart, and knows how to behave around other people. So there are a lot of amusing moments where the assassins have no idea how to function other than smashing things, while Gray is easily able to resolve the situation through his own personality and brains. It adds a nice dose of humor to balance out the more intense moments.
While this is a thrilling suspense, the heart of the story for me is without a doubt Chris and Gray. By the time this book opens, the men are pretty much back together, though Chris can’t help but worry that once Gray knows more about his life, he won’t want anything to do with him. But Gray is made of sturdy stuff and he is all in with Chris as well. These books are very much a “grumpy one loves the sunshiney one” trope, and if you like a bad boy who is soft as can be for the man he loves, you are going to particularly enjoy this one. Chris is clear that his number one priority in life is Gray. Chris is up front that he would sacrifice anything or anyone for Gray. Of course, Gray has no intention of letting him do that, but there is just this intensity to Gray’s love that is kind of swoony, particularly given that he is a killer (and obviously you have to be ok with a morally questionable hero here). Like I said, if you like bad boys who are head over heels in love, this book has that in spades. I love the little moments between them, the way Gray reassures Chris that he loves him just as he is. These guys are so intense in their love for one another and it is just super romantic.
Things all tie up really well at the end here, including an extended epilogue that shows Chris is an even better guy than we might have thought. I love the moments of heart and vulnerability we get from him throughout the book, as we see there is much more beyond the super soldier shell.
I found this duology everything I love in a romantic suspense. The combination of thrilling action, some terrifying reveals, intense romance, and dash of humor just completely worked for me. I can highly recommend this set and it was among my favorite reads of the year.