Cross & Crown by Abigail Roux ~ Review by Christine

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book of the spin-off stories from Abi Roux’s widely popular Cut & Run series. Nick and Kelly are back in their second installment of the Sidewinder series, grappling with plenty of mayhem, murder, and intrigue.

CrossCrownCoverTitle: Cross & Crown

Author: Abigail Roux

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

My Rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

From the Publisher:

When Nick O’Flaherty arrives at the scene of a double homicide to find he has a witness to the crime, he thinks it’s his lucky day. But when he realizes his witness is suffering from amnesia and can’t even remember his own name, Nick wishes he’d gone with his gut and put in for vacation time.

Then Nick’s boyfriend and former Recon teammate, Kelly Abbott, joins him in Boston, and Nick finds his hands a little too full as the case and his personal life collide. The witness he’s dubbed “JD” is being tailed by Julian Cross, a retired CIA hitman. To complicate matters further, JD forms an attachment to Nick that Nick struggles not to respond to as they search for the key to JD’s identity.

Trying to determine whether JD is friend or foe as they investigate the crime puts them on the trail of a much older mystery. When multiple attempts are made on their lives, Nick is forced to turn to old enemies and new allies to solve a centuries-old crime before he and Kelly get added to the history books.

My View

Nick and Kelly’s two-week visit is thwarted by Nick’s incredibly involved murder case. Instead of spending leisure time together, they are embroiled in a mystery that involves an amnesiac witness, double homicide, antique books, and a resurfacing of none other than one Julian Cross. The ensuing pandemonium makes for a quick read with familiar characters as the men join forces to attempt to solve the crime and safely end a life or death situation.

First of all, I highly recommend that any potential reader who has not read Abigail Roux’s Cut & Run series or Shock & Awe, the first of Sidewinder series, do so before picking this one up. The sprinkling of characters and the allusions to past histories shared from the other books could be confusing and frustrating to someone who didn’t know the background and relationships of all of these men.

That being said, I found the plot of this book to be intriguing. I enjoyed the National Treasure flavor, and the use of American history in solving the murder case was a compelling element. The additional use of a witness with amnesia who may or may not be an ally added an interesting twist. Having visited Boston a few years ago, I recognized a few of the historic sites used in the setting, and taking the hunt from one scene to the next was fun and informative.

I was very excited to see the return of Nick O’Flaherty and Kelly Abbot in the Sidewinder series and to find out how their relationship was faring in Cross & Crown. There is no denying that these two have incredible chemistry, and their sex scenes are filled with intensity and passion, along with the occasional allusion to D/s that never quite makes it to the page. They seem to care for one another and want things to solidify and move forward, and that is reassuring for future installments of the series. I truly enjoy these two together and want to know more about them and their pasts. Their dialogue is mostly filled with classic Abi Roux banter, irreverent and abounding with inside jokes, with the occasional affection creeping in, giving the reader a brief glimpse of the depth of feelings that may be harbored by these two characters. I also enjoyed the character of JD, the witness with amnesia. Though little is revealed about him in the story, his vocation and knowledge helped to solidify my fascination with him. I don’t know if Ms. Roux has plans for him in future stories, but I would love to see his return!

Unfortunately, there were a couple of things in this story that caused issues for me.   First of all, I love Julian Cross. Don’t get me wrong. He is one of my favorite Abi Roux characters, and I have read his and Cam’s story, Warrior’s Cross, multiple times and loved the part he played in Armed & Dangerous. I think that is the reason I feel he doesn’t work here. His character is too big, too powerful, and he simply doesn’t shine on the page as he does in other appearances. He wasn’t believable as the Julian I know and love, playing a very minor and lackluster part that feels contrived and unnecessary to this story.  I also wish to have seen a further development of Nick’s backstory. This is one of the main complaints I have in many m/m romance stories – not enough background to truly empathize with and get to know the characters. There is a very interesting nugget in this plot that has to do with Nick’s past, and I wanted more of it! I would have loved to see this particular part of Nick’s character expanded upon so that we could get a clearer picture of him and understand how his choices as a young man helped to shape the man he is today.  Additionally, I feel that as he and Kelly stand right now in the series, their characters are not yet fully developed. Their dialogue, though mostly amusing and entertaining, became a little too flippant and cheeky for lovers trying to create a solid relationship. In order to believe that a romantic relationship exists between these two, I would like to see them communicate about their pasts and about how they truly feel about each other.  The “I love you’s” simply don’t have enough weight behind them to convince me.  I hope that will be addressed in future books.

This book is most likely a precursor for further storylines for these two characters, but as a standalone it may be confusing.  I didn’t find it as satisfying as other Abi Roux books, but I did like many of the elements within its plot, the chemistry between Nick and Kelly, and the introduction to the character of JD. Ultimately, Cross & Crown is fast-paced and intriguing, and Abi Roux fans will enjoy seeing reappearances of characters from previous books, as well as her trademark snarky banter, mystery, and intrigue.

Buy Links:

Riptide Publishing
Amazon US
Amazon UK
All Romance eBooks
Barnes & Noble
Kobo

I would like to thank Riptide Publishing for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

Brandilyn
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