Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are back on the job, settled into a personal and professional relationship built on fierce protectiveness and blistering passion. Now they’re assigned to impersonate two members of an international smuggling ring-an out-and-proud married couple-on a Christmas cruise in the Caribbean. As their boss says, surely they’d rather kiss each other than be shot at, and he has no idea how right he is. Portraying the wealthy criminals requires a particular change in attitude from Ty and Zane while dealing with the frustrating waiting game of their assignment. As it begins to affect how they treat each other in private, Ty and Zane realize there’s more to being partners than watching each other’s backs, and when the case takes an unexpected turn and threatens Ty’s life, Ty and Zane will have to navigate seas of white lies and stormy secrets, including some of their own.
This review can also be found on Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell-blog.
There’s a certain challenge in reviewing novels of a book series back to back. How do I say the same things and still keep the review fresh and interesting to read? Because obviously, the problems I had in the first two book of the Cut & Run series about FBI special agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett, still exist in the third instalment.
The repetition, it’s still there. Not as strong as in the beginning or even in the second book, mind you, but it exists. In the third book, however, it focuses more on catching up the reader after a longer pause between published books than rehashing the same thoughts, themes and events within the book. Although, that does happen too.
The adverbs and everything that reminds me of bad fanfiction writing, are still there. The fact that I occasionally laughed or snorted at funny lines or incidents, doesn’t change the fact that dialogue tags include unnecessary words ending with -ly. This infection isn’t limited to dialogue tags either, but it fades better within the body text.
Plot advancement continues to happen in short paragraphs used to tell the reader (more like recap) what has happened. Apart from a handful of discussions and scenes that unsurprisingly also centre around the two main characters and their assumed character and relationship development, majority of this book is spent in scenes mirroring Ty’s and Zane’s behaviour around each other.
As for the hairline thin plot thread holding this book together that was marginally better done here than in the first book, and significantly improved upon the second—which is hardly a surprise considering that Sticks & Stones had no plot at all.
So what do I talk about, after that quick refresher?
About the reason why I keep reading, of course—the characters of course.
That however will prove to be a challenge. I already listed a number of reasons on a Goodreads comment for my earlier review and it’s difficult to talk about the subject without repeating myself.
I shall try.
From the start, Ty and Zane had that not unique kind of chemistry and banter interaction that I find appealing. They’re not mushy, but snarky and rather caustic. They don’t get along in the very beginning, but like the men they are, they only connect after having bruised and maimed each other—as if having others to do that them wasn’t enough. Trust is earned.
Then there’s a disconnect.
Between books one and two something happens and the characterisations are altered significantly. Where Zane was the one more in touch with his feelings in Cut & Run, in Sticks & Stones it’s suddenly Ty. Ty also has his momentary relapse to childhood behaviour patterns, which should be familiar to every adult ever visited his or her parents after a long absence. In Fish & Chips Zane very clearly regresses to a state more fitting his history revealed in the first book, whereas Ty ends up embracing his submissive side.
It’s almost like the authors started writing two different characters, went back and changed few history details, and only after having submitted the first manuscript for publication realised they needed to change how the characters acted too. The altered details matter very little if the motivations springing from them don’t ring true. I read Fish & Chips as an desperate attempt to correct the course away from those rocky shores laid out in the first book and towards deeper, safer waters.
I only wish Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux had skipped publishing their practice run and waited for their first actual sailing trip.
As things stand now, between books three and four, I have a very hazy picture of the characterisations the authors are trying to convey. I suspect it would be easier to accept what I’m told, had I skipped the first book and started the series from Sticks & Stones. However, with the absence of actual plot I can’t recommend this option for anyone else either.
Three stars for the sheer grace of not annoying me as much as the previous two.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.