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Sticks & Stones by Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux

Genre: LGBT - M/M Romantic Suspense
Series: Zane & Ty
Rating: 5 Stars
Formats: Paperback, Kindle

Sticks & Stones
You CANNOT Get Any Better Than Ty and Zane!

If you're a fan of m/m romantic thrillers/suspense, then you can't beat the writing pair of Urban and Roux for incredible fiction, and in Sticks & Stones, the sequel to one of my favorite reads of 2009, Cut & Run, the irresistible and at times irascible FBI Special Agents Zane Garrett and Ty Grady are back with a vengeance. They're still toting around all sorts of personal and professional baggage and struggling with the aftereffects of a case that nearly killed them both, not to mention struggling with their relationship with each other, and yet - thanks to incredible writing and exquisitely detailed characterization - this second book drives home just how amazing a read can be when you transcend the idea of character and plot and start to experience in a profound way these two men's lives.

Just weeks after being partnered officially and drawn back to DC, Zane and Ty are riding desks at Quantico until they're cleared for fieldwork - and neither are too happy about it. The hyper Ty is bouncing off the walls and Zane, who's too emotionally buttoned down to do much bouncing at all, is in a bad place head-wise and still struggling with nightmares and exhaustion. When the unofficial psych evals come down from their boss, SAC Dick Burns, they're forced into a vacation that neither wants but both desperately need.

Ty ends up taking Zane home with him to West By-God-Virginia, and together with members of Ty's family, Zane is drawn into a world he's never known and forced to face - with Ty - emotions and situations he'd never dreamed of. This rich and thoroughly well developed story spans a few weeks of time and deals the men a bad hand of freezing weather on a mountain, murderous treasure hunters, and wildlife that'd sooner eat you than look at you. And how they survive - if they survive - is going to be more a measure of who they are and how they feel about each other than any skill they have as federal agents.

It's an incredible read - just absolutely incredible - not because the plot is so spectacular or the book is so well written (though the plot is solid and the book is very well written). No, what sets Sticks & Stones (and its predecessor, Cut & Run) apart is the total immersion into these two damaged and flawed characters' lives. They're so well drawn, so utterly realistic and believable - in part because they're so human (with all the good and bad traits of two stubborn and masculine men) and in part because they're so often at the mercy of situations they can't control...yet somehow manage to do so anyway. These are guys you may not like (hell, at times I don't like them - but I do love them), and several times I found myself frustrated with one or the other (or both) because they're such men sometimes, but you certainly won't be unmoved by them or their plights. Even when they're so damn stoic it makes you grind your teeth with the knowledge that it would be so much more cathartic for them to just talk about their feelings! I know...sounds just like a man, doesn't it?

And that's the best thing about this series (and yes, it is a series, and the third book, Fish & Chips, is in production at the time of this review); these two men are real. Real frustrating, real charming (when they want to be), real devoted to each other (even when they don't want to be), real, real, real, REAL. They're tragically flawed and hopelessly lost at times. They take damage that breaks their bodies and minds and the consequences of that damage are realistic and humanizing. They want things they don't always get. They love, though it makes them horribly uncomfortable at times. They are sons and brothers and buddies to people who see them as 'son', 'brother', and 'buddy' - and these authors write so well you can actually see that delineation between how they view themselves and how they act in those 'rolls'.

It's just so well written, I lack the necessary superlatives to express it accurately. It has to be experienced. So go. Experience it. Now would be good. But start with Cut & Run - you can thank me later.

Check out my review of another book I highly recommend by these authors:
Warrior's Cross

2 comments:

Melrose said...

Bravo for the review! You've caught the essence of what makes both Cut & Run and Sticks & Stones so alluring and addictive. I find myself tripping over my own tongue when trying to find the words to describe how much I love the dynamic duo's of Abigail and Madeleine and Ty and Zane. I'm eagerly awaiting the release of Fish and Chips.

Tracy G. Fragassi said...

Thanks, Melrose!
I, too, am eagerly awaiting Fish & Chips. I can't get enough of Ty and Zane and hope that the authors continue their exploits for a long time...hopefully with some level of HEA for them both. Together.

When it comes to flawed yet sympathetic characters and realistic emotional maturation (full on with the one step forward and two back, sometimes), I haven't read ANY book that represents that as realistically as those of Zane and Ty. I'm completely captivated by their journey.

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Ratings Guide

Here is a rundown of what the star ratings mean to me! It's not a perfect system, so you may see me add in a .5 star here and there if my impression of the book falls somewhere between these:

5 Stars - Loved it
4 Stars - Liked it
3 Stars - It's okay
2 Stars - Didn't like it
1 Star - Hated it

2014 Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Tracy has read 22 books toward her goal of 175 books.
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Tracy's bookshelf: read

Zero at the BoneHead Over HeelsLord of the WolfynIn Total SurrenderA Win-Win PropositionNorth of Need

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