Jun 9 2014 2:47pm

First Look: Abigail Roux’s Cross and Crown (June 9, 2014)

Cross and Crown by Abigail RouxAbigail Roux
Cross and Crown (A Sidewinder Story)
Riptide / June 9, 2014 / $16.99 print, $6.99 digital

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.

Abigail Roux’s Cut and Run series started out as a simple male/male suspense romance with dynamic characters and intriguing romances and plotlines. Soon, however, the storylines and characters took a life of their own and fans demanded more. More from Ty and Zane (the main characters) and more from the secondary characters. That's how the Sidewinder series began, a spin-off from Cut and Run that revolves around two best-friends-turned-lovers Nick O'Flaherty and Kelly Abbott.

I’m a faithful fan of the best friends-to-lovers trope, especially when it’s between two men. Two stoic alpha men fighting a forbidden attraction only to succomb to their passions and fall in love. *swoon* Add in humor and heightened sexual tension and you’ll have me as a fan for life.

Cross and Crown is the second novella in the Sidewinders series and picks up after the events in Ball and Chain (Cut and Run, #7). Nick O'Flaherty and Kelly Abbott are now an established couple whose relationship has developed into something much deeper and longlasting. Nick is a detective with the Boston police force and Kelly works full time with disadvantaged children in Colorado. He and Kelly are managing to maintain their long-distance relationship, seeing one another whenever possible.

Kelly flashed back to all the many mornings he’d seen Nick stalking across whatever camp, base, or ship they’d been stationed on, barking orders. He wondered sometimes how he’d gone five years in Recon without molesting his friend. He’d either been absolutely blind to the attraction or he was rewriting the memories in his head...

Kelly takes some vacation time and arrives in Boston to spend some much needed downtime with Nick only to find him embroiled in a murder/mystery dating back to the Civil War. Open to almost anything as long as he gets to spend time with his man, Kelly joins in immediately. Things get even more interesting when he learns Nick’s only witness is also a possible suspect and has amnesia. Soon the boys are waist deep in murky waters, surrounded by the Irish mob, a rogue ex CIA agent, and some for hire treasure hunters.

I like seeing a more serene and happy Nick in this story. Previous events has left Nick uneasy concerning certain details concerning his last TOD and his situation with Ty. Nick has become more open in his lifestyle and in his love for Kelly. As a Sidewinder, it wasn’t in either of their best interests to advertise their sexual preferences. Now, he doesn’t hide it and takes every available opportunity to show the world that Kelly is his friend, his lover, his partner...his boyfriend.

“I love you,” Nick whispered. “Has nothing to do with the circumstances, or our history, or how close to death we’ve come together. I would love you in any incarnation of yourself.”

Kelly and Nick are a dynamic and believable couple because of their long-standing friendship. Brothers-in-arms for years, when they came together romantically, they didn’t have any unknown baggage or drama to contend with. They already knew each others' secrets and that knowledge passed effortlessly with them when they changed the parameters of their relationship.

“Eternity rings and manly soldiers. You Irish really know how to seduce a guy.”

They say opposites attract and we see plenty of evidence of that with Nick and Kelly. I love Kelly the best. He is an outgoing, enthusiastic, fun-loving guy. His love of life balances well against Nick’s deeper waters. Nick’s seriousness was bred into him as a child and continued to develop well into adulthood. He is a natural protector. With Kelly, Nick can loosen his stranglehold on his control, knowing his lover will always be there for him if and when he falls. Their passion for one another is a powerful combustible force that envelopes the book and I must say I am particularly smitten with anyone who can laugh with their lover in and out of bed.

Nick leaned forward, his hand squeezing Kelly’s knee. “He’s out there for a reason, showing himself; we just need to bring him in. How do you feel about a little bait and switch?”

Kelly licked his lips, then grinned slowly. “Sounds about as fun as you bending me over one of those interrogation desks.”

Nick groaned and pushed his chair back so they were no longer in contact. “Don’t fucking tempt me, okay? Those rooms have video feeds.”

“Really? Do they record?”

Amongst the crime solving and bullet dodging, Nick and Kelly make some serious life altering decisions about their future together. They are at a point in their relationship where they can only go forward. We are left feeling assured that no matter what happens in their lives from here, these two will be standing together to take it on.

Action, danger, romance, and suspense are a potent combination this series thrives on and Roux intertwines them together in a flawless manner; engaging the reader to the very end. I look forward to seeing more of Nick, Kelly, and their brethren.

Learn more or order a copy of Cross and Crown by Abigail Roux, available now:

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Tori Benson can be found at Smexybooks and at Twitter.

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