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Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux: Divide & Conquer

Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux--Cut & Run Book 4 - Divide & ConquerIn the fourth installment of the Cut & Run series, the boys are back and this time Ty’s antics bring him some unwanted attention and turn up the heat on an already explosive situation. The city of Baltimore is in a state of unrest. Post-sport event riots, bank robberies, and bomb threats compel residents to take to the streets in protest. It’s a public relations nightmare for law enforcement and Ty’s heat of the moment declaration lands him in the middle of it. Now he’s a target and, by association, so is Zane. They do not escape unharmed. The fallout and consequences of the danger lurking everywhere puts both Ty and Zane out of commission–one before the other even recovers. Zane is still dealing with the bomb that was dropped in his lap in book three and has yet to give Ty any kind of answer. Their relationship continues, but Ty’s patience and understanding gets pushed to the limit.

What’s left of Team Sidewinder, Ty’s former Force Recon team, pays a scheduled, but forgotten visit in the middle of everything and they meet Zane. Things go well enough, but later, when it’s just them, Ty’s not acting like himself and they call him on it. Tired of pretty much everything, Ty confesses that he and Zane are partners in more ways than one. Some unexpected things come of that. I have to say, I saw one of them coming, but it was interesting enough and I wanted to see how it went–not disappointed, but I wondered how much their relationship would be threatened by it. The most amazing thing about the relationship at this point is that it is so close to being good (not perfect, of course), so close to being gold, but it’s hanging by a thread. They’re in such a precarious position and sometimes it’s baby steps and sometimes it’s giant leaps and sometimes they backslide. And it’s killing me, but I am loving every minute of it.

This story does so many things right and so many things well. Some stories are written with the intention to shake loose the stereotypes and present less derogatory images of a certain type of character and it shows, because writing with that in mind, writing the exact opposite of a stereotype is bad writing, not in the least creative, and only serves to enforce the betrayed stereotype. I haven’t really talked about Ty and Zane’s personality and partnership/relationship dynamics too much because it’s spoiler-y and ripe for rambling, but here are just a few of their stats to illustrate how they walk right over the shaking loose and settle into more nuanced representations.

Zane is 42-43 years old; 6’5″ (195~ cm); privately/inwardly emotional, analytical; brute/street brawler-type; cordial, but struggles to suppress his anger, moody; does not identify as straight (seems to identify as gay–after his wife died he pretty much switched to men exclusively; you’ll have to read to find out more on that); when he bottoms he’s a very needy bottom; is close to his sister, but otherwise distant from his family; has a history of substance abuse; rather than heights, he fears falling, loosing control.

Ty is 34-35 years old; about two or three inches shorter than Zane; emotional and physical, not moody but changeable, very attuned to how people think; Marine, government-trained fighter, extremely dangerous; seems carefree, and friendly, but is mentally off-kilter; bi and leans towards men; let Zane top him their first time, but admitted he doesn’t bottom well, now tops most of the time (I think there’s more to it than preference); is close with his family; suffers from PTSD including memories of torture; fears small, dark spaces.

Those are character profiles. Those stats are something real to work with to orchestrate interactions and build a bond between two characters. But those are just the basics. Even with eight years between them, there’s no power imbalance–they both screw up, they save each other, they’re equally hardheaded, desperate, and at each other’s mercy–they drive each other nuts, but they are more than occasionally thoughtful and somehow make up for where the other is lacking (often with conscious effort).

In this, book four, you really get to see how far they’ve come and how they’ve managed to pull each other apart, become vulnerable for each other, and help put each other back together. And then, things are so close to gold you can taste it, but the last page rips your effin’ heart out. The tears. I will probably still be wiping at them well into book five.

Speaking of which, this book is the last one credited to both authors; from book five on, Roux is on her own. And now we hit upon on of the reasons I don’t like stories written by multiple people. Circumstances and priorities change; that’s life, but I don’t want to have to suffer through a story that suffers for it. So, depending on how well that feeling I’ve had is maintained, I may or may not continue this type of review. We’ll see.

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