I am really on the fence about this one.
The feeling is gone. The distance and anxiety that I likened to reading Miyamoto Kano’s Hydra/Rules series for the first time is practically nonexistent in book five. On the one hand, that just makes it even more like Hydra since it feels unfinished. On the other hand, there’s still a chance that MK will pick up on Ryuu and Hitomi’s story and I can sleep better at night, but I know Madeleine Urban & Abigail Roux aren’t going to be revisiting the Ty and Zane I got to know in books one through four. So I feel cheated because the story I was invested in was abandoned.
However, the story book five tells is pretty darn good. The heartbreak at the end of book four was quickly addressed, though not quite resolved until much later. The boys are sent to retrieve an asset and things get complicated when the asset’s boyfriend tags along. The pot of trouble really starts to boil over when they realize that someone else is after the asset, too. A chase across the Great Lakes and the Mid-Atlantic regions through blizzards and bullets culminates in Ty’s temporary custody of two Maine Coons. In between the action, they make some progress in their relationship, but the story’s primarily one of reflection, including some much avoided details about Ty’s past. So, the story was rather satisfying, but everything is different and it was fuzzy around the edges.
One through four had an edge and a clarity that stuck with me. It was sober and made you hopeful against all odds. The complexity of Ty and Zane’s complicated relationship, the threat of danger, the field work, their histories, they all rang true. Like the rawness of Matt Damon’s Bourne Trilogy. Five? Five is a comedic caper, not quite as full of shenanigans and high jinks as The Great Muppet Caper, but it was on its way. I laughed more in this book than I did the first four combined. but even though I enjoyed it, there was an underlying discomfort the whole way through.
I don’t know why Roux forged ahead on her own, but some things are clear to me now. I believe Roux to be the one who championed most, if not all, of the things I was unhappy with about the first book. Its all very slight now, or I could just be suspicious of innocuous things. Roux is all about the snappy comebacks and wise cracks, but without the sharpness that was present in the first four, a lot of Ty and Zane’s behavior was slightly out of character. Mostly in regards to what people with their training would do on a mission and how careless they seemed, often doing things that could easily out them. The sharpness also contributed to that spark that existed between the boys and with it dulled, the sex scenes were lacking–I dozed off while reading it in the middle of the day; I had to fight to stay awake. And though I have my issues with stories written by multiple people, two eyes are better than one. There were some minor continuity issues for both the characters and events. Some things may not even be noticed if you don’t read the books back to back, but I also noticed some things out of place that I couldn’t pin down.
To be fair, if this was a stand alone or if one through four were written in the same way, this would be a pretty good story anyway, even the sex scenes. But as it is, it’s almost too silly for this to be what comes after book four. I’m assuming the co-authors had a difference of opinion, because the story does feel like Roux got to stretch her wings without fear of ruffling anyone else’s feathers. Now, I’m not discouraging anyone from reading it–I’m already halfway through book six–but just be ready for the change.