Ball & Chain (Cut & Run #8), Abigail Roux
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: Gay Romance, Contemporary, Mystery, Series
This review contains quite a few spoilers. My apologies for the length of this review.
If you are only now starting the Cut & Run series, or if you plan to read it in the future, then you will be lost if you read this review, as no way will you get what I have typed here unless you are already familiar with the craze that is the relationship of Ty Grady and Zane Garrett.
There are two disclaimers that I feel I must throw out there. One, I am not a fan of series that focus on the same main characters for too long. Give me a series with the same characters that ends at three or four books (five max) and I’m good. I have severe adult ADHD. I get bored easily. Any series that goes on and on (it will be nine Cut & Run books total, and I won’t even get started on the Sidewinder series that will probably go on for another few years), and I’m done. Had I known the Cut & Run series would go to nine books, I never would have started it, regardless of the many people who pushed me to read it. Two, Nick. Nick is a character who was introduced many books back in the Cut & Run series and I seriously can’t stand the guy. Oh, for about five minutes after reading Shock & Awe, the first of the Sidewinder series, I actually
almost liked him, but come on, who (who have read the Cut & Run series) doesn’t remember the time he kissed Ty, knowing Ty was heavily involved with Zane? Even though the ‘justification’ of that kiss came out in this particular book, I don’t buy it. From some of the other reviews I’ve read for Ball & Chain, I guess I’m in the minority there. I think Nick is an ass and nothing he has done up to now changes that opinion for me. I adore Ty but Zane is my favorite, and there’s no going back for me, nor is there any sudden ‘love’ for the character that is Nick, regardless of whether he saves the day or whatever. I’ve tried to be sympathetic to him, and the author has done an outstanding job trying to make him likable, but for some reason (and not just the kissing Ty thing) I just can’t force myself to like him. I’ve tried and I’m just not feeling it.
Where to begin?
When I started this series I immediately got sucked into Ty and Zane’s world. I didn’t want to. I thought I’d read one book and be done. You can’t do that with Ty and Zane. You immediately get sucked in and you have to know what will happen next. I swear to God they are addicting. The first book leads to you having to read the second, and then you simply must read the next one, and so on. Ty and Zane go through so much hell to get to their HEA (that they may or may not get in book nine), that the reader has to keep reading until it happens. Well, I felt that way until Ball & Chain. Now, even with only one book until they supposedly get that elusive HEA, I feel like I may not be able to continue until it happens. I probably will keep going because I’m so involved now. To stop with only one book to go? Nah, I don’t think that will be possible. Of course, there is at least one other Sidewinder book that will be out before the ninth Cut & Run book, so there will be more of Nick’s story before we get to Ty and Zane’s.
Ty’s brother Deacon (aka Deuce) is finally going to marry the mother of his child. Livi and Deuce have been together for awhile. The readers have been there indirectly through the courtship, the birth of their daughter, and many other things in between. You can’t meet Deuce and not love the guy. He’s part of the eccentric Grady family, and with the exception of Earl (Ty’s
jerk father), you can’t not love these folks, especially Chester, the shovel-wielding grandfather. Livi and Deuce will be getting married on a remote island in Scotland. The island has been in Livi’s family for generations and the wedding will be a week-long celebration. Ty and Zane (of course) are invited but Deuce makes another request when he extends the invitation – bring at least one of your Recon buddies because there have been threats made to Livi’s (wealthy) family and they might need extra security for the event.
Of course the first person Ty thinks to ask is his best friend Nick, and he is told to bring a date. Nick and Kelly’s relationship has not been revealed publicly, so Ty is a bit surprised when Kelly (aka Doc) is brought along. It doesn’t take long before bodies start dropping like flies on the remote island and all means of communication with the mainland are cut off completely. No cell signal. No boats in or out (explained in the book, but I won’t go into detail). No anything other than Nick, Kelly, Ty, Zane and a slew of terrified wedding guests. When the reasoning for the killings comes out (they think), it gets personal. A special member of the family is being threatened and Ty and the others will stop at nothing to find out who the killer is before those they love are added to the death count.
Nick is immediately put in charge of the investigation, as he was a homicide detective. There is no way to contact the authorities or to do a real investigation, so Nick is forced to do what he can without resources, with help from Ty, Zane and Kelly. Herein lies my first issue with Ball & Chain. Nick was put in charge of the investigation. Not Ty. Not Zane. I would be more accepting of this had it been a Sidewinder story. It wasn’t. Ball & Chain is part of the Cut & Run series (re: Ty and Zane), so putting Nick in charge of the murder investigation completely took away from the two main characters I really cared about. By Nick being in charge of this, of course, meant that a majority of the book was focused on him. Again, had it been a Sidewinder story, I would have been okay with all the time given to the guy. But when I read what I’m thinking is a Ty and Zane book, I want Ty and Zane to be center, not another character.
Other things that bugged me about Nick – There is a bit of his family stuff brought up almost immediately and a lot of time is devoted to it. While I sympathized with his character, I again felt that should have been dealt with in his own series. Then there are health issues of Nick’s, as well as other things that I felt too much time was devoted to. I’m not saying that I was not entertained by everything written about Nick. I was. I admit to even getting a little teary (and a lot angry) during a scene with Nick and his father. But if I wanted to know everything about Nick’s issues, I would read the series dedicated to him, not the one supposedly dedicated to Ty and Zane. One thing that did work with Nick was his anger with Ty over past issues. While I don’t agree with “the kiss” being brought up to mean something it hadn’t in that particular book, it was good seeing Nick and Ty deal with problems they have had in their relationship. I admit to being confused a bit by some of it though. One minute they were yelling and screaming at each other and the next, they were hunky dory. I didn’t get all that.
Then there is the actual murder investigation. I found myself completely lost a few times. I wasn’t lost over the actual murders. I was lost over the who and the why more than once. Yes, we discovered that the murders were not as a result of Livi’s family and that an old enemy was targeting one of the guys. I get that. But I seriously had to reread some pages more than once to figure out certain details. I ended the story still not sure what had just gone down.
The parts about Ty and Zane were good. I adore these two guys, and on the rare times the book was focused on them, I was pleased. Granted, there were a few things that annoyed me to no end, but that’s par for the course with these two guys. More than once, I would ask – where is the angry sex we have come to expect from them? Where’s the hot and heavy intimacy that is always there with Ty and Zane? Sure, they had sex a few times (and it was hot) but most was either off-page or interrupted.
I know it sounds like I didn’t like this book but that’s not the case at all. Had this been a true Ty and Zane book, with Nick as a secondary character instead of a main one, it would have easily gotten either 4 or 5 stars from me. I went into this book wanting more of two of my favorite characters. I wanted to see them finally move forward toward their happily-ever-after. Instead, I sat here and read over three-hundred pages with most of them devoted to a character who already has his own series. Had I not already been sucked so far into the Cut & Run world, and if there wasn’t only one more Cut & Run book left, I would be out completely right now. I don’t like when authors advance another of their series by giving the characters too much time in another. I completely walked away from The Black Dagger Brotherhood Series after that author did the same thing (only worse) with Lover At Last. I really hate that I’m actually considering doing the same thing with Ty and Zane. I will read the next Sidewinder book and then read the (hopefully) final Cut & Run book. If Ty and Zane don’t officially get their HEA in book nine, I’m out. I have enjoyed them until now. Hell, I have counted down the days (along with hundreds of other readers) until a new C & R book came out. But I just can’t see me going on if their story isn’t finally resolved after their own (supposed) last book.
I loved catching up with Ty’s family again. You’ve got to love Grandpa Chester, even if he’s not in the story much. I adore Kelly and this story made me love him even more. Nick is slowly working his way into a character that I might actually like a little someday. This, of course, depends on what happens in his next book. I think I would have been okay with Ball & Chain had Nick not been the whole damn story. I wanted more Ty and Zane.
Overall, the story is good if you don’t mind the Nick thing. There’s a lot of humor scattered throughout, which is something the readers have grown to expect and love. There are also a few other things that bugged me (excessive use of exclamation points and the guys chuckling, cackling, snorting, etc. constantly) but not enough for me to say I wasn’t entertained.
I will wait patiently for the ninth book and hope the author focuses more on the two characters the series was originally written about, and put the others to the side a little. I am a big fan of Abigail Roux, and I’m not just referring to the Cut & Run and Sidewinder books. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that this book was only a 3.5 star read for me.