Monday, January 4, 2010

Warrior's Cross by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

TITLE: Warrior’s Cross
AUTHOR: Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 102k)
GENRE: Gay suspense erotic romance
COST: $6.99

Tuesday nights are Cameron Jacobs’ favorites. That’s the night the tall, dark, mysterious stranger comes in, sits at one of his tables, and always orders the same thing. His crush seems a little silly until his customer expresses a little more interest. Then, on Christmas Eve, Cameron’s whole world gets turned upside down when said customer – one Julian Cross – asks him for a walk…

I wanted to like this book. I really did. Though I’d passed on other offerings by this author duo in the past (the excerpts were clearly headhopping, and I deliberately avoid buying those if I can help it), my recent exposure to Roux’s solo work, combined with both a premise that sounded intriguing and an excerpt that seemed to stay contained in one POV, convinced me to give this one a go. It was actually fairly engrossing for a while. But only for a while. Because ultimately, two things really let me down.

Cameron is a beta hero. No doubts about it. He’s average looking, in an average job, with self-admittedly nothing more exciting to do than work most of the time. When Julian first expresses an interest in him, Cameron is stunned. He seizes the opportunity, though, convinced Julian will get bored and move on eventually. When Julian doesn’t, Cameron is just as surprised as anybody else. Nearly everyone close to Julian questions him what he sees in Cameron. The same happens to Cameron. And honestly? So did I. Other than the fact that Cameron treated Julian like a normal person, I just couldn’t understand the appeal. Because I liked Julian for nearly all of the book. I thought he was incredibly hot. But I never bought them as a long-term couple because I just couldn’t see why Julian kept bothering. Cameron was flat, and boring, and maybe that’s what Julian wanted, but spending so much time in Cameron’s POV, listening to him go on and on and on about his insecurity…it got old. Very old. And painful to read.

The other aspect that really pulled me out of the story is, I think, a quirk of the authors’ style. They overuse dialogue tags. I don’t mean just going back and forth between two characters with a tag on each character’s line. I mean, multiple tags in the same speech by the same character within the same paragraph. Like this one:

"Do I look like I'm feeling better?" Julian demanded. "Do I seem to be in a better mood?" he asked sarcastically. "Preston!" he shouted suddenly. "Give me my fucking nuggets," he demanded as he turned, only to find Preston standing behind him with a box of chicken in his hand. "Goddammit," Julian offered before snatching the box and stalking out of the room with his food.

There are five different dialogue tags within the same paragraph. Two of them are even the same word. The adverbs are all over the place with the tags, as well. It’s not unique to this paragraph; it happens straight from the beginning of the book. It’s not quite as noticeable then, however, since Julian is very taciturn for the first third of the story. Less dialogue means it doesn’t stand out more. But as soon as the communication starts to open up…there you go.

I know it won’t bother a lot of people. I’ve seen this book come highly recommended all over the place, so clearly, a lot of people didn’t notice it or didn’t care. But I did, and I do, and I just can’t get past this stylistic thing enough to enjoy the work. It feels sloppy to me, and the repetition gets boring. Boring is the kiss of death for a story, especially a suspense-oriented one. No matter how mysterious the alpha hero might be.


6/10 – Though the action scenes were engrossing, any time dialogue got involved, my immersion disappeared

Hero #1

5/10 – Honestly? I was questioning why Julian liked him so much just like all the characters were

Hero #2

6/10 – This would have been higher if it weren’t for the last chapter

Entertainment value

6/10 – I wanted to like this so much more than I did

World building

6/10 – Except for the restaurants and the pets, there were more questions left unanswered than not



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