Review: Ball & Chain
Ball & Chain by Abigail Roux
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Never mention the word "vacation" to Ty and Zane. It's a dirty filthy bad word filled with horror, mayhem and death. So of course, their vacation to an island in Scotland for Ty's brother's wedding is a complete cluster fuck. Ty and Zane are finally in a good place in their relationship. All the hurtful secrets have been lanced. What could possibly go wrong? Apparently, a lot.
This latest romantic suspense in my favourite m/m series is a mix between the game "Clue" and highland romance taking place in contemporary times. If only there were more men wearing kilts! Ms. Roux once again combines erotically sexy times with a good suspense. Her humour shows through again and this time, she's focusing on Nick rather than Ty and Zane.
From the onset, the reader knows there is going to be trouble at the wedding. Why else would Ty need to bring one of his Sidewinder buddies who is also armed?
"Bring a date." [Ty]
Nick closed his eyes and smiled. "Okay."
"And a gun."
Nick opened his eyes. "Wait, what?" (loc. 428-429)
Not to be outdone, Ty is still his sarcastic self.
"Are we talking with the heart love or with the dick love?" he [Ty] asked, echoing Nick's words from so long (loc. 1783-1784)
And then there are the funny observations which are backhanded compliments. This one is so true.
"Because . . . well, sending you two out there together is like giving a toddler a lit match and telling it to go play in the sagebrush." (loc. 2725-2726)
This story is more than just about Ty and Zane's relationship or the suspense as to why people are dying on this island. The heart of this story is Ty and Nick's friendship. The reader learns how they became friends. If that isn't enough to bring a tear to a reader's eye, Nick's family life is a punch to the gut. So when the two inseparable friends are now keeping secrets from each other, it's painful to witness, even for Zane who previously felt insecure around Nick. This separation tore at my heart, too.
Ty and Nick had the most pure friendship Zane had ever witnessed; to see that it had crumbling foundations hurt his heart. (loc. 2758-2759)
Still, Ty is ever the charmer and he works on Nick. Previously, I thought Nick was the repressed and not so balanced one. After learning how he's been Ty's anchor in addition to how he's been treated, I'm amazed at how Nick still stays loyal to Ty. This scene between the two of them just shows how Ty keeps trying to be optimistic and Nick is the realist.
"Just give it the night, okay?" Ty tried. "Everyone is safe right now. The ferry comes tomorrow, and then we'll have time to deal with everything, figure this shit out. Just one night of peace for everyone before we go demanding answers and stirring shit up."
"One night of peace?" Nick repeated incredulously. "[redacted] people are [redacted]! We're investigating this bullshit on an island in the middle of fucking nowhere because we're trapped here! There are people panicking all over the fucking place, all the weapons are still missing, and we are one pig's head on a stick away from Lord of the Flies! A night of peace went out the fucking window when we landed, Beaumont!" (loc. 3602-3607)
What I really love about this series is how well the characters are developed. Each one is lovingly created and bigger than life. They have their own idiosyncrasies and the way they interact with each other is fabulous. Each of these men can be ruthless killers but at the heart of it, they are good men who strive to do the best they can with the choices they are given. They know the outcome may not be great, but it is the best due to the circumstances. It's amazing how detailed Ms. Roux is with each character's response through verbal and body language.
The pace of this story is good. It's a crazy series of unfortunate events with enough droll humour to keep it from becoming suicidal dark. The complexity added with twists and turns keeps my mind working to figure out who the real villains are and why they are killing people off. The ending comes a bit unexpected and yet a relief. Unexpected because it felt as if a conspiracy finally came to light only to have it yanked away and the real villains unmasked.
With each of the characters being flawed, it makes the story more real and at times, more painful. Painful because it hurt to watch characters I've grown to love be hurt so badly. Emotional pain almost always trumps physical pain. In this story, there is a fair share of emotional distress which will cause several of the main characters to drop to their knees.
This romantic suspense is recommended for m/m lovers who enjoy a good mystery as well as emotional beatings.
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