Author: Kaylea Cross

Buried Lies by Kaylea Cross

Buried Lies by Kaylea CrossBuried Lies by Kaylea Cross
Series: Crimson Point, #2
Published by Kaylea Cross Inc. on 27th November 2018
Pages: 228
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three-stars

She left her painful past behind.

Poppy Larsen is finally free. She moved to Crimson Point to make a new life for herself, full of bright possibilities. A whole new world awaits her, if she can find the courage to trust again—even her gorgeous neighbor, the town sheriff. But darkness lurks in the picturesque Oregon Coast town, concealing a deadly threat that’s closer than she ever imagined.

Now a killer is watching her from the shadows.

Sheriff Noah Buchanan can’t help but be intrigued by his new neighbor. She’s hard working, sexy as hell, and unlike most of the women in town, she hasn’t thrown herself at him. After it becomes clear that she plans to put down roots here, he finds himself falling more and more for Poppy and her big heart. When someone from her past tries to hurt her, it triggers all his protective instincts. But the real danger is hiding in plain sight. When the unthinkable happens, Noah is thrust into a race against time to save her before it’s too late.

‘Buried lies’ continues Kaylea Cross’s small-town romantic suspense series and it’s quite a departure from her usual offerings of military romance thrillers in war-torn places and high-level conspiracy that I’m still not too sure what to make of it. Noah Buchanan and Poppy Larsen are next in line after Sierra and Beckett to get their HEA, as Cross sets up a series that’s gentler than the fare she typically offers up and is a bit more focused on family and friendship where reaffirmation and new starts bound.

These close friendships and ties also mean that there are continual hints and setups of pairings apart from Noah/Poppy here, as Cross juggles some (tragic) drama that continues its run as part of the narrative arc of this series. There’s still some suspense that keeps you guessing nonetheless—newcomer and new shop owner Poppy is gun-shy and hiding something in her past when she moved to Crimson Point to start anew—but overall, ‘Buried Lies’ is slower paced, with a leisurely build-up that doesn’t rush into instant lust or love.

Poppy/Noah’s story is easy to read, though more predictable than I thought. Frankly, Poppy/Noah weren’t exactly standout protagonists that imprint themselves indelibly in my memory and neither was the suspense that I was hoping would leave me gasping in the wake of its high-octane fumes. I couldn’t quite tell what Noah found special about Poppy—after being a serial dater after having been dumped by his fiancée years ago—but that he suddenly wanted everything with her made it bewildering, more so because Cross uses the experienced man (or player?) versus the inexperienced woman trope here and made me cringe, even with the understandable circumstances that Poppy had found herself in.

Neither could I quite get the bizarre motivation behind Poppy being a target of a mysterious serial killer, which ultimately made the climax fall a little flat.

‘Buried Lies’ ended up as a middle-of-the-road type of read. It’s not enough for me to give up on this series, though I’ll have to say it’s probably more suited to readers who prefer romances that aren’t always going full-steam ahead with the world’s fate hanging in balance.

three-stars

Fractured Honor by Kaylea Cross

Fractured Honor by Kaylea CrossFractured Honor by Kaylea Cross
Series: Crimson Point, #1
Published by Kaylea Cross Inc. on 25th September 2018
Pages: 251
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four-stars

An elite warrior struggling to find his place in the civilian world.

Weary from his years on the battlefield, SF Captain Beckett Hollister has returned home to Crimson Point to take over the family business for his dying father. But adjusting to life outside the military is harder than he imagined, and being back home forces him to confront things he’d rather not face. Including the one woman he shouldn’t want and can’t have—his best friend’s little sister.

A love that was always meant to be.

Town vet Sierra Buchanan has known Beckett her entire life. She’s crushed on him for years, but because of his relationship with her family, the stubborn man refuses to see her as more than the girl he grew up with. As tragedy brings them together, neither of them realizes that the sins of Beckett’s past have come home to haunt him. When Sierra becomes the target of his unforeseen enemy, Beckett must vanquish his demons to save her.

After all these years, Kaylea Cross’s paramilitary romantic suspense books are probably quite an institution in this small corner of the romance fiction market and it’s always exciting to step into a new series Cross begins.

‘Crimson Point’—as exotic sounding it might be—doesn’t really refer to some deliciously mysterious conspiracy theory or some covert military operation despite the very posh-sounding CIA-type name for a series, but rather, the small town where military vets come back to and find their own HEA, with a slight dose of suspense woven into their stories. It’s sort of a departure for Cross given the more contemporary romance focus but there’s enough drama to keep me occupied throughout as ‘Fractured Honor’ deals with an older hero and younger heroine, with the forbidden sister of the best friend trope coming into play here along with the introductions to the supporting characters and potential pairings that will be written into her future books.
Beckett/Sierra’s history stretches over years, though neither have been available throughout their lives (the age-gap probably contributes to this) for this to happen, along with the part where neither Beckett nor Sierra are sure of themselves and their feelings they hold back from each other. Still, Cross writes about two fairly relatable and likeable protagonists who ultimately, do decide to fight for each other without too much pushing and pulling, even if I’m not sure I particularly understand why the best friend’s sister is always a forbidden trope unless the male protagonist is an utter arse, which Beckett certainly isn’t.
All in all, it’s quite an emotional read, though the heartbreak is spread out amongst the individuals in the story that we’re introduced to, so much so that I thought Cross’s attention on the supporting characters—much more than usual—did take the pedal off Beckett/Sierra quite a bit which I hoped to have more of. The resulting slow burn did get frustrating at times, but as an establishing book, ‘Fractured Honor’ does well in weaving in the potential complications to come—there are sufficient hooks after all, to keep us coming back.
four-stars

Fast Justice by Kaylea Cross

Fast Justice by Kaylea CrossFast Justice by Kaylea Cross
Series: DEA FAST #6
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform, Kaylea Cross Inc. on March 17th 2018
Pages: 352
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four-half-stars

Sacrifice is a requirement of the job. Rowan Stewart walked away from the love of a lifetime to focus on the demands of her job as Assistant US Attorney. Now she's working on the biggest case of her career, prosecuting one of the Veneno cartel's most notorious members. Except the case presents unexpected challenges-including the man she can't forget...and a threat she could not foresee. But this time, it could cost her life. Special Agent Malcolm Freeman is FAST Bravo's point man. On an op he's the first one through the door, leading the way for his team. Professionally, he's at the top of his game. His personal life is a different story. After Rowan ripped his heart out a year ago he closed himself off to any relationships. When fate throws them together he steps up to ensure she's protected, even though it might mean getting his heart broken again. But protection isn't enough. The enemy is determined to use Rowan to get what they want. With her life hanging in the balance, Malcolm and his team race to find her before it's too late. He lost her once. He can't lose her now. This time, failure is not an option.

Finally, finally, finally.

‘Fast Justice’ reminds me of all the reasons why I read Kaylea Cross’s books and having ploughed through the somewhat lacklustre stories from the previous stories in this series, having Rowan/Mal’s tale kick my enthusiasm back to life (measured in terms of the loss of sleeping hours) has been beyond a pleasant surprise. The hints of their broken romance in the previous book had gotten me intrigued and Mal, who is predictably gun-shy about starting up with Rowan again, finally gets his due…in a story that provoked a range of emotions from me.

Apart from the thoroughly engaging suspense, Cross writes about a woman who is willing to own up to her mistakes, who swallows her pride and grovels because she knows she’d left a heartbroken man in her wake…and finally goes after what she wants. I loved the excruciating moments of tension between Ro/Mal, the reluctant truce that breaks down because Rowan decides to shake it all up and her lead role in trying to build them back together again as she tries to mend the damage that she had done to them. For this reason, I couldn’t help but love a woman who’s brave enough to show this sort of maturity when too many cowardly characters that have recently come across my feed have nearly made me thrown several books against the wall in frustration. (Proverbially speaking, because I use an e-reader.)

By and large, this was a compelling read. The entanglements with the Veneno Cartel are woven deep into ‘Fast Justice’ and the developmental arc is more tightly spread over the last few books. In fact, I was surprised at how much of the events that happened in the previous books spilled over into this, wondering if it might be somewhat difficult for ‘Fast Justice’ to be read as a standalone. Cross does provide some explanation—though some parts might still be confusing to readers who step in at this point in time—and without shying away from the brutality of cartel activity, throws in a few twists and turns that helped balance the angst of Rowan/Mal’s situation.

The hasty conclusion after the climax and the loose threads that aren’t tied up by the end are probably my only complaints. It’s evident that Cross intends to continue this arc until the baddies drop dead one by one, but it’s going to be a wait that will span several books before this happens. But until that happens, I’m happily going to go back to the good bits that had me gnawing down my own teeth.

four-half-stars

Shattered by Kaylea Cross

Shattered by Kaylea CrossShattered by Kaylea Cross
Series: Hostage Rescue Team #11
Published by Kaylea Cross Inc. on November 16th 2017
Pages: 116
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four-stars

Servare Vitas.

To save lives. For the men of the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team, it’s not just a motto; it’s a creed they live by. Nobody knows that better than Special Agent Nate “Doc” Schroder, the team medic. As a former Pararescueman, Nate is accustomed to going into harm’s way to save people—including his wife, Taya—no matter the risk to his own life. But when a catastrophic event turns the tables on the team, suddenly he’s the one whose life needs saving.

However, survival is merely the start of Nate’s battle, because it’s going to take a lot more than medical expertise to pull him through the dark days ahead. While his teammates rally around him, Taya fights to drag the man she loves back into the land of the living. With her at his side and his team at his back, Nate must find new reason to dig deep as he struggles to become whole again.

Kaylea Cross’s HRT series has always been one that I’d enjoyed straight after her Bagram books because those felt fresh and different, so it’s probably something I’ll look back on fondly for this reason. I’d been feeling rather lukewarm at the moment about Cross’s DEA FAST books of late because they seem too much like a rinse and repeat of the HRT series, so ‘Shattered’ return to this world was more than a pleasant surprise and also a good reminder of why I like that particular group so much, well, some more than others really.

It’s pretty much a novella that plays catch-up with all of the team members, with chapters in their POV and what ties them together this time is an accident that puts Nate Schroder and Taya in the spotlight once more, with a pile of bad getting worse before the light (quite literally) is seen at the end of the tunnel. And for something so short, Cross does pack a punch, keeping me engrossed in a conflict that I didn’t see coming at all. Her HEA is always guaranteed, and though it requires some suspension of disbelief at how nice and neatly things all work out almost magically especially after a huge blow here, it’s probably still a fitting end to what should really be Cross’s swan-song in this series.

four-stars

Fast Kill by Kaylea Cross

Fast Kill by Kaylea CrossFast Kill by Kaylea Cross
Series: DEA FAST #2
Published by Kaylea Cross Inc. on April 20th 2017
Pages: 270
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four-stars

The past has come back to haunt her. Having battled long and hard to put her painful past behind her, DEA Special Agent Taylor Kennedy has done everything in her power to make a new life for herself. She never dreamed that same past would suddenly show up on her doorstep one night, or that its reappearance would threaten everything she’s built for herself. Faced with the unthinkable, she’ll have to make the agonizing choice between her trusted childhood friend, and the man who’s managed to steal her wary heart. And the consequences could be fatal. FAST Bravo member Logan Granger knows Taylor was hurt badly by something in her past. He never expected to fall for a straight-laced, uptight forensic accountant, but Taylor has managed to redefine his definition of sexy, and now he wants to uncover all her secrets. Though they’re opposites in almost every way, Logan is determined to break through her barriers and show her just how good things can be between them. Then their worst nightmare is realized when Taylor becomes the target of the merciless Veneno cartel, and Logan will risk everything to save her—including his life.

Opposites do attract in Kaylea Cross’s ‘Fast Kill’ as Taylor Kennedy and Logan Granger – who have only known each other for a short time – are thrown together in a case that inadvertently drags Taylor into a mess. With the return of a childhood friend, Taylor’s quiet, introverted life is upended and Logan finds that he’ll do anything to help her pick up the pieces, even when it puts him at risk.

I do like ‘Fast Kill’s’ storyline, even though I’m still more partial to Cross’s military thrillers. Despite the focus on the drug war and cartels, the story is fast-paced, full of intrigue and as always, written around a central pairing that I did find believable and likeable. Taylor and Logan are express opposites in every way, from their careers to their hobbies, but I liked how they find common ground together, particularly when Logan never stops coaxing Taylor into doing things out of her comfort zone.

There’s also a kind of sympathy that Cross builds up for the villain and that’s the case here, particularly when he’s also someone from Taylor’s past who in fact, cared for and took care of her. It’s a little hard to believe that he turned so evil at the blink of an eye, but it’s this change that drives the conflict and indirectly, the relationship between Logan and Taylor.

Overall, I did find myself entertained, though part of me wishes for a continuation of her past series instead! Cross however, always delivers a HEA – whether it takes place immediately after the action or a few weeks or months down the road – and that kind of resolution goes a long way in cementing quite emphatically, how much a particular pairing ought to be together. In the case of Logan and Taylor, I didn’t need much convincing.

four-stars

Never Surrender by Kaylea Cross

Never Surrender by Kaylea CrossNever Surrender by Kaylea Cross
Series: Bagram Special Ops #6
on March 21st 2017
Pages: 128
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four-stars

As the Bagram crew assembles at a guest ranch in Montana to celebrate the wedding of two of its own, everyone expects a fun week-long vacation enjoying some much-needed downtime together. But in the picturesque foothills bordering the ranch, a hidden danger lurks.
When the guys stumble upon evidence of a domestic terrorist cell during the bachelor party, it puts everyone directly in the crosshairs of a lethal enemy determined to remain unseen, unleashing a wave of danger every bit as deadly as what they faced back overseas. Then a shocking revelation from the past comes to light, and it may be the key to winning the fight. Now they must come together as a team to eliminate the threat, before they wind up gathered for a funeral instead of a wedding.

I tore through ‘Never Surrender’ in the space of a few hours as I was reminded why I love military/paramilitary romances to much. This is just how much I’ve missed the Bagram crew, back in the day when Kaylea Cross was hammering this series out that made me fall in love with each and every character in it.

Wade/Erin’s wedding isn’t the joyful, peaceful reunion it’s supposed to be, but Cross brings us through the action through Ace and Ryan’s POVs – another hoot of a couple in the series – and I must say there are thrills and (some rather unrealistic) spills to come in it, with Ace’s granny taking centre stage in several scenes. It’s hilarious in parts, breathtaking in others and I’d say, a worthwhile read all around. My enjoyment of course, stems from revisiting this beloved cast of characters again, as I ate up every interaction between all of them…which I miss so much.

‘Never Surrender’ brought me back to Cross’s ‘glory days’ where military thrillers were her thing. It isn’t that her HRT or DEA Fast series is disappointing, but many of those books do feel repetitive and sometimes tedious as Cross looked alarmingly stripped of ideas. It’s good to finally say that this book – the Mackenzies were peripheral in the whole plot – brought back a rush that I’d long forgotten.

four-stars

Falling Fast by Kaylea Cross

Falling Fast by Kaylea CrossFalling Fast by Kaylea Cross
Series: DEA FAST #1
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on January 18th 2017
Pages: 170
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three-stars

She's putting herself in harm's way to make a difference. Having grown up in a household of elite, overprotective male Marines, Charlie Colebrook is savoring her hard won independence and avoiding a serious relationship that could tie her down. As a computer forensics expert for the DEA she might be a civilian rather than an agent, but she's far from helpless, and she's hungry to prove herself. So when her boss asks her to take on a dangerous undercover assignment that could expose the key money launderer for the biggest, and most lethal drug cartel in the Western hemisphere, Charlie seizes her chance. There's just one catch: the man assigned as her partner is the only man she wants...and he won't settle for less than everything she has to give. Now he's the only one who stands between her and a ruthless cartel. DEA Special Agent Jamie Rodriguez has tried like hell to ignore the explosive chemistry he has with Charlie. Not simply because she's his best friend's sister-but because with her, he wants all or nothing. As a member of the agency's elite FAST Bravo unit, he's got the skill and experience to keep her safe. Now that he's assigned to protect her on this op, he'll do it at all costs, even if she tempts him as no other woman ever has. But the final op tests them both to the breaking point, and when things go to hell, it will take everything they've got to survive the deadly trap set for them.

Kaylea Cross does manage a pretty good transition (read: hooks) from the Colebrook siblings trilogy by setting up the unresolved tension between Jamie Rodriguez and Charlie Colebrook. But I’m treading cautiously here, even though the start of the DEA Fast series has made me wonder about several aspects of the RS genre that Cross tends to overuse.

I do have some questions that are yet unanswered, or at least some questions that this books can’t quite answer yet. Thus far, this series hasn’t shown itself to be any different (apart from the focus on drugs and cartels as opposed to the terrorist/hostage angle) from the previous HRT series and her characters do, at the moment, look rather interchangeable, as are the high stakes situations and the burst of explosive danger that they tend to get themselves in before one party will realise his/her feelings. The writing style is classic Cross as well: with particular phrases that do find themselves repeated through her series of books, as is the similarity it bears to Katie Reus’s writing.

But I must admit that the premise for the pairing did seem rather ridiculous to me: hiring an untrained civilian for undercover, then going undercover with Jamie as a ‘neighbour’ seemed far-fetched, as is the role-reversal option of having the woman being the commitment-phobic one.

Maybe this series will grow on me…but who knows?

three-stars