Author: Kaylea Cross

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

Easton’s Claim by Kaylea Cross

Easton’s Claim by Kaylea CrossEaston's Claim by Kaylea Cross
Series: Colebrook Siblings Trilogy #3
Published by Kaylea Cross Inc. on September 27th 2016
Pages: 166
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three-stars

Piper Greenlee is desperate to get out of Sugar Hollow. After her ex-husband’s notorious scandal and their subsequent divorce, her life and reputation are in tatters. Not to mention the disturbing feelings she’s started to have for a longtime friend recently. She’s ready to leave all that behind, start over somewhere far away and reinvent herself.

But the past isn’t done with her yet. When it lands on her doorstep this time, the consequences could prove fatal. She has no choice but to turn to the one man in town she knows can protect her…the man she’s not ready to face her true feelings for.

DEA FAST agent Easton Colebrook has loved Piper for years and been forced to stay silent. It killed him to stand back and watch her marry the wrong man, but now that her divorce has been finalized and she’s had time to heal, he’s making his move. The problem is, she’s determined to see him only as a friend, and worse—Wyatt’s little brother.

When he arrives home after another rotation in Afghanistan, Easton is ready to put his plan into action. Then he learns that Piper is planning to move halfway across the country, forcing him to act immediately. Before he can tell her how he feels, her ex drags her into a potentially lethal situation. Easton steps in, vowing to protect her at all costs. But in order to finally claim the woman who’s owned his heart for as long as he can remember, he and Piper will have to outsmart a deadly enemy hell bent on exacting his revenge.

This is a hard review to write, particularly because I’ve been following Kaylea Cross for a long time. Questioning the level of my boredom and the quality of writing with her recent offerings hence, were never things I thought I’d be doing. First off, the good: there’s action and there’re bodice-ripping equivalent scenes that well, abound. Even then, I found myself skimming those because I swear I’ve come across similar scenes somewhere in her other stories.

Going into Cross’s latest novella however, only solidified the feeling of how much I loved her previous books (Titanium and Bagram), because those had more sensitive writing and characters—particularly her male protagonists—carved from more nuanced and tender subtlety than sliced and turned out from the latest mass-produced tray of tacky hero-offerings.

Easton Colebrook fits the latter to a T: a cookie-cutter romantic lead that could be transplanted and shifted around from Cross’s recent books to be the stand-in hero for any of those indistinguishably. Military trained, works with an elite fighting force, indulges in flings then backtracks and says only the woman he’s meant to be with matters most (with such wonderful, tested and tried commitment levels clearly) and suddenly develops Neanderthal traits such as wanting to ‘claim’ her and ‘make her his’ where she’s concerned because she’s the only one that he’ll commit to. I cringed my way through these phrases in the previous book and several others before that; I cringed even more here, unconvinced that these suggest the heroine is special and thus commitment-worthy. That the compromise and sacrifice Piper Greenlee has to make to be with him while he happily stays with the job he loves piled on the doubts.

Admittedly, tackling friendship to love, or in this case, unrequited love, is a challenging one. How an author tackles the awkwardness in the shift, while providing a believable explanation for sexual attraction that suddenly develops when there was none when they were friends, or even how the characters’ history together add to the value of them being together are essentials for me. For now, whether this book satisfies these croteria is still an internal debate that’s raging on in my head.

Diehard Cross fans will adore this, of course. But the long and short of it, I hate to say I’m disappointed but will likely stay this way until Cross rediscovers the classier style and characters of the books I loved.

three-stars

Wyatt’s Stand by Kaylea Cross

Wyatt’s Stand by Kaylea CrossWyatt's Stand by Kaylea Cross
Series: Colebrook Siblings Trilogy #2
Published by Kaylea Cross Inc. on August 28th 2016
Pages: 168
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three-stars

A wounded warrior in need of healing.
The cost of war was high for Wyatt Colebrook, scarring him inside and out. Since coming home to Sugar Hollow to figure out what his new normal looks like, he’s retreated into himself, just going through the motions of living. Since losing his lower leg and an eye, he doesn’t feel whole anymore, and every day he battles with the inner demons he brought back with him. The only things keeping him going are family, stubbornness, and the chance to buy the one property that will allow him to begin to heal again. When that dream is suddenly stolen from him, it leads to a confrontation with the new owner that will change his life forever.

A woman strong enough to win his heart.
After suffering a painful loss of her own, Austen Sloan left everything from her old life behind to start a new one in Sugar Hollow. When she finds the house of her dreams in a run-down Victorian in desperate need of love, the last thing she expects is to have a run-in with a disgruntled wounded combat veteran who soon steals her heart. But danger lurks in the shadows, stalking ever nearer. To hold on to Austen and the chance for a future together, Wyatt must make a stand against a deadly enemy. He’ll protect her with everything he has, or die trying.

Wyatt Colebrook’s self-imposed solitude ends when a woman buys the house he’d been after and by some twist of events, finds himself working on the entire renovation process. Hostile to the buyer at first, things between him and Austen move quickly to friendship to more.

Kaylea Cross tackles the wounded veteran story (with a very heavy focus on canines) in Wyatt’s Stand’ and it’s a very different one from what I normally expect out of Cross’s stories. I do like Cross’s stories for several reasons to begin with: the general lack of stupidity that doesn’t involve the lead characters pushing each other away at the end because of some asinine reason intended to create unnecessary conflict, the fast-paced action and suspense and the loyalty that her characters develop for each other once they are paired up.

What had me impressed was how Wyatt didn’t fall into the category of men who suddenly believe they aren’t good enough for a woman because their physical shine had been shorn down and rubbed off thanks to any injury they’d suffered through while doing their military service. Not to downplay the self-esteem issues that scarred vets do face, but I did like how Wyatt – aside from becoming a recluse – owned his injuries and didn’t spend most of the time looking back at the ‘good ol’ days’ before it all went downhill. That Austen never once questioned his altered appearance or scars also pushed her up several notches my esteem of her.

Yet I do think back with more nostalgia to the earlier books where Cross is a little more discerning with her writing style and perhaps, even more poetic with her use of language. There are several clichés that seemed to have developed in her writing that are cringe-worthy each time these come up – phrases like ‘her most sensitive flesh’, ‘making her his’ – simply pop up rather freely in her recent series and somehow they do remind me of the older (and more sexist) romance books where the language tended to stereotype gender roles. Every story is wrapped up with a HEA where no one important dies or someone falls magically pregnant – sometimes too bright a HEA for me – and those who matter wake up to smell the roses whose thorns have been thoroughly stripped.

That said, ‘Wyatt’s Stand’ isn’t a bad read, with fairly likeable characters (but a rather predictable suspense plot) whom I thought I could get behind.

three-stars