Series: Colebrook Siblings Trilogy

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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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.


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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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.