Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett have managed the impossible: a few months of peace and quiet. After nearly a year of personal and professional turmoil, they’re living together conflict-free, work is going smoothly, and they’re both happy, healthy, and home every night before dark. But anyone who knows them knows it can’t possibly last,
When an emergency call from home upsets the balance of their carefully arranged world, Ty and Zane must juggle family drama with a perplexing crime to save a helpless victim before time runs out.
From the mountains of West Virginia to a remote Texas horse ranch harboring more than just livestock and childhood memories, Ty and Zane must face their fears-and their families-to overcome an unlikely enemy and bring peace back into their newly shared world.
I wish I could adequately put into words how much I loved this book. Granted, it wasn’t as action-packed or as tense as the previous books, but Ty and Zane were happy and angst-free. And if you’ve been following this series, you will know that this doesn’t happen often. You will also know that the likelihood of it lasting for very long is next to nothing. But while it lasts… it’s beautiful.
After months of ups and downs, misunderstandings and fits of stubborn jackass-ery, the boys are in a good place. They’re living together and they’ve managed to hide their relationship from their colleagues. Then they each get their respective calls from home. Ty’s family crisis is kinda funny; Zane’s is far more serious. And that’s where the trouble comes in. When Ty and Zane head to West Virginia, things are a little tense. You’ll remember that Zane and Earl did not get off to the best start. However, that isn’t the worst of it: Chester Grady, the astute old coot, just blurts out the fact that Ty and Zane are a couple. Despite being one of my absolute favourite characters in this series, I could have strangled the old guy. The way Abi wrote this scene was just… you could feel Ty’s apprehension and I just wanted to get in the book so I could give him a hug. Everything turned out okay, but still. I was tense. Then, just when it looks like the boys have weathered the storm, the next bombshell drops, this time on Zane. He gets a call from his sister: his father has been shot.
Zane heads down to Texas, sans Ty. I was really happy to meet Zane’s family and get a little more insight into his past. Zane has been extremely tight-lipped about his life before Ty and I really enjoyed seeing how he interacted with the people back home. Plus, Zane the cowboy? So hot. But things are pretty tense, especially with Zane’s mom. Most people hated Beverly, and I’m not going to say that I didn’t want to slap her, but I felt a teensy bit sorry for her. She was so set in her ways and narrow-minded that she bulldozes any common ground she and Zane might have stood on. It made me a little sad. What made me really happy about Zane being in Texas was Ty taking time off work to be with him. It was just so “awww…” worthy. Plus, Texas seemed to make Zane hotter and, as such, made it damn near impossible for Ty to keep his hands of him. As an aside, Stars & Stripes has the hottest sex scene I have ever read. Ever.
There was a mystery element to this book, but it wasn’t as prominent as the rest of the series. The Carter-Garrett Ranch is right next door to a big cat sanctuary, who is missing some of its residents. Needless to say, having tigers and lions and the like going AWOL near a horse ranch is not ideal. And there’s evidence pointing to the fact that someone on the C-G may be involved in the catnappings. While this was pretty entertaining (Ty hates horses so being in the middle of horse country is not making him a happy camper), I was more interested in getting to know Zane’s family. Harrison, Zane’s dad, and Annie, Zane’s sister, were legend but Beverly was downright unpleasant.
I can’t even say that Stars & Stripes is my favourite book in the series; it’d be like asking a mother to choose her favourite child. But of all the books in the series, this book makes me the happiest. Alas, it is only the calm before the storm…
Here are a few of my favourite bits and pieces from Stars & Stripes:
“I love you,” Ty said out of the blue, his voice almost sing-song.
Zane laughed. “You’re drunk.”
“I loved you before I was drunk.”
“Don’t be a smartass.”
“Can’t help it, runs in the family. What happened?”
“Your mother cut my finger off with a pair of garden shears. That’s what happened,” Earl answered, his tone neutral. Although, he did manage to make the word “mother” sound like a curse.
“Did you… deserve it?” Deuce asked shakily. Either he was afraid of asking the question, or he was trying not to laugh. Ty was inclined to think the latter.
“A little bit,” Earl said. “She was out there pruning that big ol’ gardenia bush, and I was trying to get the mulch under it just right as she did it.”
“She told me to wait, that I was going to lose a finger.” Earl looked toward the kitchen and then back at Ty and Deuce. He snorted. “I asked her, did she think I was stupid? Then a couple snips later, whack. Off went the finger. And you know what that woman said to me? I said, ‘Mara, you cut my finger off.’ And your mother said to me, ‘Well, Earl, who’s stupid now?'”
…”Had a gay bull I had to sell last year. That was a damn nuisance. Gay son? That don’t cost me nothing.”
Zane tossed the rope, landing it around the saddle horn time and time again. He was trying to teach Ty the proper technique, but Ty wasn’t watching his hands or his posture, or even the rope as it sailed through the air. He was watching Zane’s face.
“You ready to give it a try?” Zane asked, unaware that they had an audience.
“No, show me one more time.”
Zane gave him a tolerant sigh and nodded. Harrison snorted, luckily not loud enough to draw their attention. This Ty Grady had Zane wrapped around his finger. It was almost sweet. And Harrison had rarely seen a man who could go toe to toe with Beverly and come out alive, much less on top and smiling. The more he saw of the man who’d caught his son’s heart, the more he liked him. And the more he saw of his son, the more he realized how close they’d come to losing Zane altogether. Even before his wife had passed, Zane had been a cold and rather distant man. He’d been so much like Beverly. Now, though, there was warmth in Zane that Harrison had never thought he’d see.
It could have been a coincidence that Zane had found new life and Ty at the same time, but Harrison didn’t put much stock in coincidences.
[Ty] looked down at Zane and shook his head. “I want you to put ‘He didn’t want to ride the damn horse’ on my tombstone.”