Warrior’s Cross by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux
Cameron Jacobs is an open book. He considers himself a common waiter with normal friends, boring hobbies, harmless dogs, and nothing even resembling a secret… except a crush on a tall, dark, devastatingly handsome man who dines alone at his restaurant on Tuesday nights. All it takes is one passionate night with Julian Cross to turn Cameron’s world on its head.
Julian’s love and devotion are all Cameron could have hoped for and more. But when his ordinary life meets and clashes with Julian’s extraordinary lifestyle, Cameron discovers that trust and fear can go hand in hand, and love is just a step away from danger.
[I *love* this cover. I’d pick it up in a bookstore.]
This is an interesting page-turner that I liked a lot, but I didn’t love. The writing is decent to pretty good and the editing is mostly clean with very few, if any, mistakes that will jar the reader out of the created world. The characters are mostly strong with the fascinating and well crafted Julian to the enigmatic and wonderful Preston. Unfortunately the weakness of the story is solidly in the overly emotional and rather weak character of Cameron. His inability to show any confidence, strength, or intelligence right up to the very end of the story decreased my enjoyment of the book. However, readers may feel differently and the story has many things going for it so I still easily recommend this.
The premise is that Julian is a bit of a mystery. He shows up at the restaurant where Cameron works as a waiter and after several months of almost no communication, Julian suddenly engages Cameron intensely and repeatedly. This of course leads to a love affair but Julian is still a mystery. He shows up two nights a week but offers no details about his job, life, home, background, friends, or his personality. All Cameron knows is the man whom he sees on those two nights. Eventually the danger in Julian’s career and life start to overwhelm Cameron and he must decide if he can stay with the man he loves or will the secrets drive them apart.
The story itself is somewhat slow, for all the action that does happen. There are many jumps in time and fast forwards so there is almost no coherent time line and the lull between action is punctuated by cuddling, sleeping, and emotional outbursts. The plot could have been tighter with less extraneous details and unimportant conversation but this is a minor point and certainly doesn’t detract from the story itself. It merely lengthens the story somewhat to a generous 300 pages when a tighter, faster paced book could have been shorter. However, the narrative is quick and interesting so the book flies by.
The world building is somewhat sparse in the modern day Chicago and there is a marked lack of detail to anything but the restaurant itself. As a significant portion of action happens in the restaurant over any other locale, this makes sense but once the characters leave the restaurant there is a vague feeling the action could take place in any other city. There is however lovely details about the passing of seasons and weather related scenes that kept the book feeling fresh and engaging. Also the story is a mix of character driven and plot driven so the lack of specific detail didn’t bother me while reading but I noticed its lack.
The characters are mostly well done with the standouts of Julian and Preston. Julian is one of the main characters and has a shady job. His actual career is never explicitly mentioned but the details are meant to give the impression he’s an assassin. Thus he lives a mysterious, dangerous life but his character is full of depth and fascinating quirks. He doesn’t form lasting connections and thus he is as baffled by his attraction to Cameron as anyone else. However, Julian embraces his feelings without doubt, only worry for Cameron’s safety in his dangerous world. Julian’s quirky sense of humor and wonderful agitation over small details makes a fully developed and engaging character. His pseudo side kick of the quiet Preston is a much smaller character but a delightful scene stealer.
Unfortunately Julian’s love interest in Cameron is nowhere near as fully well rounded. Cameron suffers the entire book from lack of confidence and can’t let his fears and own issues go to fully accept Julian’s love. Cameron constantly questions why a refined, intelligent man would want to be with Cameron – to the point that I couldn’t help but agree. Instead of accepting Julian’s declarations, Cameron questions Julian repeatedly with inane questions and statements, dancing around the issues and information he really wants to know. Thus when Cameron fails to get the information he feels he needs, he has an emotional breakdown. Several times Cameron re-iterates to himself and others that he can live with secrets and not knowing, except the truth is that he can’t as he constantly probes further and further and always pushes to know the very information he claims he can live without. This added to the repeated and frequent crying instead of taking action led Cameron to be a weak character and without the strength, intelligence, and depth of character that he should have. For most of the book I was willing to accept these flaws, hoping Cameron would realize his actions and change but even to the very end Cameron accepts no responsibility for his actions and doesn’t develop at all.
However, that’s perhaps the one caveat to the story and overall the pace is fast, interesting and enjoyable. The strong narrative, alternating third person pov, carries the story as the romance is slow and more emotional than anything with just a few tame sex scenes. This may not be a keeper story but it’s a strong tale with a few wonderful characters. I can easily recommend the book and it’s one that I would read again even with the problems of Cameron’s character.
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