Rating: 8/10 ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 
Title: Sticks & Stones
Author: Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux
Genre: M/M Romance, Mystery/Suspense
URL: Dreamspinner Press
Price: US $6.99
Summary [from the publisher]:
Six months after nearly losing their lives to a serial killer in New York City, FBI Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are suffering through something almost as frightening: the monotony of desk duty. When they’re ordered to take a vacation for the good of everyone’s sanity, Ty bites the bullet and takes Zane home with him to West Virginia, hoping the peace and quiet of the mountains will give them the chance to explore the explosive attraction they’ve so far been unable to reconcile with their professional partnership.

Ty and Zane, along with Ty’s father and brother, head up into the Appalachian mountains for a nice, relaxing hike deep into the woods… where no one will hear them scream. They find themselves facing danger from all directions: unpredictable weather, the unrelenting mountains, wild animals, fellow hikers with nothing to lose, and the most terrifying challenge of all. Each other.

My review:
t’s just as well FBI agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett are required to take a mandatory vacation after failing their psychological evaluations. Six months later, they are still haunted by the Tri-State murders. A relaxing hike, a chance for the guys to explore their simmering attraction, and spending time with Ty’s family is just what they need.

“If Zane could survive a trip to West Virginia to meet the Gradys, he could live through anything. Like a cockroach.”

It’s not that easy, though, as both guys are great at keeping a lid on their emotions. On top of that, they are each dealing with issues from their pasts. Zane is hurting from the death of his wife and recovering from an addiction to drugs and alcohol. Ty is a former Marine who is suffering from PTSD, troubled by nightmares and flashbacks.

While this story is not as action-packed as the first, there are very gripping moments that had this reader flipping pages well into the evening. It began with the mysterious ATV tracks and ended with Ty’s sorry encounter with a cougar. Though they have to deal with bad guys on the trail, the focus of this story was on Ty’s and Zane’s deepening relationship and the interaction with Ty’s family.

I especially liked Ty’s brother, Deacon, who is a psychiatrist and more aware of how Ty and Zane feel about each other than they are themselves. His mother, Mara, is warm, loving, protective, and bakes amazing pies. Ty’s father, Earl, has a gruff, military bearing. The complicated relationship he has with his sons made it difficult for me to warm up to him, but there was no question his love was strong, especially when Ty’s life was in danger.

Just like in the first book, there were unbelievable scenes and stupid mistakes made. The writing style seems a bit more controlled, or maybe I’m just getting used to it. I love the slow-burning romance, the humorous banter, and the tension in Ty’s and Zane’s relationship.

“What he was afraid of, he’d come to realize, was not dark spaces or falling from great heights or being buried alive. His greatest fears, in the end, were letting down those he loved and saying the words “I love you” without any hope of hearing them in return.”

I’m enjoying this series so far and look forward to more danger and thrills, as well as seeing Ty and Zane overcoming their fears and insecurities.

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