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Crash & Burn (Cut & Run Series Book 9)

3/5. Ninth? . . . in this M/M series about the FBI agents. I'm not gonna lie, this (and the prior couple books) have been really disappointing, since they seem to fundamentally misunderstand what is good about this series. Namely: a sense of genuine hilarity, and tropes tropes tropes.*

Let's review the glory days. The second book brought us wilderness survival straining a tenuous relationship with – if my recollection does not fail me – actual huddling for warmth. Oh, and the third book gave us pretend-to-be-married and kept boy roleplay. The fourth book gave us temporary disability, but let's not talk about that. Oh but the fifth book, that gave us zany road trip with bonus hitmen. Ooh, and the sixth book is peak whacky, with bonus meet-the-family and cowboys, and a random tiger (trust me, it's funny).

Damn, this series was good when it was good.

And, I mean, I guess you could read the first book if you want (partners who hate each other but fall in lust), but eh, it's not the best.

*Though in its defense, this ninth book did have 'roleplaying dubcon to fool the cameras while actually having intense, consensual, kind of hilarious sex.' So that's okay.
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Ball & Chain (Cut & Run, #8)Ball & Chain by Abigail Roux

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another M/M FBI caper, this time stranded on a tiny Scottish island for a wedding, at least until the bodies start dropping.

Hm. This made me think about series structure and the necessity of releasing tension in order to build it again. Because, I think for the first time in my life, I was hoping for a mystery-of-the-week, and I didn't get it. All the markers were there – last book was over-the-top intense! This book started with hints of whacky hijinks! – and I thought oh good, we can all decompress a bit. And then no. It's like Roux couldn't stop herself from injecting a whole new set of interpersonal dramas, with yet more awkwardly back-filled history.

And, I mean, I don't read M/M just for the porn, okay? For one reason, that would be really fucking sad, considering the abysmal quality of most published LGBT erotica (this series being a pleasant surprise there). I also read it for the personal drama, to wallow in it and – yeah – to mock it a lot. But I'm genuinely in this for people having complicated, difficult feelings at each other.

But seriously. Once in a while? Have a freaking caper. Remember the thing a couple books ago with the tiger and the terrible, terrible puns, and how hard I laughed on a flight home from London? Can't we do that again?

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Caught RunningCaught Running by Abigail Roux

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

M/M. This didn't work for me, but it was apparently good for the embryos.*

*A friend and I have an agreement to read M/M romance during IVF hell rather than do any of the other internet-recommended activities (praying, using cutesy sayings like "babydust," weeping). So I read this for her, and so far, it was apparently successful. So there's that!

Aaaanyway. This is otherwise bland M/M about the high school baseball coach and the science teacher hooking up. This has many of the faults of the genre, most notably bizarre and dizzying POV shifts so we can experience things from both sides, and trust me, they weren't that interesting the first time around. Also, the only role for women in this book is to throw themselves in exaggerated and creepy fashion at the dudes. What is that? I see it all the time in M/M, but can't put my finger on what it is supposed to be doing.

Anyway, there's a nice lack of stupid external impediments (oh noes, we can't be together because your twin brother's ex fiancé's cousin kidnapped my niece and blackmailed us!) but when you strip out all that nonsense, you do actually have to replace it with internal conflict. And, well . . . nope.

Good for the embryos, though.

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Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7)Touch & Geaux by Abigail Roux

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

M/M romance in that series I like. This is a 'through the fire' book. You know, where the relationship gets tested to extremity. I'm that apparently unusual romance reader who by far prefers established relationship stories to getting together stories. Done well, staying together stories are deeper, richer, and simply more interesting to me. And the thing that really works for me about this series is that it does staying together well. So it was inevitable we'd get to a book like this, where that is tested to breaking.

Anyway, long way of saying I should have liked what this book was doing more than I did. But these stories are hard to write; you've got to come up with some cataclysm to fracture your OTP, and what most people come up with is trumped up or silly. Which is funny, because it's not like the world doesn't surround us with a thousand relationship tests every day – money and time and careers and illness and infertility and fertility and impatience and not listening enough and etc. There are a lot of incredible stories to tell there, but they're not easy. So you can see how, in comparison, this story of overbaked espionage and convoluted backstory betrayals was ridiculous and kind of shallow.

Yeah yeah yeah, I'm complaining that this series is being itself, I know. It's like complaining that cheese is cheesy. But still.

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Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run, #6)Stars & Stripes by Abigail Roux

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Somethingth book in this series about the FBI partners who do the things FBI partners do – solve crime and bang a lot. I seem to read this series when I’m traveling, and I’ve gotta say, on a long transatlantic red-eye with no sleep in sight? Nothing better.

I’m really ridiculously fond of these guys, but above and beyond that, here’s something you don’t see every day. And by “every day” I mean in most of the lgbt fiction out there. See, these guys, they have lots of sex, right? But somehow – get ready for this, it’s crazy – somehow their entire relationship dynamic doesn’t turn on who is getting penetrated. I know! I mean, what they want in bed changes over time with the changes in their relationship and circumstances and their moods. And who is sticking it to whom at any given moment has nothing to do with who is holding the upper hand emotionally, or who is calling the shots on important relationship questions.

In fact, it’s more like who is calling the shots also changes with the circumstances, and with need. Almost like these are two guys who think of each other as equals, and who pass the lead back and forth as needed and pick up each other’s slack and have a dynamic, healthy partnership! Just as if who is getting penetrated isn’t, like, the definitional framework by which they construct their personalities!

It’s weird.

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Cut & Run (Cut & Run #1)Cut & Run by Abigail Roux

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

FBI agents are forcibly partnered to solve murders/go undercover/protect witnesses/insert law-enforcement plot device of choice here. It’s hate at first sight, until it really, really isn’t.

This was sneaky. I read the first book and went ‘yeah, okay, that was pretty good even though x and y and z were hilariously overplayed.’ And then it was like that thing where you have the bowl of popcorn in your lap, and you don’t even know you’re eating it until it’s halfway gone. It was like that, except all of a sudden I was reading the second book. And then there were these . . . feelings! And then the third book was undercover fake-gay-married-except-really-secretly-sleeping-together and it was four in the morning and what the fuck is happening to me? By the time the fourth book came around, I wasn’t having feelings anymore. I was having feels, guys. Huge difference. And then we hit the fifth book, which coincided with some business travel, and I had one of those moments of clarity where you realize a U.S. Congressman is networking kind of frantically at you on the Acela and you’re tilting your laptop screen away from him and thinking crankily, for fuck’s sake, Congressman, just let me get back to my gay porn!. True story.

Look, these are self-indulgent to the extreme, and silly to boot, and hilariously over-the-top. But they’re also slow and sweet and angry and complicated. This is one of those stories about two people who were not looking for love, let alone looking for each other. But then it happened, and the really interesting thing is how they deal. …Or don’t deal, on occasion.

I’m feeling kind of unsatisfied with this, the way you do when you have lots of feels about something and you can’t explain why because it’s too reflexive. I have been thinking and writing a lot lately about kink (in the broader emotional sense, not the narrow sexual paraphilia sense). That knot of tension deep down in the muscle of your psyche, and kink is the thing that comes and pushes at it, and pushes, and sometimes it hurts, but it’s good. These books pushed at something to do with what I value and respect in partnerships of all sorts, and about how the things worth having don’t come easy, and, and.

That’s a little closer.

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