Sticks and Stones brings Ty Grady and Zane Garrett back together after the climactic ending of the first book. The Bureau separated Ty and Zane for six months after their last assignment. The FBI dropped Zane back into a meat-grinder of an assignment in New Mexico and Ty spent much of his time recovering from their last encounter. When their boss, Dick Burns, calls them into his office to give them the negative results on their latest unofficial psych evals, he makes it clear that they’re out if they don’t get their heads straight. Burns orders them both to go on an immediate vacation. Ty, in particular, he instructs to go home and visit his family in West Virginia.
The writing in Sticks and Stones is much tighter. Urban and Roux’s familiarity with the two characters makes for an intense and dramatic read. As Ty interacts with his father Earl, Mara, his mother, and Deuce, his brother, the reader gets to see a different side of his character. With Earl, Ty is someone who follows orders without question. His tendency to obey his father even against his own better judgment has horrendous consequences for the entire group during their “relaxing” hike into the mountains. His mother and father are unaware that Ty is gay, so he spends much of his time trying to control his sexual attraction to Zane.
Zane believes the reason he’s making the trip to West Virginia with Ty is so that he can act as a smoke screen for Ty. In reality, Ty’s brother Deuce is a psychiatrist. Ty wants his brother’s opinion on the soundness of Zane’s sanity since he’s already failed an unofficial eval. Zane has put aside his drug and alcohol use, but he’s chain-smoking and not sleeping. When he does manage to sleep, nightmares trouble his rest unless he’s sharing a bed with Ty, something that’s a little hard to do in a household where almost no one knows he’s gay.
Still Ty and Zane are real partners. Each has protected the other’s life. Crazed treasure hunters and wild predators notwithstanding, Ty and Zane follow Earl Grady up the mountain on a trek that may cost lives. During this harrowing vacation, Zane learns just how much Ty is afraid of letting down people he cares loves. He can’t let his brother Deuce down, nor his father Earl.
Review originally appeared on Queer Magazine Online
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Image courtesy Dreamspinner Press