Sunday 31 May 2015

Review ~ Combative (Combative,#1) by Jay McLean

Reviewed by Donna ~ 4 stars

"Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering." - Nicole Krauss, The History of Love

Well, well, well, this was a surprise from Jay McLean. I downloaded this book totally blind, I had not even read the blurb and had stayed away as usual from reviews and spoilers. I love going into a book blind, I love knowing absolutely nothing and I am glad I did with this one because it all added to the mystery that surrounds the characters in this book. Throughout reading and especially while the mystery itself was beginning to present itself I found myself reading between the lines, making up my own versions of who these characters were and I was forever questioning…who is good? Who is bad? I also did not realise that this was not a standalone so beware that this story is not complete and you will have loads of unanswered questions at the end.

Kyler was a troubled character and his outlet for his anger was fighting, but the trouble with fighting is that it often lands you in trouble and trouble is what Kyler finds himself in at the beginning of this book. After a bar fight Kyler is looking at jail time and that is one place that he doesn’t want to end up so his friend/ “brother” Jax hands him a lifeline…he has to see a shrink and he has to go undercover.

“And it finally happened.
I broke.
And I cried seventeen years worth of tears.
And it didn’t fucking help.
Not even a little bit.
Not even at all.”

Kyler has just returned from four tours of duty and has obviously seen some bad stuff while in action. But his life has been full of bad stuff and as this book flips from past to present the extent of his past his brought to the forefront, no wonder he is struggling. Kyler was taken in by Jax’s family, hence why these two are more like brothers than best friends and also why Kyler finds himself agreeing to Jax’s demands.

“We spent the entire night playing Halo until the sun started to come up. In that room, in that one night, we became the most unlikely of friends. Not because he was some kid trying to save me, or because I was the kid that needed saving…or the other way around. We became friends because in between the few words spoken, the few laughs we shared, and the few times we lost control of those laughs, we saw each other for what we were; just boys that like to laugh and shoot the shit out of our enemies in an overdramatic video game. I named his character Captain Victory. He laughed and named mine Captain Combative.”

Nate de Luca fronts a fighting ring, but underneath Jax is certain he is into other illegal activities, namely drugs. Drugs have been front and centre in both Jax and Kyler’s past and it is this that lures these two into capturing the men behind the dealing. The idea is for Kyler to join the fighting circuit and infiltrate Nate de Luca that way, trying to unearth the man behind the fa├žade. This obviously has repercussions if it goes wrong, Nate de Luca is not a man to be crossed.

Kyler meets his new neighbour at the mail box where she is frantically rummaging around looking for something (I would love to know what she is waiting for, especially as she spent so much time there! This is just one of many questions I still have). From here a friendship blossoms, but does Kyler need the distraction?

I loved the slow burn with this relationship, friends first and then pushing towards blurring the lines. Both of these two have their secrets and Madison is one intriguing and secretive person. Slowly but surely Kyler opens up to Madison but Madison seems intent on keeping her cards close to her chest. While she comes across as an extremely timid and vulnerable character, there was something about her that sent warning bells ringing in my head.

“And I’m so afraid of everything this kiss makes me feel. Because it is more than just a kiss. It’s a sense of hope, and reason, and promise.”

This book is not the typical Jay McLean read and I know that she was hesitant to even publish it, but she needn’t have worried as she nailed this new genre. The mystery and suspense surrounding the characters draws you into the plot while your romantic side is satiated by the blossoming romance between Madison and Kyler. You have that perfect balance of intrigue and passion.

“People do crazy things when they feel like the clock is ticking too fast, or too slow, or not ticking at all.”

Another thing that I loved about this book was the underlying message with regards to family. Family always plays a huge part in Jay McLean’s books and this one is no different. How Jax and Kyler became brothers was beautiful despite being so tragic. Christine, Jax’s mum was a fantastic character and I loved her dearly. The whole family pulls together when needed and are always there for each other whether you feel you deserve it or not.

“To the edge of destruction.”

Overall this was one intriguing read; while I still have loads of unanswered questions I cannot help but turn this story around in my head. I have so many theories and conspiracies that my brain is truly frazzled and that is testament to Jay McLean’s writing because she has elicited this reaction. A book that you cannot stop thinking about is a book that has been written well. I cannot wait for book 2, I need to know what the hell is going on, who is good, who is bad, how are these people all connected as it seems nothing in this book is black and white, everything is grey. Well done Jay McLean, I have no idea why you were worried; you should give yourself a huge pat on the back.

Buy Links:

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