Review: Down and Dirty — by Rhys Ford

down_and_dirty_rhysfordOther Reviewers: Goodreads

There is no hiding or denying that I love Rhys Ford’s writing.  No matter what series, I tend to enjoy it.  She manages to write in imagery; the opening scene is usually some sort of action hook and we are invested in the characters by the end of the first chapter.  In Down and Dirty, we get more of a sexually intense exploration rather than a Jason Bourne type thriller.

As always with my Advance Reader Copy blog posts, I try to be as unbiased as possible and give an impartial review.

This is not a short series, and Down and Dirty is book 5 in the  Cole McGinnis Series.  The majority of these books focus on Cole and Jae, but Bobby and Ichiro have been strong secondary characters that as readers, we wanted to learn more.  I always found Bobby intriguing and knew there was so much more to his character.

First things first, you MUST read the rest of the series to get the full power of this novel.  Down and Dirty happens in the same time-line as the previous book;  you will not necessarily be “spoiled” but I do fear that you would learn something that did not want to know if you had not read Dirty Deeds.

If you want to read any of my previous reviews on this series go to the following links: Dirty Kiss, Dirty Secrets, Dirty Laundry, and Dirty Deeds.

Basic Plot:

This book picks up during book 4 of the series Dirty Deeds.  Bobby Dawson is Cole McGinnis’ best friend, someone who has always been there for him.  He is a former cop, who after he retired came out as gay and has been making his way through scores of twinks vowing never to settle down.  But everything changes for him when he meets Cole’s brother Ichiro.  Ichiro is captivating and challenges Bobby to want more in his live than just existing.  But can Bobby and Ichiro put their personal experiences behind them to find a happy future together?

Bobby Dawson:

I admit that Bobby has almost overshadowed Cole in the past when he was in a scene for me.  There was just something about him that intrigued me.  Maybe it’s that older, “daddy” aspect with him, I just always wanted to see more of him and find his motivation.  What we learn about him is that he is an aging, hardened male warrior who fights to remain in the prime of his life by punishing himself:

The man definitely spend time pushing his body to its limits.  It showed in every long plane of muscle sculpted over his broad shoulders and flat belly.  Bobby’s thick thighs rippled with power when he braced himself and pushed Ichiro down onto the bed, his tongue licking his top lip as if he were debating where to start on Ichiro’s body.

I feel badly for Bobby.  He struggles with his personal history and is afraid to move forward.  It is because of his attraction and curiously about Ichiro that he is willing to try to change.

Ichiro Tokugawa:

So much that we see of Ichiro revolves around his tattoos.  They are his armor:

“I’m covered in bad ideas.”  Ichi sat up all the way, straddling Bobby’s hips.  Sucking his sleeves back, he bared the ink embedded under his skin.  “See these?  They’re supposed to be my idea of running in a burning building, because what I’ve done to myself is everything my family hates.  The symbols, the ink — everything.  But it’s my decision, and I took the consequences.”

Ichi has committed the first step to finding himself: making life decisions for independence rather than allowing others to change him.  Yet, he has only altered his cover, not the book inside.

Theme Summary:

No matter how much you attempt an outer metamorphosis to forget the past, you need to change the core within to move forward.  We see both of this in how Bobby and Ichiro change their form.  Bobby punishes himself for his past by brutally working out making his body perfection.  But at what cost?  For Ichiro, he leaves his father and Japan behind him by painting himself with a new skin:

His tattoos were less a rebellion and more of a birth, the wash of ink marking his break from his familial placenta, and he’d thrust himself gasping into a world where he’d wear who he was on his skin.

Yet, while both men have moved on in one way, they forgot to change the center.  It is not until they see each other’s struggles that they admit to themselves they need to change on the inside.  Luckily they have each other to show themselves the way.

Strong Points:

Rhys Ford’s writing style is always her strength.  As readers, we see it in her action scenes and humorous dialogue.  Her humor:

“Please, call me Charles.  Mr. Howell makes me sound like I should be stuck on an island with a bunch of incompetent sailors and a bevy of pretty women.”

I think in this case, I might have been missing the strong action scenes.

What could be better?

While I truly did enjoy this book, it did feel like something was missing.  Maybe I am spoiled with the action scenes from the other books.  This one revolved around the action of the last book, but we really do not see much of it.  In a way, that is a good thing, we would get bored if we were just getting a rehash of the previous book.

If there is not a lot of external conflict, then to provide some level of suspense, we need to have some internal conflict.  We get this with our theme, yet I felt there was a level of “oomf” missing.  Maybe that is the danger of writing a book about secondary characters and making them primary in their own book.

Conclusions:

Overall, this is a great addition to the series and it was needed.  I wanted to know Bobby and Ichi’s story, which we got.  The way the story ended, we still have some conflict to explore.  Bobby and Ichi certainly could have a second book to continue this story arch.  I think that if you liked the other books in the series, you will enjoy this one.  Just remember this is less action and more love story;  well a hot, sexy love story!

Bea

Review: Dirty Deeds — by Rhys Ford

dirty_deeds_coverOther Reviewers: Goodreads

I have been a fan of Rhys Ford’s writing since the first book I read of hers.  So, any time I get to review a book by Ford, I jump at the chance.  As always, my reviews are honest; I promise I have kept the fan girl deep inside for this review.

Note:  This is Book 4 in the Cole McGinnis Mystery Series, so if you have not read the previous ones — read them first!  My other reviews can be found here and here.  While, I think you could enjoy this book, you will miss a lot of the back story.

Basic Plot:

Book 4 starts after the startling ending of book 3.  Jae was shot, but recovered, his shooter, Sheila is still in the wind.  Cole tries to keep it together, but his fear for Jae’s safety gets to him.  Now, new danger surrounds them and Cole must fight his urges to become a white knight.  In the meantime, Cole starts a relationship with his half-brother Ichi and Jae learns how to live as a gay man.  Can their relationship survive all of this danger and drama?  Can Cole finally let his past go and embrace his present and future?

Cole McGinnis:

What can you say about Cole?  To me, he is the perfect man, that mixture of emotionally clueless, heartfelt enthusiasm for doing the right thing, and passionate lover.  Life has fucked him over and while he was down, he got his life back in order and is back to living again — due to his love and relationship with Jae.  Cole is NOT perfect, he makes mistakes like everyone else, but I like his heart.

“Ain’t that the fucking truth.”  I patted the bush.  It probably wouldn’t survive this assault, but I had high hopes.  If it made it through its shit, so could I.  Or at least that’s what I was telling myself.  “Good talk.  Thanks for having my back, man.”

His sense of humor in troubled times is also something I love and can relate.  Gallows humor always makes me laugh.  There is a lot about his former live with Rick and as a cop that we do not know.  This book goes a bit deeper into that back story and I greedily read as much as I could about it.  Half-way through the book I think we get a perfect quote about who Cole is:

“That’s because you’re a good man.  Sometimes a stupid one who runs into shootouts with a gun, but your heart is in the right place.”

And I think this spirit is what Jae and I are attracted to and in love with Cole.

Kim Jae-Min:

In the past, I had mixed feelings about Jae.  I loved him because I could relate to his identity struggles and he was a very sympathetic character.  You really were supporting his success.  But Jae always held something back from us, certainly from Cole.  Was he really invested into the relationship?  Should we care enough about the relationship if he did not?  Jae is different and we must understand that his mind works differently:

“Cole-ah, some days you hurt me simply by breathing.”  His words were quick, short jabs, but they found their mark, leaving me bleeding out through a thousand shallow cuts.  “And then there are days when I love you so much I don’t mind the pain.”

But what we came to understand was that he was not just struggling with his sexuality, but with his culture and very identity.  For him, to fully commit to Cole was not just a “gay-straight” thing, but most likely to be shunned by his entire family.  And for his Korean background that was unthinkable.

Book 4, begins with most of that Cole and Jae tension gone.  Jae is with Cole, and they love each other, Jae has made that commitment.  I was relieved in that, this time when our emotional tension began we did not have to deal with that angst drama.

Theme Summary:

My previous discussion on themes can be found here and here.  But I found this book’s theme and it reinforced my previous determinations:

You are hot, virile, and you are mine.  The man in that photo is sexy.  I love his mouth and his face and those hands.  God, you have no idea what people think about you, what you can do with me with those hands.  You are beautiful, even with the scars — or maybe because of them.  They are larger in your mind than they are on your skin. I touch those spots and my fingers slide over them because they are slick.  I kiss you there and you shiver.  And you cry out more when I bite them.”

I see several meanings from these words.  The simplest is that our past should not define who we should be, but they do influence our reactions.  We must learn to leave the past behind and embrace the present.  But also look at that last sentence.  Jae touches the physical evidence of his past pain and Cole cries “out more when I bit them.”  It is more meaningful when we can find someone who accepts you, your past pain, your faults, all of you.  There is no  hiding anything here, they love each other, scars inside and out.

Strong Points:

God, I love the humor.  I love the both the dirty and dark:

“How the hell do you listen to something you can’t even understand?  It’s all in Korean.  You don’t even peak Korean, and I don’t think you can say swallowing Jae’s cock makes you fluent.  If that were the case, I’d speak all kinds of shit.”

“It’s music.  And I can pick stuff up out of it.  Now shut up.  Here comes the guy.”

And while this quote is made to make us laugh, it is really an insight into Cole and Jae’s relationship.  Cole doesn’t need to understand Korean to understand and support Jae, he learns more and more about Jae jut by being near him and he loves and supports him even when he does not fully understand his motivation.

As always, I love the immersion into the culture: Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese this time.  I love learning and this series does a good job of getting me into the culture without overwhelming me with foreign words and ideas.

Finally, I love the action and the trademark hook that Ford gives us in the opening of the book.  It always pulls me in with a rush of adrenaline.

What could be better?

There is nothing really that I would change about this book.  I really, really want to know the back story of why Ben did was he did to Rick and Cole.  Ford has been stringing us alone with this back story, taunting us!  I so look forward to finding out what the heck was Ben’s motivation.  I am not sure that we ever will, but it drives me bonkers.

It also drives me crazy how she does cliffhangers!  Oh the woman!  But to be fair, they are really well written cliffhangers.

Conclusions:

This is probably one of my favorite series in male/male romances.  While the romance aspect runs throughout the series, what we really get to see is well written mysteries and a slow-build character development. Both of these things I love!  I will continue to read this series; this book is just another well written chapter to a great series!

Bea