Review: Murder and Mayhem — by Rhys Ford

MM_RFOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review.  As with all of my review, these are my own opinions.

Rhys Ford has become one of my favorite authors in the Male/Male world.  You can see some of my favorite blog posts here.  So, I might be a bit of a fan girl here.  Just your warning.

Basic Plot:

Rook Stevens “stumbles” into a murder accusation, literally.  Now he tries to fight for  his innocence and find out who is framing him.  He meets again the detective that tried to put him in jail before, Dante Montoya.  The chemistry reheats between them is just too much to overcome.  Can they put both of their pasts behind them to make something work?

Rook Stevens:

Rook is our “bad boy” and most of the mystery of this book revolves around his past.  So, no spoilage here, although just note that he is not squeaky clean and he is actually one of the more grey characters that I have read in this genre.  There are points in which I hear about his past and I question if I would want to fall in love with him.

But then I think about the changes he made in his life and I have to respect his efforts at redemption.  At one point, I thought Rook was going to run, but then he takes his stand:

Charlene was right.  He’d earned his fucking normal, an neither Dani Anderson nor Los Angeles’s finest were going to take it from him.

Rook is one of the more dynamic characters in a romance book I have read.

Dante Montoya:

For Dante, he is a by the book type of detective.  Early in his career he learned what could happen if someone tried to get “dirty” to break a case.  Now he understands that.  However, he can’t keep his mind off of Rook and we see how he fights his attraction:

“Everybody fucks up, Dante.”

“I’m a cop, to, People depend upon me to be objective.  I want Stevens to pay for what he’s done, but it’s got to be done right — by the book.”  Dante scrubbed at his face with his bare hand, rasping his palm over his stubble-rough jaw.  “I just need to be fair, you know?”

“Of course you can be, Dante.”  His uncle patted his arm.  “You’re the fairest man I know.  But what you need to be more is honest with yourself.”

So, outside of the sex/romance and the mystery, this is about a man who learns to think beyond what he has experienced and understands to empathize.

Theme Summary:

While this is overall a book about love and a really good mystery, I also took the idea that redemption is possible.  That we can look beyond our narrow vision of what the past was and move on to becoming better and more fulfilled individuals.  Both of our main characters make this move.  For Rook, it was an actually physical and lifestyle change, but for Dante Montoya, it is more that he changes his black and white views on life to understand what he is missing.

Strong Points:

I always love the underlying theme of Ford’s books:  You are who you are.  So often we become persecuted by our neighbors or family for our sexuality, beliefs, or lifestyles  if they do not fit a “norm”.  This novel explores how you can first find acceptance within yourself and then create a “family”of outcasts like yourself.

“Uh-uh, I hear you talk like this, and I think I hear my grandfather or my own father, and that is not who you are.  Remember, tio, they tried to bury us.  They didn’t know we were seeds.”

Think about that last sentence.  “They didn’t know we were seeds.”  Everything that people have done to bring down these people, to make them assimilate has only given them more growth.  Don’t let someone bury your true “self”.  Such profound words buried in a romance novel.

Ford’s writing was fast paced as always;  she gives us heat but not too much that we get bored.

What could be better?

I think at this point, Rhys Ford’s strengths might lead to weaknesses.  Any director or writer will tell you that once you get a formula for success, you keep going. Obviously the fans enjoy it, they continue to buy tickets.  Just think about the new Avengers movie;  I could have predicted every plot twist as the formula has not changed in that movie series.

So, in Murder and Mayhem, we get those things we have come to love and enjoy:  exciting entrance, international culture within the American melting pot, hot cop, and reticent bad boy.  The problem becomes when every one of her series have the similar formats.  Did I enjoy it?  Yes.  Look at authors like Johanna Lindsey or J.R. Ward.  Their formats are always the same and they sell millions of copies of books.  So, writing in a format is possible, you just need to make sure that there is something different in each series that makes them stand out.

In Murder and Mayhem, the use of the Carnie and thief ring makes it stand out from others.  I would have liked some more background into that world and perhaps have seen more of the old Rook in action.

Conclusions:

Ford has once again given us a fast-paced mystery that was enjoyable.  I actually didn’t come to the “who done it” until the end, although I was feeling suspicious.  The secondary characters were great and they made me want to learn more about this new family Ford built.

Overall, very enjoyable. If you enjoyed the Cole McGinnis series, then I think you will enjoy this one.

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