Other 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.