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: 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: Duck, Duck, Ghost — by Rhys Ford

duckduckghostsOther 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.

To say that I love Rhys Ford’s work is an understatement.  I won’t say that I am a fan-girl, but when I get a chance to review one of her books, I jump at it.  So, this week I had the opportunity to read Duck Duck Ghost.

If you are interested in reviewing my other posts regarding Ford, then check out this tag.

Basic Plot:

This is book two in the Hellsinger series.  Wolf and Tristan are still trying to learn how to be in a relationship.  The results of their exorcism in book one has left Tristan uneasy, so it is time for a road trip.  They go to help Wolf’s cousin in her haunted house, gaining more than they expected.  What they discover at the farm is even more frightening than at Hoxne Grange.  Will they get out of this alive enough to starting living together?

Background:

This is a book two in the Hellsinger series, so it is advisable to read book one first.  My review of Fish and Ghosts, might be helpful, keep in mind that it could contain spoilers!

Wolf Kincaid:

In book two, we follow Wolf as he investigates his cousin’s haunted house.  But what we learn about Wolf is that behind that confident attitude is a man who has always wanted to get his family’s love back and chasing after a dream that he never can quite attain.  There is much more behind this thought, but I think that would spoil a large part of his character development.

What we do learn about Wolf is that he has never been in love with anyone, like Tristan:

Tristan ended up under Wolf’s skin, and part of the argument — most of the argument, if Wolf was really honest — was that he was scared.  He was frightened by how quickly Tristan hooked his soul and pulled in Wolf’s heart.  He hadn’t been looking for love when he went to debunk Tristan’s ghost-hosting inn, but that’s what he found — and he didn’t want to every let him go.

So we have some serious character development with Wolf, and I find it quite charming how Wolf feels unsteady around Tristan.

Tristan Pryce:

I can relate to Tristan.  His family doesn’t understand him and he feels isolated because of his gift.  It’s easy to appreciate that because of his issues, it’s just simpler to stay hidden away in the estate.  But, we humans are social creatures and living with the dead can only help so much:

“That’s not the point,” he said sadly.  “I’ve been hiding in that tower, and whether I knew it or not, I grew my hair long enough for you to climb up it and visit me there, but Wolf, I don’t want to stay there.  I want to be with you.  Out here.  And it’s time I kind of embraced the weird I’ve been given.”

So, in a way, I see Tristan as the homeschooled child whose conservative and repressed family background has left him both physically and mentally isolated.  His gift makes him even more isolated and he tries to integrate himself back into the “real-world” so that he can be good enough to be with Wolf.  Wolf’s “normal” presence allows him the security to stretch his wings.

Theme Summary:

I don’t want to spoil the plot of the book by discussing the theme too much, but I think that it is important to discuss a bit:

“You sit here in this house waiting for death, and it comes to you.  Little bits and drabbles of the dead who share their lives with you.  You are living through them, Tristan.  Can’t you see that?  Mostly everything you know about the world is what you heard from the dead.  That’s not healthy, kiddo, Not at all.”

In book one, I wrote about how both men needed to find balance in their lives, both focusing too much on their work.  In book two, Ford continues this theme, but delves deeper.  These men have focused their lives in certain viewpoints, and finally they both begin to realize that while their life goals might be in the right directions how they were going about it was not healthy or the only way.

Strong Points:

Ford’s writing.  As I have always written, Ford has this ability to pull us into the book, from the first scene.  She gives a vibrant taste of the environment, like a punch to the gut.  I am usually hooked from the first paragraph.  In Duck Duck Ghost, the first paragraph got me:

It was a foul smell.  A blackness to it Wolf would never get used to.  With the proximity of the Florida swamp and Atlantic, there was a faint hint of stagnancy as well, with an overlay of brackish algae just for good measure.  He couldn’t imagine living in its stink every day.  Like cigarette smoke, it would flavor everything he touched, breathe, or ate.

Yes, Ford can write a sexy and hot scene.  But what I love more about Ford’s writing is that I would be captivated by the story and the characters even without the sex.  So often in M/M (or hell, romance at all), the writer will focus not just on the relationship, but the sexual tension.  I think that’s why I have problems with serial romance; when they talk about sex all the time in the first book, what do they have left to develop in the rest of the books?

Yet Ford gives us the happy ending in book one, there are still unresolved conflicts between Wolf and Tristan.  Also, because we have a serious new mystery to solve in book two, we are driven to discover what the hell happens.

In addition to this, Ford gives us interesting secondary characters like Aunt Gildy, Sey, and Cin.  I hope to god we get a book about Cin some day, he is hot, hot, hot!

What could be better?

Really, nothing.  Although, I should warn any reader that we are left with a cliffhanger!  Darn that wily author that keeps us panting for more!

Conclusions:

This is my favorite series of Ford’s.  While I love the others, I almost feel that the cultural focus becomes a crutch that we lean against.  In the Hellsinger series, we do have a theme of the paranormal, yet we have a strong mystery that does not revolve around their relationship and we have the development of the relationship.  That is one of Ford’s strengths, she build’s series where yes, we get our “HEA” in book one, but everything is not solved.  That’s life.  While there might be some hot sexual chemistry, we still have to learn to communicate with each other and learn to well, live.  This book is about how Wolf and Tristan begin to learn how to refocus their life’s purpose in a more healthy manner and they learn to trust each other.  In the meantime, we get some kick-ass horror level BOO intensity that will have you wanting to put the book in the freezer.

This is a great book, and you will not be able to put it down!

Bea

Quickie: The Devil’s Brew by Rhys Ford

Other Reviewers: Goodreads

Devils_BrewPage count: 70

Full Disclosure:  I have been given this book by the author to give a fair review.

I love this author, her writing style fits my personality perfectly.  My previous reviews about the Cole McGinnis Mystery series have all been raves.  My Sinners’ series reviews have been hit or miss for me, I will be honest.  I loved the first book (Miki and Kane), but I did not finish the second book (Damien and Sionn).  So I was a little nervous about reading this novella.

Keep in mind that this review is a Quickie, which I reserve for novellas.  I tend to keep the ratings lower on these as I do not think that a novella will be in-depth enough to qualify for my 4 or 5 stars.  Let’s see what I thought of The Devil’s Brew.

Basic Plot:

Miki is still getting used to being with Kane and getting to know Kane’s massive Irish family.   Valentine’s Day approaches and Miki has no idea what to do or get for Kane.  Can  Miki find the perfect gift for Kane and will their special day be special enough?

Relationship:

Miki is a singer who is both physically and mentally recovering from the accident that changed his life and killed his fellow band mates.  He has found Kane, his Irish cop.  He has been accepted by the entire family, but Miki is still scarred.  Kane is a hard-working cop, whose attempt to juggle his busy family and work life seems successful.

Strong Points:

Writing Style:   I am amazed at the descriptions that Rhys can just throw into the room:

The music still whispered to him.  Sometimes in snippets.  Other times in full-blow nuclear blasts.  But their drum and bass lines remained silent when he played out what came to his head.  He knew the notes — heard the underlying throb of his melody — but the hands he’d come to count on — the ones who brought his brain vomit to life  —  were gone.

Miki is such an interesting person, one who yearns to find his music, but feels his missing band mates like missing limbs.

What Could be Better:

I love Rhys Ford’s writing style.  The way that she describes a scene is so visceral, as if in a movie.  The descriptions are great and in the Dirty series they run smoothly, Ford merges eastern and western cultures perfectly.  However, in the Sinners’ Series, at times it feels like a pale copy of the other.  Maybe it’s just me, your mileage may vary.

Conclusions:

I enjoyed The Devil’s Brew, it is a good little vignette into the life of Miki and Kane.  We get to see how their life is after their big love story, something as a reader we often do not get. If you liked the first book in this series, I think you will like this novella.

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

Quickie: Clockwork Tangerine by Rhys Ford

ClockworkTangerineLGOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This novella is written by Rhys Ford, someone whom I have adored as a writer for some time.  Almost everything  she writes I love, and it is always difficult for  me to find fault with her writing.  As full disclosure, I was given this book for and honest review.  However, my opinions are honest.

First things first, this is a novella, pretty short at 90 pages.  So the criteria that I might have on a full-length book review would not be fair against this size.  Thus, this will be a “Quickie Review”, with some different criteria.

Page count: 90

Basic Plot:

One night, Marcus Stenhill, Viscount Westwood discovers a man in the act of being beaten by some drunk youths.  After saving the man, Marcus uncovers that this Robin Harris was responsible for death and mayhem years before by the Society.  While there is chemistry between Marcus and Robin, is it safe or possible for them to forgive the past and move forward together?

Relationship:

What I liked about this story is that it is not “sex focused”, but rather gives a large percentage of the novella to the plot, world building, and backstories.  That being said, this is HEA story with a hot sex scene at the end.  We get perspectives from Robin and Marcus, which I appreciated.  Because of the shortness of the novella, any interaction between the two main characters must be packed full of relationship building.

Strong Points:

  • The World Building: This is the best aspect of the story.  We get into the world quickly, as the author builds the story through Marcus’s memory and observations.  Bits of the conflict in the past give us hints of what led to the world’s current environment:

Thousands had suffered at the hands of the Society.  They’d brought about the rise of the Golems, creatures – humans according to the courts – created in workshops and grown to adolescence in bowls of plasma and blood, only to be used as shock troops and assassins for the Society’s cause.  They’d been terrorists of the basest form, attacking the very foundation of the British Empire, but Marcus had a difficult time reconciling the idea of the man laid out before him had anything to do with their destructive agenda.

  • Even Has a Theme:  I normally do not worry about a theme in this size of a novella.  However, I found something powerful in the story:

A man with power protects and serves those lesser than he.  It is only the weak who use their power to do harm.

This is the truth that both men have discovered and spend their energy in life now giving back to others.  We see it with Marcus early on as he saves Robin; Robin has spent his recent time trying to make other’s lives better with his skills.

What Could be Better:

  •  Too ShortThat goes without saying because it is 90 pages.  The reason that this is 4 stars instead of 5 stars was that while I did take the fact that it was a novella into account, I was still left wanting.  We had a definitive ending, and it was happy.  Yet, I still felt like some other action was needed.  More exterior conflict?  More relationship building?

Conclusions:

I really enjoyed this book.  There are some aspects to the world building that I do not want to get into here as it would spoil the plot.  However, because it deals with homosexuality, laws, and society, I can see how this book would not work for a full length gay romance novel.  I think the author did the right thing: give us an intriguing and entertaining look at a steam punk world to want more.  I think now Rhys Ford can build a similar world with huge plot lines and characters that we will drool over for years and years of series…. hint…. hint…

Bea

Review: Fish and Ghosts — by Rhys Ford

Fish_and_GhostsOther 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.

To be fair, I have loved almost every book I have read by Rhys Ford.  There is something about how she describes a scene, a place, or a character that just speaks to me.  Some of my past reviews of her books are found here: Black Dog Blues or Dirty Secret.

Basic Plot:

Tristan Pryce has a history of being thought odd and crazy by his family.  Now his family thinks Tristan has gone over the edge and they have called in professionals — ghost hunters!

Wolf Kincaid is a skeptic ghost hunter with a past.  He and his team journey to Hoxne Grange in response to Tristan’s family request to prove that the haunting is all in Tristan’s mind.  But what both men find is more than ghosts — perhaps a new future.

Wolf Kincaid:

Wolf is our alpha male.  He is passionate in his job and he has the adoration of his family.  I loved how Ford describes him:

And if he had a chance, he’d go back in time and kick the shit out of its builders too.  At a little over six feet, he should have had more space to walk around in the upper floors’ hallways.  Instead, he felt like Alice after she had too many frosted cakes.  His elbows hurt from banging into the walls, and the household staff wouldn’t have to dust for cobwebs because Wolf was pretty sure he’d walked through all of the ones in the attic storerooms.

This quote hits perfectly because it describes both Wolf’s physicality but also his humor.  One of the best things about Ford’s writing is her sense of humor and Wolf embodies this.

There is a lot of back story for Wolf, mostly revolving around his family.  I would write about it here, but I fear that it would hamper his mystery and part of the plot.  So just know that his character goes from a work focused man to fully appreciate his family, culture, and need for love.

Tristan Pryce:

I actually adore how Wolf describes Tristan:

Hell, Wolf thought, he probably was the one in the case and Tristan was the one setting him free.

Staring up the length of Tristan’s long, slender body, Wolf was caught by the man’s hooded gaze.  The duality of Tristan’s soul lay bare on his face, a delicate, pure innocence striated with a weary, tattered wisdom Wolf wanted to patch together with kisses.

Wolf’s description captures Tristan’s character.  Tristan is comfortable with the role of caretaker for the manor and the ghosts, as taught by his uncle Mortimer.  Now, he hides from life and the living by taking care of the dead.  Wolf sees how this affected Tristan’s life and urges for some changes, but not how Tristan’s family might think.

Theme Summary:

I think this book is about balance.  Both men center on only one aspect of their lives, excluding all other things.  For Wolf, he focuses on his ghost hunting:

“Like we deal with everything we have so far,” Wolf replied softly.  “We go into every job with a clear mind and a need to search for the truth.  That can’t change.

While we can agree with Wolf’s statement, he ignores the heart, emphasizing solely on logic.  In the meantime, Tristan’s purpose is to carry on uncle Mortimer’s legacy.  This perspective has warped the current and his future.

“Plans are fluid, dear.”  Meegan whooshed by in another dancing sweep.  “Like the universe.  One must learn to bend to its flow.  It’s better for the soul and spirit.  Builds character.”

Both men must learn to move past this narrow focus on their lives and learn to live.

Strong Points:

As always, the strongest point of Ford’s writing are her descriptions.  Ford is an artist with words, painting a picture that is vivid enough for a movie.  There is a scene later on that is so macabre that it reminds me of something out of Stephen King’s The Shinning:

The already dead lay about the fringes of the grand hall, caught in the throes of either their previous demise or the one newly created by their murderer.  To the left of them a rotund man wobbled on his bloated stomach, his torso stripped of a shirt.  Something was trying to work its way out of his body, stretching the man’s mottled skin along his ribs and distorting the man’s already deformed body.  His face was slack, and his tongue lolled back and forth as his body rocked from its parasite’s efforts to break free.

“Shittiest version of a black cat clock I’ve ever seen,”  Wolf joked to ease the tension he saw building up in Tristan’s slender body.

In the past series, Ford’s focus was on suspense.  One of her hallmarks is an explosive beginning like a Bourne movie intro.  This book is no different, but while there is mystery and suspense, Ford captured the creepy horror aspect perfectly!  I actually kept interrupting my husband while he watched TV to read quotes from the book.  This hardly ever happens when I read any of my romance books.

The other aspect I love about her writing? The humor.

Glass cherries dangled from her lobes, a row of four in each ear, and they chimed when she moved her head.  While they matched the printed cherries on her button-up shirt, Wolf thought it looked like she’d lost a fight with a fruit salad.

What could be better?

In all honesty, there is very little that I would change about this book.  This section is where I determine if a book is a 4 star or 5.  In this case, it screams 5 stars.  In Ford’s other series, culture is a focus, especially Asian cultures, and while this gives the novels depth and uniqueness, it began to feel repetitive.  With this novel, however Ford takes that skill as educator and we learn a lot of ghost hunting!  I am actually interested in knowing if any of the technology descriptions are accurate in how modern ghost hunters operate.

Conclusions:

There were too many quotes that I marked for this review, which is a fantastic sign!  This is probably my favorite book of Rhys Ford.  I have always loved her suspense, but I found not just action, not just sexy love scenes, but a novel of substance.  This book allowed me see that Ford has more variety in writing style, and this novel demonstrates her growth.  I think that if you liked her other novels, then you will like this no less.  So, if you are a fan, get ready to love this book, and if you are new to the author you will certainly love the story.

Bea