Review: Black Dog Blues — by Rhys Ford

Black_Dog_BluesOther Reviewers: Goodreads

For full disclosure this novel was given to me for review by the author, Rhys Ford.  However, my review is unbiased and based on my opinion only.

Basic Plot:

Kai Gracen is a “Stalker,”  a licensed hunter of bad things like Black Dogs, feral animals: mercenary for hire.  When he gets a job he can’t refuse to pick up a pregnant human, he finds more than he bargained.  With him is a sidhe lord name Ryder of the Clan Sebac, High Lord of the Southern Rise Court and Third in the House of Devon.  But without Kai’s help, the  mission will fail and Kai must learn to rely on the help of Ryder.

Background:

There is much world building and back story.  While the beginning of the book starts in action (a Ford trademark), there is a chapter or so needed to get into the world.

This is an alternate universe type world set in California.  However, there are things like Black Dog (vicious killers created by the unsidhe folk for hunting), breeding dragons, magic, and elfin races.

Kai Gracen:

We see the story through Kai’s eyes.  This writing style heightens the mystery and tension.  However, it is also makes our understanding based on Kai’s views which is tainted by his self-contempt.  This perspective from Kai is a man never pushing for more of a life, as if he feels he does not deserve more.

While Kai might be gorgeous on the outside, it is the quality of a man’s interior that he reflects:

A real Stalker knew all of the tricks and never played them.  Having a firm reputation for being reliable and honest was nearly as good as being a keen shot.

As we see with Ryder’s character, a true hero is measured for what is within him not without.

Ryder:

We gain insight from Kai at first only by what he sees in Kai, which is superficial at first:

He was handsome and strong-featured.  Eons of fine breeding carved his face into the beauty an elfin was known for; a sensual mouth and strong aquiline nose provided a foundation for his deep green eyes.  In a human, they’d be unnatural, a fiery emerald with flickers of opal and black set into the folds of his pupil.  For a sidhe, they were pretty but unremarkable, save for their thick dark lashes.

Ryder is begins as ordinary, but what because extraordinary is his devotion to his own mission and his friendship with Kai.

Theme:

For me, I found the theme of the series quite early in the novel:

“It’s one of Aesop’s fables; once again, your poor education shows,” Dalia corrected.  “The fox is never contemptuous of the lion.  The moral of that story is acquaintance softens prejudices.  So maybe, my black fox, you’ve just met the one lion you’ve needed to meet.”

I could go into detail here, but that would mar the enjoyment of the mysteries within.  We are given small pieces at a time.  I have a feeling that this time will be expanded as the greater series plot unfolds.

Strong Points:

The writing, as with all Rhys Ford novels is the strong point.  She manages to give us a rich portrayal of the world around the heroes and yet does not make it bogged down with details.  She gives us just enough detail to keep our interest, but doesn’t spoil the mystery.  There is much I would like to put here that I can not because to ruin that would ruin the story.  Needless to say, I suspected many things that were not uncovered until 2/3 of the way through the novel.

I also love the philosophical quotes sprinkled throughout demonstrating the Ford’s skill:

“Good luck with that,” I said. “There’s always crazy and mean in people.  Doesn’t look like it matters if they’re elfin or human.”

What could be better?

A Five Star review gives me very little to find wrong with a novel.  I suppose the only thing that I wish I could have the viewpoint of Ryder, but this one way perspective is the way Ford writes.  So, there is very little that I would change about it.

Conclusions:

It is hard to really say how this will end as this is only the first book.  While we are left with a “satisfactory” ending, it definitely is a cliffhanger.  Also keep in mind that while there is a romance aspect to this book, it feels more fantasy than romance.  I imagine that the relationship will build when we get into book two.

I very pleased with this book, as always I love how this author writes.

Bea

Review: Dirty Laundry — by Rhys Ford

Dirty_Laundry_RFOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This is not my first time in reviewing this series, Cole McGinnis Mystery.  I reviewed the first and second book on October 7, 2012.  I recommend reading the first two novel before the third, Dirty Laundry.  I also recommend reading those novels prior to this review.

For the record:  I was given this book in advance by the author for review, however it does not affect my rating score.

Basic Plot:

Dirty Laundry opens shortly after the ending of book two, Dirty Secret.  Both Cole and Jae deal with family troubles in the beginning of this installment.  Jae discovers his younger sister on his doorstep and Cole’s Japanese half-brother suddenly appears in town to meet the family.

Meanwhile, Cole takes a new case with a cagey fortune-teller and some untimely deaths.  As usual, Cole quickly gets drawn into the danger.  Can their relationship survive another drama?

Cole McGinnis:

Much of the character descriptions I made for book one and two continue in book three.  Cole is a man who devotes everything to his friends and family.  His father and step-mother have disowned him because of his sexuality and only his brother and sister-in-law remain.  Cole’s previous boyfriend was brutally murdered and Cole was left with both emotional and physical scars.  Now, risks his heart again with Jae, but that relationship remains turbulent at best.

Kim Jae-Min:

In many ways Jae remains a mystery.  We only see him through Cole’s eyes.  Jae struggles to keep his a hold of his family, at the risk of his relationship with Cole and his own happiness.

In typical gay romances we see men who are “out” or they are “closeted”, but rarely do we find a lead who doesn’t want to be gay.  That is a more complex situation, is it not, to accept that he is gay destroys Jae’s current world.  A portion of this series is about how Jae discovers if Cole’s love is catalyst enough for change.

I find Jae one of the most complex characters I have ever read.

Theme Summary:

My previous thoughts on the series theme are found here.  But in Dirty Laundry, I discovered it is not just about sacrifice, but about love.  What happens when the past sacrifices you made just don’t seem worth it for true love?  At what point do you have to make a stand for what is truly important to you?  What happens when you can’t?  A quote from Cole that I found moving:

….”I’d want them to be loved by someone who gave a shit about them.  Because that’s what love is.  That person… that one person that makes you feel like you can do any damned thing you want to do really giving a shit about you deep down inside of their soul.  That’s love.”

So, for me, this book was all about love.  But what happens when you just can’t accept that love?

Strong Points:

As with my previous review, I still consider the Korean culture an important aspect of the story.  As described in this series, the option of being “out” is not always a feasible option for eastern cultures such as Korean.  Rhys Ford takes the closeted aspect and twists it.  While this follows a ” tropey” topic in m/m fiction, this novel has a distinct feel.  I believe how Dirty Laundry is crafted provides a deeper depiction than other authors have provided in the past.

Another strong aspect was the mystery.  On most “mystery” romance books (all types), I can figure out the “who done it” way in advance.  But Rhys Ford manages to hide the truth through many red herrings that damn, I followed right along.  I think how the author succeeds here is in only seeing Cole’s perspective.  But it works marvelously.

What could be better?

I really can’t see questioning anything about this book.  We only receive Cole’s perspective, and that can be frustrating at times.  I understand why the author chooses to do so, but I really want to get into Jae’s brain sometimes.  I do not want to spoil anything, but we are left with a cliffhanger at the end of the novel.  You should be used to it from reading the other stories.

Conclusions:

The relationship is a complex one, between Jae and Cole.  It is something that cannot be answered in one book, which is why this series is such a success.  Ford gives us the time and space to fully discover both characters, rather than rushing through it in one.  I loved this series, one of my favorites and I am very grateful to the author for showing it to me.

I look forward to discovering more about our devoted Cole and our haunted Jae.

Bea