Review: Fish Stick Fridays by Rhys Ford

Review: Fish Stick Fridays by Rhys FordFish Stick Fridays by Rhys Ford
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: M/M romance, romantic suspense
Series: Half Moon Bay #1
Pages: 204
Published by Dreamspinner Press on November 30th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

Deacon Reid was born bad to the bone with no intention of changing. A lifetime of law-bending and living on the edge suits him just fine until his baby sister dies and he finds himself raising her little girl.
Staring down a family history of bad decisions and reaped consequences, Deacon cashes in everything he owns, purchases an auto shop in Half Moon Bay, and takes his niece, Zig, far away from the drug dens and murderous streets they grew up on. Zig deserves a better life than what he had, and Deacon is determined to give it to her.
Lang Harris is stunned when Zig, a little girl in combat boots and a purple tutu, blows into his bookstore, and then he s left speechless when her uncle, Deacon Reid, walks in hot on her heels. Lang always played it safe, but Deacon tempts him to step over the line just a little bit.
More than a little bit. And Lang is willing to be tempted.
Unfortunately, Zig isn t the only bit of chaos dropped into Half Moon Bay. Violence and death strike, leaving Deacon scrambling to fight off a killer before he loses not only Zig but Lang too. "

My Review:

I’m guaranteed to fall in love with any story where the cats are named Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser. (If you like sword and sorcery and want to visit its most awesome progenitor, get thee to a bookstore and pick up Fritz Leiber’s fantastic stories of this ill assorted pair, starting with the parent of all sword and sorcery, Ill Met in Lankhmar, included in Swords and Deviltry)

Moving away from my squeeing digression, let’s go back to Fish Stick Fridays. Zig owns this story, and both of the men in it, even though it probably wasn’t intended as her book. Zig is eight, and an absolute magnet for chaos, with her marvelous bad attitude, a chip on her shoulder a mile wide, and her pink and purple tutus.

With Zig follows her uncle Deacon Reid. Deacon has come to Half Moon Bay on the Oregon coast with his niece Zig, his skills as a mechanic and motorcycle restorer, and a hope or a prayer that he and Zig can start a life together far away from the mean streets where Deacon spent time in jail and where his sister, Zig’s often addicted mother, finally took a one-way ticket out of the life she had destroyed for herself, leaving Zig in the foster care system until a judge was willing to take a chance on her ex-con brother.

Deacon bought the auto repair shop in Half Moon Bay sight unseen, praying for a fresh start. The shop turns out to have been a good investment, but trouble follows them.

Deacon, who may look like the baddest of bad boys but is an absolute marshmallow on the inside, at least when it comes to Zig, is the picture of temptation to bookstore owner Lang Harris. Lang not only owns his own bookstore, he also owns a big chunk of real estate around town, and the two cats who seem to have stolen Zig’s heart – or vice versa. Once Zig met the cats, Lang was probably doomed.

As Deacon practically turns himself inside out being a terrific parent to Zig, Lang Harris finds himself tempted by this man who has blown into his life with the force of a hurricane – or the hurricane force powered by the dynamo little girl.

It’s 2015 or thereabouts, and that Deacon and Lang are gay doesn’t seem to be a big deal to anyone but the two of them. Attempting to create a relationship when neither of them has experience with much more than one-night stands is enough of a challenge, along with Deacon’s single-parent worrying about Zig becoming too attached to someone who might or might not become a permanent part of her life.

But the real fear is whether any of them have a chance at happy ever after – not because of the relationship, but because a series of near-fatal incidents has followed Deacon and Zig from their old haunts all the way to Half Moon Bay. There are too many possible suspects, from the bad guys that Deacon did occasional business with to the bad guys that Zig’s mother did occasional business with to the possessive psycho who carved Lang up before he got carted off to prison.

But someone is out to get either Deacon, Lang, Zig or the lot of them. Deacon finds himself forced to trust the local cops to keep them all safe, or at least to help them investigate the mess. Because one of these days, whoever is after them is going to get in a lucky shot. Unless Deacon gets there first.

Escape Rating A-: I’d say I want my own Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser, but my own feline brood would strongly object. However, the way that Zig takes over their purry little hearts, as well as running the life of the two men who fall into her whirlwind orbit is definitely part of the charm of this story.

Lang and Deacon never hide who they are. It’s 2015 and they just don’t have to any more. Lang has plenty of his own issues, but they have to do with his knifed up history and his screwed up family – no one in town cares. A psychopathically possessive ex is an unfortunate possibility for any of us, at least in fiction.

It’s the relationship between Deacon and Zig that gives this story its heart and soul. Deacon never expected to become a parent, but he feels a strong obligation to do better by Zig than he did by her mother, his much younger sister. He does feel as if he could have saved her if he’d been around, but it wasn’t meant to be. So he is devoting his life to keeping Zig out of the foster care system and giving her the loving home that he and his sister never had with their own alcoholic mother. Part of the sweetness in the story is all about Deacon making things up as he goes along, and always fearing that he is doing the wrong thing. He wants the best for Zig, and is doing his damnedest to give her the love she needs, as well as the roots and boundaries she’ll require to grow up strong and happy. The loving push-pull of their relationship is a joy to watch.

The romance between Lang and Deacon takes a bit of a back seat to Deacon’s relationship with Zig, and that seems right. At this stage in their lives, making sure that Zig has a solid grounding in her new life is more important to Deacon than anything else – which is what makes him such a good father for his niece.

The suspense ratchets up to boiling over tension as the story goes on. At first, Deacon is sure that whoever is after them is after him. Lang, with the psychotic ex in his past and the scars to remember him by, is equally certain that whoever is shooting at them and trying to burn them out is after him. The police have too many suspects at first to sort out who might be gunning for whom, and why. It’s only as Zig feels safe with Deacon and Lang that anyone is able to get a handle on their would-be killer.

Zig learning to trust, knowing that the adults in her life will believe in her and back her up, both solves the mystery and lets us see just how far they have all come down the road of becoming a family – tutus and all.

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3 thoughts on “Review: Fish Stick Fridays by Rhys Ford

  1. A bunch of the Lieber books are on the Amazon CyberMonday kindle deals today. I’ve never read them–maybe it’s time.

    1. If you have never read “Spacetime for Springers” its definitely time. I loved Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Everything everyone loves about sword and sorcery is there from the beginning, including the snark quotient. Some allowance must be made for the time they were written, but not, I think, too much.

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