Review: Down and Dirty by Rhys Ford

down and dirty by rhys fordFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: M/M romance, contemporary romance
Series: Cole McGinnis #5
Length: 200 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Date Released: January 2, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, KoboAll Romance

From the moment former LAPD detective Bobby Dawson spots Ichiro Tokugawa, he knows the man is trouble. And not just because the much younger Japanese inker is hot, complicated, and pushes every one of Bobby’s buttons. No, Ichi is trouble because he’s Cole McGinnis’s younger brother and off-limits in every possible way. And Bobby knows that even before Cole threatens to kill him for looking Ichi’s way. But despite his gut telling him Ichi is bad news, Bobby can’t stop looking… or wanting.

Ichi was never one to play by the rules. Growing up in Japan as his father’s heir, he’d been bound by every rule imaginable until he had enough and walked away from everything to become his own man. Los Angeles was supposed to be a brief pitstop before he moved on, but after connecting with his American half-brothers, it looks like a good city to call home for a while—if it weren’t for Bobby Dawson.

Bobby is definitely a love-them-and-leave-them type, a philosophy Ichi whole-heartedly agrees with. Family was as much of a relationship as Ichi was looking for, but something about the gruff and handsome Bobby Dawson that makes Ichi want more.

Much, much more.

My Review:

Because the entire Cole McGinnis series until now has been told from inside Cole’s head, we only see what he sees and know what he knows. Cole’s first-person narrative is fantastic, because he’s an interesting and intelligent character and his head is therefore an interesting point-of-view. But it does mean that we don’t know what’s going on in places where Cole isn’t, unless he finds out later.

dirty deeds by rhys fordDown and Dirty is the story of all the things that happened out of Cole’s sight during the events of Dirty Deeds (reviewed here). Down and Dirty explains the world-rattling sentence that ends Dirty Deeds, and watching that explanation unfurl makes for a terrific romance.

Cole laid down the law that his younger half-brother Ichiro Tokugawa and his best friend Bobby Dawson were not, under pain of his wrath, to get involved with each other. It’s more than the usual prohibition against your friends dating your family, although there’s that too.

Ichi is Cole’s recently discovered half-brother, and Bobby is Cole’s best friend. If they get involved and then break up, choosing between them is not a place Cole wants to go. And he figures he’d end up there fast, because if there’s one thing that Bobby Dawson hasn’t done since he came out, it’s fidelity. Or even something approaching serial monogamy. Bobby is only interested in one-night stands, with as many twinks a night as he can handle.

The problem isn’t even that Bobby has a son Ichi’s age, it’s that Cole is certain that Bobby is guaranteed to break Ichi’s heart, because that’s what he does. Of course, Cole is also being big brother and believing that Ichi wants the same thing he has – a happy long-term relationship, possibly heading towards permanence.

Ichi and Bobby have been driving each other crazy for months, ever since Ichi showed up at Cole’s door. But they snipe around each other because they both love Cole and know that he’s leery of the fallout if Ichi and Bobby getting involved. What Cole doesn’t reckon on is Ichi’s shocky reaction to being caught in the crossfire while helping Cole with a case. Ichi, a newly arrived transplant from Japan, just can’t get emotionally past the prevalence of guns in America, especially when people start shooting at Cole and him. And Ichi really can’t deal with Cole running towards the gunfire, because risking his life to help others is who he is.

In the aftermath, Ichi turns to Bobby as not just a safe haven, but as someone who can hopefully help him make sense out of Cole’s life and his choice to repeatedly run into the line of fire. Ichi also wants Bobby to help him feel alive in the face of death. In spite of breaking all the rules, Bobby finally gives Ichi what they both want.

What Bobby doesn’t count on is Ichi making him feel alive, too. Which is terrific, unless Cole makes them both dead when he finds out.

Escape Rating B+: I made the mistake of reading Down and Dirty before Dirty Deeds, and it felt like there was something missing. Only because there was. As much as I enjoyed Down and Dirty, it isn’t a complete story, but rather an accompaniment to Dirty Deeds. For full enjoyment of Down and Dirty, it is necessary to know the characters, and to be aware of the full context of the case that Cole is involved in.

Also, because this story isn’t, and couldn’t possibly be, Cole’s narration of events, it feels different. Not bad in any way, just different from expectations. Also, where the stories that feature Cole are romantic suspense, Down and Dirty is strictly a romance. There’s no case to solve, only two people exploring something oh so wrong that feels oh so right.

Down and Dirty is a sex-into-love story, which fits perfectly with Bobby’s character. He hasn’t been looking for Mr. Right, just Mr. Right Now, since he retired from the LAPD and came out. He’s been making up for lost time, and acting a bit like the teenager he hasn’t been in decades. Bobby is as surprised as Ichi that what they start to just scratch an itch stirs up a lot of emotions.

This is also a May-let’s say September romance. Bobby has a son the same age as Ichi. Although it’s only explained in one of the free shorts on the author’s website, Bobby is 52 and Ichi is 27 or 28. Any relationship between two people with that kind of age gap has some hurdles to go through for believability. The way that Bobby, who is older but often acts like a young idiot, and Ichi, who is young but has been through a lot and definitely has an old soul, work out a way to be together is well done.

And nearly totally derailed by the fact that they are keeping a huge secret from Cole, one that he will discover sooner or later. So Bobby sticks both his feet in his mouth at the end and tells him in the worst way possible.

Which is completely fitting for Bobby’s character. I can’t wait to find out how this new family dynamic plays out in the next book in this series. Please SOON?

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