Review: Detroit Kiss by Rhys Ford

Review: Detroit Kiss by Rhys FordDetroit Kiss by Rhys Ford
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook
Genres: M/M romance, urban fantasy, vampires
Pages: 150
Published by Dreamspinner Press on April 12, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

For Javi Navarro, Detroit will become another blood-splattered city in his rearview mirror after he puts its dead back into the ground. Expecting an easy hunting job, Javi instead finds a kiss of ancient vampires on the hunt for a descendant of their long-dead creator.

Reclusive Ciarnan Mac Gerailt abandoned his family legacy of blood and death magic after it nearly destroyed him. Unfortunately for Ciarnan, the Motor City can only be saved if he resumes his dark arts and joins forces with Javi Navarro, the hunter who brought the vampire apocalypse—and hope for the future—straight to Ciarnan’s front door.

Previously published as "Legacy of Blood and Death" in the anthology Creature Feature 2

My Review:

Have you been wondering where urban fantasy went? I certainly have. Once upon a time, it was the hottest thing since, well, whatever metaphor seems appropriate for the 1980s or thereabouts, but then it kind of died off, sort of like the vampires that seemed to be the backbone of its antiheroes and tormented villains, sometime in the late 1990s or early 2000s. Not that ongoing series didn’t continue, but new ones just didn’t emerge from the shadows.

So to speak. Ahem.

I love urban fantasy and missed it when it slunk back into those shadows. It was one of my go-to genres when I was in a reading slump. But it’s starting to feel like it’s back from the dead. Or the graveyard. Or wherever it’s been hiding for the last decade or so. (If you don’t believe me, take a look at Holly Black’s Book of Night when it comes out next month. Because the heroine Charlie Hall is pretty much every hard luck and worse trouble kick ass heroine to ever stalk the pages of an urban fantasy. But I digress. Sort of.)

Because when I started reading Detroit Kiss, the first, second and third things I thought of were just how much it reminded me of the early Dresden Files books, to the point where I’m not sure whether Javi’s musings as to why so many magic-wielding heavy-hitters ended up in Detroit instead of Chicago. It felt like half explanation, half intercity rivalry and half homage to Harry Dresden’s stomping ground.

I realize that’s too many halves, but there are always too many somethings nasty in this kind of urban fantasy. In the case of Detroit Kiss, too many feral vampires. The bloodsuckers are definitely not the heroes of this piece. They’re the evil pests, to the point where the good guys call them “ticks” because they are mindless evil bloodsuckers.

So the tone of Detroit Kiss, with Javi Navarro working as a bounty hunter for the beleaguered Detroit Police Department, had the same feel as the early Dresden books, minus Harry’s somewhat leery male gaze. Plus, however, a slightly better love life – eventually – as Javi’s luck turns out to be better than Dresden’s frequently was. At least so far.

We’re introduced to this version of Detroit in decay when a construction crew attempting to revive the city yet again uncovers a “kiss” of vampires who have been trapped underground, gnawing on the bones of their makers and each other for a century. They’ve been stuck in the ruins of a speakeasy since Prohibition with nothing to drink except each other.

Until they eat the construction crew, that is.

But these ticks are fixated on the two magic users whose bones they’ve been picking clean all these years, so once they escape they go hunting for whoever is left of the bloodlines that made them.

And that’s where Ciarnan Mac Gerailt comes in, the only descendant of one of those mages within easy reach. Ciarnan is existing someplace between hiding out and living in an old theater he’s never bothered to refurbish in one of the many down-at-heels neighborhoods in this version of the city. He’s given up the death magic that is his family’s heritage and taken up growing vegetables and just trying to get himself, his wolf dog Elric and his fae familiar Shaddock through the day and the sometimes very long and dark nights.

Ciarnan looked into the abyss, the abyss looked back and took his friends, his apprentice and very nearly his life. He’s given up magic. Really, truly.

At least until Javi Navarro helps him put down one of the entirely too many ticks that has come after him in place of his several greats-grandfather. Javi wants Ciarnan to help gather up the ticks so they can pick the place and time and have a better chance at bringing them down.

And honestly, he just wants Ciarnan the minute he sees him – even though Ciarnan clocks him with a shovel the minute after.

But in order to help Javi, Ciarnan will have to look back into that abyss – and hope to heaven or hell that this time it doesn’t swallow him whole. While praying that the vampires don’t either.

Escape Rating A-: I have one and only one complaint about Detroit Kiss. It’s too damn short.

I mean that. Seriously. It’s too damn short and there aren’t any more. Rather like the author’s Dim Sum Asylum, which was another gem of urban fantasy that bordered just a bit on paranormal romance AND also had a fascinating world that seemed like there was oodles of backstory to explore, a riveting case to solve, a terrific pair of heroes and DAMN no sequel.

I loved the way that this almost-now/nearish future Detroit felt like an all too easy extension of where the city has been for the past decade or two (or maybe three), partially devastated and partly gentrifying and still trying to get back up on its feet in spite of all the forces trying to tear it down.

The magic system seems cool and interesting, and the whole idea of finding a buried speakeasy filled with rogue vamps was an absolutely chilling way to kick things off.

Ciarnan is one of the author’s signature wounded-but-trying heroes who do the right thing even if sometimes for the wrong reasons and are always one half-step away from backsliding into darkness.

The climactic scene is dark, deadly, dangerous AND squicky and heroic at the same time. I’d absolutely adore seeing where these guys and their world go next. I hope the author gets there someday because I’d be all in for it!

Review: Cash in Hand by TA Moore + Excerpt + Giveaway

Review: Cash in Hand by TA Moore + Excerpt + GiveawayCash in Hand by T.A. Moore
Format: ebook
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: M/M romance, paranormal romance, urban fantasy
Pages: 202
Published by Dreamspinner Press on December 15, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The last monster died a hundred years ago. At least, that’s what the monsters want you to think.
Half-monster Cash just wants to keep his head down and raise his daughter, Ellie, to be an upstanding member of monstrous society. Even if she’d rather spend the summer with her human friends than learn the art of man traps at Camp Dark Hollow.
So the last person Cash wants to see is her uncle Arkady Abascal, who’s also Cash’s ex-boyfriend.
Arkady has more than Ellie’s summer plans on his mind. He’s there to enlist Cash to find out who’s been selling monster secrets. Cash hasn’t gotten any better at telling Arkady no, but it’s not just his weakness for Arkady that makes him agree. The Prodigium thinks an Abascal exposed them to humans, and now the whole family is at risk—including Ellie.
Recruited to help Arkady identify the culprit—or frame a scapegoat—Cash finds the machinations of monstrous power easier to navigate than his feelings for Arkady. At least, at first. But when things get bloody, he wishes romantic disasters were all he had to worry about….

My Review:

The monsters hanging out at the Abascal Hotel and Spa make the creatures in that old Halloween staple, Monster Mash, look like the population of the proverbial Sunday School picnic.

Most of us wouldn’t want to meet any of these folks in a dark alley – or even at the Summer Camp dropoff for their children. Monsters’ children, who are off to camp to make the friends and especially the enemies they’ll have for all of their lives. To learn how to be successful predators – or evasive prey, as the case might be.

No one in this story is completely human. But we root for them anyway.

Especially Cash, his little girl Ellie, and his on again/off again flirtation with Arkady Abascal. Arkady, who just so happens to be Ellie’s uncle, a member of the family at the top of the local monster society – and the love of Cash’ life whether he wants to admit it or not.

Usually not. Definitely not.

Which makes Arkady’s bargain with Cash, that Cash will pose as Arkady’s boyfriend for a weekend wedding at the family mansion in return for more protection for Ellie, a dangerous proposition all the way around.

It’s not just Cash’ heart that is at stake, but also what’s left of his human soul – as well as his half-human life. And Ellie’s. Definitely Ellie’s.

Because there’s someone out to get Ellie’s grandmother. And if Donna Abascal, the queen of the immortal monsters, goes down, she’ll take the entire family with her. Including Arkady. Including Ellie.

Whether she’s guilty – this time – or not.

Escape Rating B: It’s pretty clear from the outset – even without the author’s acknowledgement below – that this was originally supposed to have been TA Moore’s entry in the Bad, Dad and Dangerous anthology. But the story grew too many tentacles and other extra limbs to fit inside that particular skin, rather like the monsters and their too tight and wrong-shaped human guises.

(Consider that a monster-sized hint that if you like this story you’ll enjoy Bad, Dad and Dangerous and very much vice-versa. All the stories in that collection as well as this one are just a terrific mix of urban fantasy, paranormal romance and that extra touch of shivery monstrousness that make for a great read!)

This is a bit different from the usual worlds of urban fantasy or paranormal romance in that this is a world where, rather than magic being real – although it sort of is – it’s the monsters that we believe are myths and legends that are real.

Monsters who have their own society and their own laws – especially their own version of the Statute of Secrecy – as well as their own enforcers of those laws. At the same time, these are monsters. They are apex predators, and they hate having to bow to any authority – even one of their own making – even if it gives them things they want in return.

Like willing victims. And good wi-fi.

So the worldbuilding in this story is really neat and just a bit different. I wish we’d gotten a bit more of it, because there are a lot of politics in this story and figuring out who’s doing who and how their rank matters was occasionally just a bit confusing. (The short story that is serialized over the course of this blog tour should help with that, but I wish I’d had it before I read the book. It would have helped!)

As much as some of the politics and relationships confounded a bit, the relationships at the heart of this story are very clear and extremely easy to grasp – and to occasionally gasp at as we figure out just what’s at stake.

In the end, that’s what takes your breath away. The depth of Cash’ love for his daughter Ellie, in spite of everything he knows about both her origins and his own. The love that Cash and Arkady have never been able to get over for each other, no matter how much both of their monster sides tell them it makes them devastatingly vulnerable. Because that’s what love does.

And just how deep and how high the machinations go, to protect what needs protecting, to save who needs saving, and to deceive whoever and whatever needs deceiving to hold on to the most important things in life. Or death. Or undeath.

Whatever the case might be.

And now a word from TA Moore:

First of all, thank you so much for having me! I’m thrilled to be here with my new release, Cash in Hand by TA Moore. Any of you who read Bad, Dad, and Dangerous very nearly got to read this in there. Cash in Hand was the first story I wrote for the anthology, the only problem with it was that it was…a bit long. It was a novel. So I was told to write another novella immediately, and Cash in Hand became a thing in itself! Which I hope you guys check out and enjoy!

For the blog tour I’ve written a short story set in the Prodigium world. I hope you enjoy!

 

Chapter Four

The damask puddled on the ground in front of Grandmother as she worked, peacock green with darker blue patterns woven into the fabric. She clicked her tongue.

“The Left Hand of the Prodigium,” she mused. “In our designs.”

“He’s been in the shop once.”

She waved one leg at him, a gesture that simultaneously dismissed his protest and told him to hush.

“We could put a sign over the door,” she said. “By charter from the Prodigium.”

“He was on his own.”

She gave him a hard look out of one beady, black eye. “You sound like your father.”

Dim pulled a face. He supposed he did. It had been the one thing he’d always swore he’d never do, back when he was Van’s age, but the older you got the more you realised that pessimism was just optimists called reality.

“If we tell people Kohary shops here,” he said. “We’ll lose business. People won’t darken our door for fear they’ll run into him in his underwear.”

For a moment Grandmother stopped work and cocked her head to the side. “Do you think he wears underwear?” she asked. “I would have assumed he was….what’s the word Van uses…commando?”

That was the last thing that Dim wanted to think about. He was going to now, probably for a few restless, sticky hours tonight, but that wasn’t the point. The naked (almost) Kohary in his head — hotter with black briefs that clung to his thighs and outlined his cock? Or without? A question for later — gave him a look that said he knew what he was doing.

Fuck. He might, for all Dim knew. No one really knew what Kohary’s monster was or what it could do. Well, no one knew for long. It was kind of ‘just before you horribly die’ information.

“That’s not the point,” Dim said. “What am I meant to do? I already have a dozen commissions for the end of the month, now I’m meant to come up with an outfit that’s fit for a banquet and an insult?”

Grandmother reached out and patted him on the shoulder. “Is it beyond you?”

Shit. Dim clenched his jaw on the unnatural compulsion that pushed on the bones of his skull. “Grandmother, don’t.”

She tilted her head to look at him with amusement. The curse had left her enough of her face to see the human she’d been, her nose and cheeks and the soft curve of her jaw. It had taken her eyes, though, and replaced them with the black, seed-jewel eyes of a spider. Black mandibles distorbed her mouth, the pink flesh stretched tight and peeled back in places. The black, mitten-fuzzed paw on his shoulder squeezed.

“Can you not do it?” she asked.

Dim clenched his jaw from sheer stubbornness. It didn’t matter. His monster crawled up his throat and wrestled control of his tongue off him.

“I can do it,” he said, through his teeth. Arrogance that wasn’t his–and wouldn’t have to understand the fucking consquences when they got here–filled him. “Just watch me.”

Grandmother swung forward on her line and kissed his cheek. Her mandibles were rough, like a brillo pad that was almost worn out.

“Go and make me proud,” she said. “Grandmother is hungry.”

Gloves hid his bloody fingers. They didn’t help with the restless jitter of his knees and tight shoulders as his monster plucked at his nerves like they were puppet strings.

Stitch. Sew. Buttons. Get it done, prove you can.

He ignored the rant with the ease of long practice and dumped more sugar in his coffee.

“When you imagine going to the Abascal wedding,” he asked idly. “How does it end badly?”

Astrid adjust the fingers on the hand of glory she had in front of her and turned it so the long-dead murderer gave him the bony finger.

“What makes you assume it goes wrong?” she sniffed. “And do you think these need to be tinted a shade more grey? Remember, the banquet will be in the caves?”

Dim cocked his head to the side.

“Remember they’re going to be lit,” he said. “You don’t want them to look alive. And it wouldn’t be an anxiety dream if everything went right.”

Astrid sighed and wiped her waxy hands on her apron. She picked up a shaved off ring of wrist bone and chewed thoughtfully on it as she considered the question. 

“I’m dancing with Belladonna,” she said, her eyes dreamy.It lasted a second and then she sighed as she went on. “She compliments me on what an amazing spread I’ve done, then she apologizes for stepping on my toes. People laugh. I realise I’m naked.”

“Could be a power move.” Dim pointed out.

Astrid sucked the marrow out of the centre of the wrist bone and sighed. “Naked except for my period pants,” she finished.

They both grimaced at that thought.

“Why?” she asked.

Dim shrugged. The scratch in his brain had settled when it realised he was still at work. “Just a thought,” he said. “I see the police are worried about gang violence up in Chesapeake? Anything to do with you?”

She mugged modestly for a moment. “Just a quick test, to see if executing them myself works.”

“And?”

Astrid held her hand out and wobbled it back and forth. “Burns without being consumed and opens a few locks. Good enough for the lunch, and I’ll save the real ones for the big event. I’ve got feelers out ”

“Just be careful,” Dim said. She frowned at him and he shrugged. “The great and the not-so-good are in town, cross them and they’ll sell you out to the Prodigium in a second.”

She rolled her eyes. “Some of us are willing to take risks to get ahead,” she said. “We can’t depend on our family to back us up.”

Dim shrugged. The warning that Kohary was in town stuck in his throat. He liked Astrid, but not enough to cross Kohary. If he wanted a terrible death that left no corpse, he’d go and kick some of his less good-natured relatives awake.

Black Demetrius, his namesake, had slaughtered a dozen hunters and made half of the Prespes his lair. Until Grandmother had tracked him down and tucked him in to sleep so she could get the Prodigium’s permission to come to the New World. 

He’d probably put Dim out of his misery quick enough.

“I should get back to work,” Dim said as he got up. “Thank you for the coffee.”

She grinned at him, her broken, yellow fangs and Gila Monster thick spit on display. “Thank you for the goodie bags,” she said and clapped her hands girlishly. “It’s just the right touch for the fancies.”

For the rest of the story, check out the other stops on this tour!

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

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Review: Bad, Dad and Dangerous by Rhys Ford, Jenn Moffatt, TA Moore and Bru Baker + Excerpt + Giveaway

Review: Bad, Dad and Dangerous by Rhys Ford, Jenn Moffatt, TA Moore and Bru Baker + Excerpt + GiveawayBad, Dad, and Dangerous by Bru Baker, Jenn Moffatt, T.A. Moore, Rhys Ford
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: M/M romance, paranormal romance, urban fantasy
Pages: 424
Published by Dreamspinner Press on October 6, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

When the kids are away, the monsters will play.
School's out for summer, and these dads are ready to ship their kids off to camp. Not just because their kids are monsters--whose aren't?--but because they're ready for some alone time to let their hair down and their fangs out. You see, not only are the kids monsters--their dads are too.
Even the most dangerous of creatures has a soft spot. These bad, dangerous dads love their kids to death, but they need romance.
Every year, for a few short weeks, these hot men with a little extra in their blood get to be who they truly are. And this year, life has a surprise for them. Whether they be mage, shifter, vampire, or changeling, these heartbreakingly handsome dads might be looking to tear up the town... but they'll end up falling in love. All it takes is the right man to bring them to their knees.

My Review:

What a great collection to really sink your reading teeth into!

Or possibly your real teeth, if you’re anything like any of the dads, and their equally supernatural kids, featured in this fantastic collection of novellas.

I have to say that these stories did a great job of reminding me just what it is I read urban fantasy FOR, that lick of the supernatural that takes the world just one or two steps to the Other, where there is magic, and danger, and danger because of that magic.

These are also worlds that interact with or are nestled inside the everyday human world that we know and love and loathe, and that people are people, with or without extra powers – and that sometimes humans are awful. Power and/or other-worldliness doesn’t make them better, it just makes them different.

And there are entirely too many people who hate those who are different, whether that difference is natural or supernatural.

What’s fascinating about this collection is that the kiss of the other comes in so many different flavors – all marvelous – and all feel just on the edge of possible that sends a shiver up the spine. At the same time, each of the protagonists is also a single-parent, and no matter how otherworldly their kids might be, they are all still kids and still challenging parental authority in age-old ways.

Even if they also grow fur. Or fangs. Or flowers.

Every single one of these stories had something in it that I fell in love with, whether it was Nation the undead cat in Jenn Moffatt’s Kismet & Cadavers, the vampire dad running a call center for an insurance company and slurping up the excess negative emotions from his staff to keep them a bit less unhappy (Monster Hall Pass by Bru Baker), or the grandson of a witch who falls for a werewolf peacekeeper whose son has just be given a pomeranian cut in Rhys Ford’s Wolf at First Sight.

But my favorite story was Elf Shot by TA Moore. It just gave me the most marvelous case of the creeps with the way that it blended all of the stories about “tricksy” fae and fae courts with the purely human evil of a young man who was infected with hate and the young woman who was smart enough to escape his clutches. This is one where the supernatural elements should be the most frightening, but it’s the human evil that really creeps the reader out.

And every single one of these single parent dads manages to find the one man who can make his life just that little bit completer – by accepting the person he really is under the fur or fangs that generally put mundanes right off.

Escape Rating A-: Every single story in this collection is a win-win-win. I just wish they were ALL a bit longer, because I’d like to have spent more time in these worlds with these people. Even if they are not always two-legged people. Or perhaps especially because.

Guest Post from Rhys + Part 2 of Hunting for Salvation

Thanks so much for having me here! Since I revisited the world of Once Upon a Wolf for this anthology, I thought I’d drop back in on some familiar characters from that story for this blog tour. I hope you enjoy meeting them, again or for the first time!

Hunting For Salvation – Part 2 (Part 1 is part of yesterday’s tour stop at Boy Meets Boy)

Dean’s eyes stared back at him from a pretty face innocent of war and blood and all of the monsters crawling through Ellis’s brain whenever he closed his eyes. The soft green hazel gaze held him tightly in place, more so than the shotgun Cassandra Kelly held steadily aimed at the centre of his chest. 

Other than her wide, bright eyes, Dean’s younger half-sister shared none of his rough-hewn features. Dean’s familiar sharp angles and hard, high cheekbones were instead soft gentle curves and plump, sun-kissed cheeks, her mouth a full pout rather than the straight, disapproving line of reproach Dean’s lips were often pressed into whenever he dealt with Ellis. She was about a foot and a few inches shorter than Dean, barely coming up to the top of Ellis’s shoulders but with a shotgun, size didn’t really matter. If he knew one thing about the Kelly clan, it was they knew how to handle weapons, cars, and trespassers and Ellis racked up two out of three on that list.

He’d found her on a hillside ranch deep in California’s valleys, raising alpaca of all things. The fluffy overgrown sheep on steroids were milling about in a paddock behind Cassie, bleating and screaming their displeasure at Ellis’s arrival. Cassie might not know what Ellis was, what monstrous horror ran in his blood but the animals knew. They could scent a predator nearby and nothing she’d said to them could still their anxiety.

Cassie caught him glancing over her shoulder at the herd and cocked her head, keeping the shotgun firmly on him. “We’ve had coyote sniffing around. Lucky for me, I’ve got this here to make them mind their manners. Never would have thought it would come in handy in keeping Dean’s trash from piling up on my driveway.”

Ellis regarded the shotgun, noting its worn stock and well-burnished barrel. It was an old weapon, probably had a couple of generations of Kellys handling it. Clearing his throat, he nodded at the herd, “Not a coyote.”

“Just as bad,” she countered with a hard sniff. “Now give me one good reason I shouldn’t blow a hole right through you? Seeing as you left my brother deep down in a hole he’s not crawled out of yet.”

“Because I’m looking for him.” Ellis shoved his hands into the pockets of a pair of jeans he’d nicked from his brother’s dresser before he left Big Bear behind. “We’ve got… things to work out.”

“Only thing he needs to work out is whatever shit you left him holding,” Cassie spat back. “My brother came back nothing like he left and from what I gathered, you were the one who scooped out everything good from inside of him and ground it down into dust. What the fucking hell do you think you can say to him that’s going to change that.”

Ellis considered his options. The road to Cassie’s place was a long, dusty maze of dead ends and slammed doors. She was his only hope in finding Dean and if anyone was going to put him on the man’s trail, it would be his sister. He didn’t find any fault in her fierce defense of her brother or the reasons she wanted to keep him hidden but he wasn’t going to give up. Not after fighting so hard to break loose of the wolf he’d wrapped around himself and especially not after digging into every wound he had to find the man who’d brought him home.

“One reason, Keller,” Cassie repeated. “Else you’re going to be breathing through a hole in your guts.”

“Because I’m in love with him,” Ellis murmured, meeting her glare with as much honesty as he could muster. “And I’m not going to find peace until he knows that.”

    Join us tomorrow at Blogger Girls to hear about ‘Unicorn Snot’ from Jenn Moffatt.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

The authors are giving away a $10 Gift Certificate to the etailer of the winner’s choice at every stop on this tour!

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Review: ‘Nother Sip of Gin by Rhys Ford + Guest Post + Giveaway

Review: ‘Nother Sip of Gin by Rhys Ford + Guest Post + Giveaway'Nother Sip of Gin by Rhys Ford
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: contemporary romance, M/M romance, short stories
Series: Sinners #7
Pages: 190
Published by Dreamspinner Press on August 18, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

For Crossroads Gin rock stars Miki, Damien, Rafe, and Forest, life is a Möbius strip of music, mayhem, and murder. Through it all, the sweet, hot moments between tours with lovers, friends, and family keep them sane, healthy, and happy.
This Sinners collection features short stories spanning the entire series, from before the first note to after the lights go out.
['Nother Sip of Gin features bonus shorts finally together in one volume as well as four new Sinners Gin stories, combining classic foundational pieces with newly written material.]

My Review:

This collection is lagniappe for lovers of the Sinners series. It’s a little gift that we had no reason to expect, but are oh so happy to receive. And it’s absolutely yummy from beginning to end.

Some are even brand new, which makes it an even bigger present. The stories are certainly new to me and I’m thrilled to have them all together. Of course, new and old, they are all great stories.

This is a collection of little slices of life of the members of Crossroads Gin and the men who love them. They are interstices. Places between. Things that take place before, between and after the books in the series, or in one truly memorable case, right alongside.

The stories also contain hints of Rhys’ other series. Not deep dives into their past or present, but just enough to make a regular reader of her work realize that many of her contemporary series take place in the same world. Enough to tease but not enough to torment.

Still, this is definitely a collection for the fans. Because we care about these characters, and have missed them now that their story seems to be over and they have all managed, by hook, by crook and mostly by miracle, to have found their happily ever afters.

For those of us who have followed the series, this is a visit with old friends, sitting around, swapping stories. Except that they have all the best stories and we’re just listening in.

As great as it is – and it is terrific – to glimpse a bit of Miki and Damien before they became famous, or to peek into Miki and Kane’s happy ever after, My favorite story in the book, hands and paws down, is Hair of the Dog. Because Dude, the dog who adopted Miki just before the series opens, tells the entire story of the first book, Sinner’s Gin, from his rather unique perspective. After all, Dude is the one responsible for bringing Miki and Kane together, and he has a lot to say about how it happened. He’s also one smart and savvy dog.

Escape Rating A: Lovers of this series are going to be all in for this collection. We’ll all probably have our own favorites, but the whole of it is just a great time. If you’re not already a fan of the series, this is not the place to start. Start with Sinner’s Gin and get swallowed up by the lost band and the found family that forms the backbone of the series. It’s a marvelous wild ride from beginning to end!

Guest Post from Rhys + Sinner’s Calling

Never thought I’d be back on the road with these guys again but … here we are. And nothing makes me happier than to take to the pages with the Sinner Boys all over again. ’Nother Sip of Gin came from a friend asking me if I’d ever consider pulling together some of the blog spots I’d done into a book they could read on their Kindle. I’ve held that possibility in my head for a while and then I got the time and space to pull not only the foundational stories I’d already shared but a few brand new stories I’ve always wanted to explore, short bits of emotions and life moments I’ve enjoyed pulling together. I’ve included long stories like Hair of the Dog and a few others because well, they were fun to write in the past but also provided a solid base for so much of the Sinners lore.

For this blog tour I wanted to take a bit of time to talk about five lyric snippets and how they connect to the characters as well as the meaning behind a few of them. It was great to go through the anthology and once again visit with the guys. I’ll be writing a novella about Connor and Forest in the near future so this trip down memory lane has been a great revisit with old friends, reacquainting me with their voices, quibbles, and most of all, their lives.

Bled onto my hand,
Shoved his fist into mine
Stood tall against anyone
Who’d break through our line

No matter what they do
No matter what they say
Death’s already tried to part us
And we’ve already made him pay

So lift a glass to the Sinners
Lift a glass of cheap ass gin
Put your lips on the Gates of Heaven
‘Cause we’re taking you to sin.
Sinners’ Calling


I’m actually going to end this blog tour where everything started — Damien and Miki.

When I first envisioned the series, I started with the image in my head of a shattered, broken-down musician who was angry at the world. The prologue to the series came to me before any of the details or other characters in Sinners Gin. I knew what Sinjun lost before Kane ever knocked on his door. I knew somewhere out in the universe was a soul that balanced out my complicated, slightly antisocial warrior-poet. This person would be his equal in musicianship but his opposite in personality. In a lot of ways, it was imperative to take away Miki’s balance, his dependence on one person he held in his heart in order for him to understand there was room there for someone else.

Dude was pretty much training wheels for Miki and his growing trust in letting himself feel. Despite every denial of the dog belonging to him, Dude was an integral part of his life. The terrier became the reason for Miki to get up in the morning, to make sure there was food, and even to make sure there was some play time. His world had become cloaked shadows and he could no longer sense the sand slipping away through the hourglass. Dude became a marker of time as well as a portal back to an engagement in life for Miki.

He also became an important piece of Miki’s heart he was willing to defend when a blue-eyed Irish cop pounded on his front door.

I also imagined Damien to be much more charismatic and kind of the salesman in a way. He is a driving force behind the band, as much of a part of its engine as Miki with a clear vision of where he wants to be. What I’ve never had the chance to explore and really it’s a pretentious luxury to do so, is simply writing about the two of them being together for no purpose other than being together. That brotherhood is really what I wanted to capture because I wanted to show two men who have a deep connection but weren’t blood related. They have fought — and probably will continue to fight — about big things and little things but their love for one another is unwavering. There never should have been a moment when the reader would wonder if one of them would walk away. That was very crucial.

In a lot of ways, Miki’s relationship with Damien and how they communicated helped forge his relationship with Kane. For all of his lack of social skills, Miki is able to love fiercely and understand compromise and open discourse is truly the only way to have a relationship. He knows you don’t purposely hurt the people closest to you and in a world where too many people believe just because someone loves them gives them the freedom to be sarcastic or mean because they believe they’ll be forgiven, Miki’s foundational understanding about taking care of the other person’s emotional health makes it easier for him to deal with all the conflicts he and Kane have to face.

With Damien woven so deeply into Miki’s psyche, I knew I needed to write Sinners Gin in such a way that the reader could feel the pain of Miki’s loss but without the specter of Damien standing between Miki and Kane. I think in some way Miki’s anger waking up alone in a hospital, having lost everything in his life but his body, made it easier to develop his relationship with Kane. In no way did his growing affection minimize his love for Damien who was his brother and Kane, having brothers himself, clearly understood the significance of Damie in Miki’s life. Without Damien, Miki probably would’ve never discovered music and his innate talents to create it. He never would’ve had the subspace of being on stage, unfurling the part of himself he kept very down deep inside of him, that slinky sensual creature who loved to dance in the lights and growl around words he found in his soul. So no matter what Kane thought of Damien, he understood how important he was to Miki.

And of all the scenes that I’ve ever written, I will readily admit the one where Damien and Miki find each other again — in the middle of a noisy Morgan kitchen — was one of the hardest emotion-filled silences I’ve ever had craft. It was a delicate balance of disbelief, hope, and reignited love to capture in words and I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to communicate that caught-on-the-edge-of-the-universe breathlessness they both shared.

You see, for Miki and Damien… they weren’t in that kitchen. They were nowhere near the Morgan household. The men they loved were not nearby. In that moment, it was the early morning hours in a misty Chinatown alleyway, the air carrying the smell of spicy noodles with a metallic hint of iron flakes from an aging fire escape. Between them, the fading notes of an old Janis Joplin song and Damien had just discovered a broken-winged angel waiting for him outside of a failed gig.

That’s what this song is about. Hell, that’s what this whole series is about and no matter where they go, it will always have each other — Miki and Damien are as eternal as the stars just like the love they have for the men they found along the way.

Follow the ‘Nother Sip of Gin Tour for more lyrics and more giveaways!

About Rhys Ford

Rhys Ford is an award-winning author with several long-running LGBT+ mystery, thriller, paranormal, and urban fantasy series and is a two-time LAMBDA finalist with her Murder and Mayhem novels. She is also a 2017 Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Florida Authors and Publishers President’s Book Awards for her novels Ink and Shadows and Hanging the Stars. She is published by Dreamspinner Press and DSP Publications.

She’s also quite skeptical about bios without a dash of something personal and really, who doesn’t mention their cats, dog and cars in a bio? She shares the house with Harley, a grey tuxedo with a flower on her face, Badger, a disgruntled alley cat who isn’t sure living inside is a step up the social ladder as well as a ginger cairn terrorist named Gus. Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep of a 1979 Pontiac Firebird and enjoys murdering make-believe people.

Rhys can be found at the following locations:

Blog: www.rhysford.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/rhys.ford.author
Facebook Group: Coffee, Cats, and Murder: https://www.facebook.com/groups/635660536617002/
Twitter: @Rhys_Ford

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

And as usual, there is a giveaway! Please enter to win a $20 gift certificate to the etailer of your choice and be sure to hit up every blog stop to enter every giveaway! Never say no to books. grins

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Review: Silk Dragon Salsa by Rhys Ford + Excerpt + Giveaway

Review: Silk Dragon Salsa by Rhys Ford + Excerpt + GiveawaySilk Dragon Salsa (Kai Gracen, #4) by Rhys Ford
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: urban fantasy
Series: Kai Gracen #4
Pages: 206
Published by Dreamspinner Press on July 14, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

SoCalGov Stalker Kai Gracen always knew Death walked in his shadow. Enough people told him that, including his human mentor, Dempsey. Problem was, the old man never told him what to do when Death eventually caught up.
Where Tanic, his elfin father and the Wild Hunt Master of the Unsidhe Court, brought Kai pain and suffering, Dempsey gave him focus and a will to live… at least until everything unraveled. Now caught in a web of old lies and half-truths, Kai is torn between the human and elfin worlds, unsure of who he is anymore. Left with a hollowness he can’t fill, Kai aches to find solace in the one elfin he trusts—a Sidhe Lord named Ryder—but he has unfinished business with Dempsey’s estranged brother, a man who long ago swore off anything to do with the feral elfin child Dempsey dragged up from the gutter.
Reeling from past betrayals, Kai searches for Dempsey’s brother, hoping to do right by the man who saved him while trying to keep ahead of the death haunting his every step. Kai never thought he’d find love or happiness as a Stalker, but when Death comes knocking at his door, Kai discovers a fierce need to live life to the fullest—even if that means turning his back on the people he calls family.

My Review:

There’s something that Kai says, about 3/4ths of the way through Silk Dragon Salsa, that really hit me, because Kai thinks he’s talking about other people, not realizing that he’s really talking about himself. Not that he’s not talking about other people too – for rather elastic and expansive definitions of people – but his comment is really about the story of Kai’s life in general, and this installment in particular.

“There was a constant, roaming quest to discover the depths or heights of humanity, and sometimes that journey took a hard left turn into a what-the-hell neighborhood.”

Kai’s whole story is hard left turn into that particular neighborhood, but especially this part of it. Because the opening of this story takes away everything that Kai thought he knew about himself when his adopted father Dempsey makes a deathbed confession. It’s Dempsey’s chance to clean his slate, but it strips away too many of the things that Kai believed, not just about himself, but about his relationship with Dempsey and his relationship with all of the people who have come to make up his world and his family.

Well, at least all of the purely human members of that family.

Kai is a chimera, a construct of both Sidhe and Unsidhe. An abomination according to his own people. An experiment and a slave according to the being who was both his biological parent and his creator.

Dempsey always told Kai that he won him in a card game. But that deathbed confession reveals that the man kidnapped him as part of an under-the-table Stalker hunt. And not that Kai wasn’t sorely in need of rescue.

But Kai had grown up – or matured – or stopped being feral – or all of the above, believing that Dempsey had trained him and adopted him after that card game and that the human family that he’d become a part of loved him and cared for him. Now he’s learned that Dempsey had to fight with all of them to keep him and train him rather than turn Kai in for a very hefty bounty.

A bounty that is either still active – or has been reactivated. In the wake of Dempsey’s death, Kai is being hunted again. This time by his own kind. Meaning by his fellow Stalkers. Kai has to delve in Dempsey’s past as well as his own to discover who is still after him after all these years.

So he can take them out before they do him in.

Escape Rating A+: The beginning of this story is a gut-punch, and so is the ending. In the wild ride of a middle, there’s a quest, and it’s one of the oldest and best ones in the book. While on the surface Kai is searching for whoever wants him captured or dead, what he’s really hunting for is his identity.

After all, if he’s not who Dempsey told him he was, then who is he? And if his “family” wanted to turn him in rather than help him up, who will stand with him in a world where he knows many are against him, doing a job that is pretty much guaranteed not to let anyone make old bones. Not even an immortal elfin.

It’s a quest that literally tears him apart and puts him back together. It’s a story where, even though Kai has been an adult for all the life he remembers, he finally grows up and reaches out for who he’s meant to be.

And that allows him to finally become comfortable in his own skin – no matter how much pain and discomfort has been and will continue to be inflicted on that skin and the heart that lives inside it. Also, no matter how many times his semi-feral cat Newt tries to claw that heart out and eat it because his dinner is 5 seconds late.

I read the first book in this marvelous urban fantasy series, Black Dog Blues, way, way back in 2013, before Dreamspinner published it, at a point where Kai was the author’s half-feral child and there was no certainty there would even BE a series. Book 2, Mad Lizard Mambo, was on my “Best E-Originals” list for 2016 in Library Journal, and the cover quote for Silk Dragon Salsa is from that review. (And I’m still over the moon seeing that on the cover!)

But at Kai’s introduction it was very much urban fantasy in a fascinating world where the elfin realms of the Sidhe and the Unsidhe had crashed – or merged – into ours, with catastrophic results. At the time, it was definitely urban fantasy because Kai read like the kind of urban fantasy protagonist with a really shitty love life. At the beginning, Kai didn’t even like himself enough to love anyone else.

He’s healed a lot since then. Not that he’s not still a mess, but he’s more accepting of himself, warts and all, than seemed possible in the beginning. Of course, that means that just as this story ends, and it finally looks like Kai might be within spitting distance of something that might be as close to happy ever after as Kai is likely to get, a piece of his past crawls out of the woodwork to set things up for even more danger and angst in his next outing.

And I can’t wait to read it!

Guest Post from Rhys PLUS Part 4 of License to Stalk, a NEW Kai Gracen short story

Hello! 

And welcome back to my world of dragons, intrigue, hot guns, fast cars and a grumpy, slightly anti-social Chimera of a Sidhe and an Unsidhe who really only wants to hunt monsters and go home to his probably carnivorous cat. My name is Rhys Ford and I’ll be your guide today as on July 14th,I’ll take you back to the Kai Gracen series for Book Four — Silk Dragon Salsa. 

If you’re following the blog tour from the beginning, you can skip this bit and head to the serialized part of the story but if this is your first time with me, let me ramble a bit about my grouchy special kitten, Kai. I’ve used the past three books to set up his relationships and world and kind of settling him for what should have been a changing environment. He’s never really had a lot of contact with the elfin and never really wanted any. Ryder, the Lord of the Southern Rise Court, blew into Kai’s life like a hurricane with a grudge and Kai’s had to not only learn how to get along with the man but also adjust to the fact the elfin are in his life to stay. Not something Kai ever wanted. He was raised by humans, thinks of himself as human, and was pretty happy about it.

Then his world changed and he was dragged kicking and screaming and probably stabbing into a bit of elfin affairs even as he knew it would probably be the death of him.

And in Silk Dragon Salsa, I really turn his world upside down. 

It was a long time coming and Kai, in his true quick-on-his-feet fashion, knows he must change with it. Because the Merged world is going forward — with or without his approval — and this time, he has a chance for a bit of happiness, if he can find it in the chaos storm hunting him down in Silk Dragon Salsa.

Silk Dragon Salsa Information and Purchase Links

Kai’s fourth book is being published by Dreamspinner Press and I’ve had the fantastic honour of working with Chris McGrath again for its cover. Chris is a fantastic artist and he totally captured the feel of the book in this cover. I am so very grateful for his contributions in bringing Kai to life.

AND Greg Tremblay will once again bring his talent and gorgeous voice to breathing life and mayhem into Kai’s world as he narrates — nay, acts — Silk Dragon Salsa. I’ll be announcing the audiobook’s release date once I have it so watch my social media for further details.

Silk Dragon Salsa can be purchased at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon and other fine online ebook retailers.

And now… for License to Stalk, A Kai Gracen Short Story

Part Four

We’d holed up in one of the town’s farmer’s empty barns, parking Dempsey’s truck at an angle near the structure’s open back doors. The place seemed solid enough, probably meant for goats or smaller livestock. It smelled faintly of hay and dusky farm animal discards, a lingering ripeness of old droppings clinging to its walls. A hundred yards to the right sat another barn, much bigger and newer and as I dressed the remainder of the two small deer I’d brought in with the salamander, voices carried across the yard, getting louder with each cut I made.

“All I’m saying is that you didn’t do the Run so I’m not paying for two Stalkers.” The big bellied man who’d been grateful to see us taking their contract when we first arrived now was a blustery, red-faced wobbling hunk of angry flesh. His liver spotted pate glistened in the late afternoon sun, sweat dotting his brow and a few drops slipped down his forehead, catching in his nettle-patch white eyebrows. “’Sides, the other one doesn’t count. He’s not even human.”

“He’s my apprentice,” Dempsey spat back. His fingers were curled around a stub of a cigar but it was unlit, probably to the relief of the young farmer pacing behind the pack of older men. “Stalker regulations state I can send him out in my stead and get a full payment.”

“Yeah? Then let’s see his license,” a thin man dressed in overalls spat out. A look of revulsion curdled his features, his tiny dark eyes flicking back and forth to where I stood. “Because I don’t think any state’s going to let one of those things carry a gun, much less a Stalker license.”

I glanced up from where I stood near the truck’s lowered tailgate, one hand wrapped around a bloodied knife while I used the other to pull on the deer’s remaining back leg to stretch out the joint. The young farmer met my gaze and held it, a burning heat searing over the town elders’ shoulders then he looked away, a red flush creeping over his cheeks. I knew what he wanted. It wasn’t the first time I’d gotten that kind of appraisal from someone lingering on the edges of a collective outrage and it probably wasn’t going to be the last. 

“If he’s got a license, I’m a fairy princess.” One of the other men chortled, his fleshy neck wobbling with each guffaw. “’Sides, what are you lot going to do? Put the damned thing back?”

I stopped cutting, flicking my knife clean with a twist of my wrist. The stamped down hay at my feet was slick with blood, cast off from the bled-out carcasses. I found Dempsey’s eyes, readying for a fight if he was going to take a step in. Sometimes things went bad and while I called him an old man, his fists were stone blocks and tireless but there were six of them and only two of us since Jonas stayed in town to pick up supplies. 

The soulful eyed farmer back pedaled away from the older men, his hands up in surrender. “I didn’t sign on for cheating them. I lost the most stock. I think we should—”

“You didn’t put in the most money though, O’Malley.” The mustached man spat at his feet. “Greany is right. They’ll take what they get and move along. Worse than thieving gypsies, that’s what Stalkers are.”

“Think we can’t do anything?” I finally said, strolling over to where the men stood. My clothes were mostly clean and my knives were bare of blood, but the smell of death still clung to me. “Dempsey here can put a black mark on your town. Same as Jonas. Two strikes and no one’s going to pick up any contract you take out. This time it’s a salamander. What if the next time it’s an ainmhi dubh? What are you going to do when no Stalker comes in to save your asses then?”

“This time it’s chicken and goats,” Dempsey murmured in his low, angry voice. Stabbing his cigar stub into the corner of his mouth, he worked at the end. “Next time, it’s your kids. Maybe even your wives and mothers. You willing to do that over a handful of money? Because the boy here’s stocked up our stores for a long time. Even enough to spread out over to those families who don’t have much. We finish up here without a payout and we’re not just dropping venison off. We’ll be telling everyone we run into how you don’t think their lives are worth the shit you’re stepping in.”

They paid. 

And I went back to dressing the deer, fairly certain I was going to have a bit of company later on and not sure I was going to be up to it. Especially since the men were right. There was no way in hell any state government was going to pin a Stalker badge on me. 

Follow the Silk Dragon Salsa Blog Tour (for the rest of the story!)

 

About Rhys Ford

Rhys Ford is an award-winning author with several long-running LGBT+ mystery, thriller, paranormal, and urban fantasy series and is a two-time LAMBDA finalist with her Murder and Mayhem novels. She is also a 2017 Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Florida Authors and Publishers President’s Book Awards for her novels Ink and Shadows and Hanging the Stars. She is published by Dreamspinner Press and DSP Publications.

She’s also quite skeptical about bios without a dash of something personal and really, who doesn’t mention their cats, dog and cars in a bio? She shares the house with Harley, a grey tuxedo with a flower on her face, Badger, a disgruntled alley cat who isn’t sure living inside is a step up the social ladder as well as a ginger cairn terrorist named Gus. Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep of a 1979 Pontiac Firebird and enjoys murdering make-believe people.

Rhys can be found at the following locations:

Blog: www.rhysford.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/rhys.ford.author
Facebook Group: Coffee, Cats, and Murder: https://www.facebook.com/groups/635660536617002/
Twitter: @Rhys_Ford

For more information and to keep track of his upcoming releases, visit Greg Tremblay at: https://gregtremblay.com/

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

And what would be a blog tour without a giveaway? Enter to win a $20 USD gift certificate to the online etailer of your choice! Amazon! Dreamspinner! Starbucks! Funko! Where your heart desires so long as I can get the winner a gift certificate there! Enter at every blog on the tour because it’s a gift certificate giveaway for every stop!

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Review: Back in Black by Rhys Ford

Review: Back in Black by Rhys FordBack in Black (McGinnis Investigations, #1) by Rhys Ford
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: LGBT, mystery, suspense
Series: McGinnis Investigations #1
Pages: 200
Published by Dreamspinner Press on February 4, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

There are eight million stories in the City of Angels but only one man can stumble upon the body of a former client while being chased by a pair of Dobermans and a deranged psycho dressed as a sheep.

That man is Cole McGinnis.

Since his last life-threatening case years ago, McGinnis has married the love of his life, Jae-Min Kim, consulted for the LAPD, and investigated cases as a private detective for hire. Yet nothing could have prepared him for the shocking discovery of a dead, grandmotherly woman at his feet and the cascade of murders that follows, even if he should have been used to it by now.

Now he’s back in the dark world of murder and intrigue where every bullet appears to have his name on it and every answer he digs up seems to only create more questions. Hired by the dead woman’s husband, McGinnis has to figure out who is behind the crime spree. As if the twisted case of a murdered grandmother isn’t complicated enough, Death is knocking on his door, and each time it opens, Death is wearing a new face, leaving McGinnis to wonder who he can actually trust.

My Review:

Once upon a time, there was a book titled Dirty Kiss, in which ex-LAPD-turned-private-investigator Cole McGinnis investigated the case of a cheating wife who put the sex in sexagenarian – with leather on it. Also a whip and thigh-high boots, because the lady wasn’t merely cheating on her husband, she was cheating on him as a dominatrix for hire. When Cole discovered her shenanigans, she came after him with a shotgun – and almost got him.

Fast forward a few years. Cole is now happily married to the man he met during the course of that first book. They’ve been good years – and they’ve also been fairly peaceful years for Cole, Jae and their friends and family.

When Cole trips over the leather-clad corpse of that senior-citizen dominatrix while running from two dobermans and a guy in a sheep costume who has just been caught in flagrante delicto in an abandoned house, Cole’s peace is definitely at an end. And not just because he needs brain bleach to remove the image of the sheep chasing him with his “flagrante” flopping out of the front of that sheep suit.

Cole feels an obligation to Adele Brinkerhoff and her husband Arthur. The original case was resolved satisfactorily for all concerned, but it did, in a very roundabout way, bring him to Jae and his current happiness.

And no one else is going to get justice for the old lady. Not just because of the spill of manufactured diamonds next to her corpse, but because her past is even shadier than her previous moonlighting as a dominatrix would suggest.

But even before Cole takes on the case, his peace is shattered – along with the victim’s house and the victim’s husband. When the assailant starts shooting up the neighborhood, including Cole and his friend and brother-in-law Bobby Dawson, Cole becomes even more determined to get to the bottom of a case that seems to be every bit as weird as the first time he tangled with Adele and Arthur Brinkerhoff all those years ago.

And even more deadly.

Escape Rating A+: I absolutely adored this book. To the point where I’m desperately trying not to just sit here and squee for endless pages. But that’s not particularly informative – dammit.

Part of my glee about this book is just how much fun it is to see Cole, Jae and all their friends and family – found and otherwise – again. Especially Jae’s cat Neko, who is the cattest cat who ever catted.

But in all seriousness, something that is difficult to maintain in the face of the truly unbelievable messes that Cole gets himself into, the arc of Cole’s first series left everyone in a good place and came to a cathartic and well-earned resolution. I didn’t expect to see them back, but I’m so happy to see them back.

(You don’t need to read the first series to get into Back in Black – although that first series is wonderful. But seriously, Back in Black is the start of a new series, and it has a different feel to the first one. However, Cole does an excellent job of providing enough backstory info as it goes to get new readers into his life and his world, and to get series fans caught up on anything they might have forgotten.)

Enough time has passed between the end of the final book in that series, Dirty Heart, that life has moved on, mostly for the better, for Cole and Jae and their circle. The biggest change is that Cole and Jae have been married for a few years. (That story is told in the blog tour for Back in Black and began here at Reading Reality last week.) It’s not just Cole and Jae that have found their HEA – Cole’s brother Ichi and his friend Bobby (the protagonists of Down and Dirty) have also married, making Cole and Bobby brothers-in-law to the surprise of them both, if not necessarily to the delight of either of their husbands.

Because Cole and Bobby tend to lead each other into trouble, including gun-toting would-be assassins, and that’s just what happens in Back in Black.

But unlike the previous series, which leaned more towards romantic suspense, Back in Black and the McGinnis Investigations series fall firmly onto the mystery side of that suspense. Cole starts by doing a security check for a friend-of-a-friend (Rook Stevens from Murder and Mayhem) and literally trips over a former client’s dead body – while being chased by the sheep and the dobermans.

From that hilarious but inauspicious beginning, the case and the story are off to the races. It’s up to Cole, along with his police contact Dell O’Byrne, to determine not just whodunnit but also why it was done. An investigation which seems to be a mystery wrapped in an enigma and covered in a painter’s drop cloth.

Meanwhile Cole and Bobby find themselves dodging assassins, sometimes not terribly well. Assassins who seem determined to take them out of the picture before Cole discovers what the picture actually is.

And the entire story is told from Cole’s wry, snarky and frequently self-deprecating first-person perspective. In a voice that elicits groans and laughter in equal proportions, even if the laughter is all too often the result of some truly atrocious gallows humor.

On the other hand, it’s the voice of the man who got chased by a sheep. And two dobermans. And to whom stuff like that just keeps happening. Cole doesn’t go looking for trouble, but trouble clearly has his address on its GPS and has zero problem hunting him down and shooting at him. Over and over again.

Of course Cole does eventually solve the case. Which turns out to be nothing like anyone, not Cole and not the reader, expected when he tripped over that first body. But Cole, with more than a little help from his friends, gets the job done in his own inimitable style.

Considering the life he’s led, Cole McGinnis really should know better than to ask the universe, “what’s the worst that can happen?” because the universe is likely to take that question as a challenge.

On the other hand, just thinking about that is a fantastic way to end Cole’s first investigation in his new series, Back in Black, because that means there will be more. Hopefully lots, lots more!

Review: Ramen Assassin by Rhys Ford + Guest Recipe! + Giveaway

Review: Ramen Assassin by Rhys Ford + Guest Recipe! + GiveawayRamen Assassin (Ramen Assassin #1) by Rhys Ford
Format: ebook
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: M/M romance, romantic suspense
Series: Ramen Assassin #1
Pages: 216
Published by Dreamspinner Press on June 25, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

When life gives Kuro Jenkins lemons, he wants to make ponzu to serve at his Los Angeles ramen shop.

Instead he’s dodging bullets and wondering how the hell he ended up back in the black ops lifestyle he left behind. After rescuing former child star Trey Bishop from a pair of murderous thugs, he reluctantly picks his guns up again. It seems trouble isn’t done with Trey, and Kuro can’t quite let go… of either danger or Trey.

Trey never denied his life’s downward spiral was his own fault. After stints in rehab, he’s finally shaken off his Hollywood bad-boy lifestyle, but not his reputation. The destruction of his career and relationships was epic, and no one trusts anything he says, including the LAPD. When two men dragging a dead body spot him on a late-night run, then try to murder him, Trey is thankful for the tall, dark, and deadly ramen shop owner not just for rescuing him, but also for believing him.

Now caught in a web of murders and lies, Trey knows someone wants him dead, and the only one on his side is a man with dark secrets. Trey hopes Kuro will stick around to see what the future holds for them once the dust settles, but from the looks of things, neither of them may survive to find out.

My Review:

This book will make you hungry. For some good ramen. (The author has even sent a recipe to get you started!) And for more of this series and these characters. Consider yourself warned!

I want to say that the opening of Ramen Assassin reminds me more than a bit of Sinner’s Gin. But that’s not strictly true. What the initial scenes really remind me of is the opening of a James Bond movie, the part before the opening credits where Bond finds himself unexpectedly in the middle of a firefight and has to kill someone whose death seems coincidental but turns out to be critical to the main story.

And that is the way that Ramen Assassin opens. Kuro Jenkins is a covert (US) government agent, and he enters the story rescuing a bunch of kidnapped children, tearing up the streets in a bullet-riddled van only to crash through the gates of the American Embassy and smack dab into a crowd of international reporters covering a garden party.

With his cover completely, totally and utterly blown, and his body nearly as full of bullets as that van, Kuro hangs up his secret identity and opens a tiny noodle shop in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles.

Just because he’s hung up his secret identity doesn’t mean that he’s put away all the tools of his former trade. That turns out to be a good thing for washed-up former child star Trey Bishop, when Trey races past his closed shop in the middle of the night, chased by armed goons for no reason that Trey knows.

Except that he witnessed those goons transporting a very dead body – an act they clearly don’t want any witnesses for – whether those witnesses will be believed or not.

And this is the point where the opening starts reminding me of Sinner’s Gin. Because Trey needs protection – not just from the goons, but from his sister-the-cop, the dysfunctional rich family that he has disappointed at every turn, and his own demons.

In protecting Trey, Kuro discovers that he’s never lost the taste for the adrenaline rush of his old job – and hasn’t lost many of his skills either. He’ll need to be back on his A game to protect Trey from whoever is out to get him – because that dead guy was not the figment of Trey’s formerly drug-addled mind as the police in general and his sister in particular want to believe it was.

Someone is out to get Trey, and Kuro is the only thing standing in their way. If he’ll stick. Something that neither Trey nor Kuro have much practice in. But the goon squad is playing for keeps – and it turns out, so is Kuro. And surprising everyone who knows him, so is Trey.

If Kuro can keep both of them alive long enough to figure it all out.

Escape Rating A-: It’s not just that the relationship between Kuro and Trey reminds me more than a bit of the relationship between Miki St. John and Kane Morgan in Sinner’s Gin – although it does. It’s also that we discover very early on that Trey is a fan of Miki’s – so this is the same world and it’s possible they might overlap at some point.

I hope so, it’s always good to see how old friends are doing – and for many, many readers, the cast of the Sinner’s series have become very good friends indeed. However, the connection is extremely loose and there’s no NEED to read the Sinner’s series before Ramen Assassin, but if you like this you’ll like that and vice versa.

But back to Ramen Assassin, which has to be one of the great titles. It’s completely apt, brings a smile to the reader’s face, intrigues one to read more to figure it out – and it’s absolutely apropos. Kuro may not have exactly been an assassin, but he was a government agent with the proverbial license to kill, and he is currently a ramen shop owner and chef.

Ramen Assassin is romantic suspense, at least it’s that more than it’s any other genre. As romantic suspense, that means there are two primary plot threads, one is the budding romantic relationship between Kuro and Trey, and the second is figuring out who is after Trey and why so that our heroes can figure out whether they have a future together – after they deal with whoever is trying to prevent them from having a future at all.

Watching Kuro and Trey hesitantly work towards a relationship is beautifully torturous. They sorta/kinda knew each other before the alley shootout. They live in the same neighborhood, Kuro lives above his shop, and Trey is a semi-regular customer. They’ve been eyeing each other for a while, but they both have cases of the “I’m not worthys”, albeit coming from entirely different perspectives.

Kuro’s former occupation did not exactly lend itself to long-term relationships, as evidenced by any spy thriller or cop series where the operative has to remain unknown and undercover. Having to lie about who you are, what you do and where you go is not exactly conducive to any relationship longer than a brief fling.

Kuro’s just inexperienced and out of practice – not that he ever had much – at relationships. Trey, however, has a metric buttload of baggage dragging behind him. He doesn’t think he’s worthy of a relationship or capable of being part of one because he hasn’t been. He was a spoiled, indulged child star who descended into booze, drugs and entirely too many self-induced near-death experiences. He’s lied, cheated and stolen to get his next fix, and his family are the people he’s lied to the most. Hence his sister-the-cop’s complete distrust of anything he says or does.

But Trey’s been clean and sober for two years now – and beginning to be fed up with continuing to pay for his mistakes. Not that there weren’t plenty of them and not that he didn’t deserve to pay and pay plenty. But there has to be a point where the hard work that he’s done in the past two years earns him at least a tiny bit of “trust but verify” instead of suspicion and derision and only suspicion and derision.

With Kuro, Trey has a clean slate. Building a relationship is hard – it’s hard for both of them. But watching them work towards it is terrific. They earn their chance at happy.

The suspense plot starts with a bang. Honestly, lots of bangs. Initially, it seems very simple – two goons are transporting a dead body and try to clean up the only witness – Trey. But that simple beginning spirals out of control in every possible direction. The goons go after Kuro directly – big mistake. More goons come after Trey. That initial dead body is somehow tied to Trey’s uber-rich daddy and his very successful business. The cops are fixed in their belief that everything must be Trey’s fault. And it kind of is, but not anything like the way they think it is.

In the end, the mess goes into (I really want to say “goos” into, because it’s a big sploogy mess), some of the shadier parts of Kuro’s past and some of the murkier places of not Trey’s past but his dad’s. And finally explodes in a direction that felt like it came a bit out of left field – at least for this reader.

I loved Ramen Assassin. I enjoyed the developing relationship between Kuro and Trey, the beginnings of Trey’s redemption with his highly dysfunctional family, and peeks into Kuro’s secret history.

I’m hungry for more. Soon, please!

Guest Post from Rhys (and Recipe from Kuro!)

Hi! I am Rhys Ford and I would like to welcome you to this stop on the Ramen Assassin Blog Tour!

I am looking forward to introducing you a new series as well as two very fun characters I enjoyed writing, Kuro Jenkins and Trey Bishop. The first book, Ramen Assassin, came to me as a nebulous idea but then really pushed into the forefront of my brain while I was beginning to write Hellion, the third book in the 415 Ink series. Unfortunately, I scared TA Moore with a very bad habit of mine called staring into space while thinking. I was contemplating the ins and outs of a series called Ramen Assassin and she took my crazed, unfocused look as the possibility of a spider of the wall behind her.

There was no spider. But what did come out of it was a murder mystery about a former government operative turned ramen chef and the recovering drug addict, former child star he saves from certain death and eventually falls in love with.

This book allowed me to combine two things I love — killing people and cooking. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. On this blog tour, I’m going to be sharing a few of my favorite dishes as well as a how to throw together ramen with what you have in your pantry and refrigerator. Please be sure to hit up every single stop on the blog tour for a different recipe at each stop as well as that blog’s giveaway!

Be sure to enter to win a twenty dollar gift certificate from Dreamspinnerpress.com! One for every stop!

And now, onto the food…

Oyakodon

Ingredients

1⁄4 cup onions, peeled and sliced julienne
1  boneless chicken thigh cut into bite-size strips
1⁄8 cup kamaboko (fish cake) cut into strips (optional)
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons shoyu (soy sauce)
2 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons dashi, you can use scratch or instant. In a bind, chicken stock will work.
2 Eggs

Garnish
1 pinch sliced green onions
1 dash furikake optional / nori flakes will do

 Instructions

Break 2 eggs into a bowl, and lightly beat the eggs, make sure that the whites and the yolk are not completely incorporated. It should look partially separated.

Combine the onions, chicken, kamaboko, mirin, soy sauce, sake, and dashi in a 6 inch non stick pan and place over high heat. When the liquid comes to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 3 minutes, until the chicken cooks through. Move the pan around as it cooks.

While the broth is still lightly simmering, pour three-fourths of the egg mixture over the chicken, onions, and broth.

Leave the pan still and do not mix for about 1 minute.

Add the remaining one-fourth egg over the ingredients in the pan. Cover the skillet and cook for 30 seconds more.

Turn off the heat, and let the oyakodon rest, covered, for 1 minute.

While the oyakodon is resting, portion the rice into a bowl. Gently slide the Oyako into the bowl and garnish. Serve immediately.

About the Author

Rhys Ford is an award-winning author with several long-running LGBT+ mystery, thriller, paranormal, and urban fantasy series and is a two-time LAMBDA finalist with her Murder and Mayhem novels. She is also a 2017 Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Florida Authors and Publishers President’s Book Awards for her novels Ink and Shadows and Hanging the Stars. She is published by Dreamspinner Press and DSP Publications.

She’s also quite skeptical about bios without a dash of something personal and really, who doesn’t mention their cats, dog and cars in a bio? She shares the house with Harley, a grey tuxedo with a flower on her face, Badger, a disgruntled alley cat who isn’t sure living inside is a step up the social ladder as well as a ginger cairn terrorist named Gus. Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep a 1979 Pontiac Firebird and enjoys murdering make-believe people.

Rhys can be found at the following locations:

Blog: www.rhysford.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/rhys.ford.author
Twitter: @Rhys_Ford
On Your Alexa device on the Alexa Skills at: https://www.amazon.com/Witlingo-Rhys-Ford-Casting/dp/B07N7MJ7C8/

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Rhys is giving away a $20 Dreamspinner Press Gift Certificate at every stop on this tour. Fill out the Rafflecopter to enter here!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow the rest of the blog tour here:

Review: Jacked Cat Jive by Rhys Ford

Review: Jacked Cat Jive by Rhys FordJacked Cat Jive (Kai Gracen #3) by Rhys Ford
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: M/M romance, urban fantasy
Series: Kai Gracen #3
Pages: 352
Published by Dreamspinner Press on March 5, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Stalker Kai Gracen knew his human upbringing would eventually clash with his elfin heritage, but not so soon. Between Ryder, a pain-in-his-neck Sidhe Lord coaxing him to join San Diego’s Southern Rise Court, and picking up bounties for SoCalGov, he has more than enough to deal with. With his loyalties divided between the humans who raised him and the Sidhe Lord he’s befriended and sworn to protect, Kai finds himself standing at a crossroads.

When a friend begs Kai to rescue a small group of elfin refugees fleeing the Dusk Court, he’s pulled into a dangerous mission with Ryder through San Diego’s understreets and the wilderness beyond. Things go from bad to downright treacherous when Kerrick, Ryder’s cousin, insists on joining them, staking a claim on Southern Rise and Kai.

Burdened by his painful past, Kai must stand with Ryder against Kerrick while facing down the very Court he fears and loathes. Dying while on a run is expected for a Stalker, but Kai wonders if embracing his elfin blood also means losing his heart, soul, and humanity along the way.

My Review:

All the cats are jacked in one way or another on Kai Gracen’s latest stalker run.

That probably made no sense unless you’ve read the previous books in this terrific series. Start with Black Dog Blues and then dance on over to Mad Lizard Mambo. If you like gritty urban fantasy you’ll be glad you did.

I’ve also just made a bunch of puns based on the titles. They are all music-based in one way or another, from Blues to Mambo to Jive – another name for jazz. Cat is also part of the story, as the elfin, are often referred to as cats – usually in Kai’s case, cat-bastard.

Because he is. Both the sidhe and the unsidhe have some feline characteristics, and Kai is literally a bastard. As a combination of sidhe, unsidhe and who knows what else, mixed in a somewhat magical, semi-scientific blender, he’s a chimera – he fits in nowhere.

That part-magic, semi-scientific bit is also a metaphor for this post-apocalyptic version of our own world. The apocalypse is in the not too distant past, and it’s very specific. Suddenly the “underhill” of fairy stories, of the sidhe and unsidhe of Irish mythology, crashed up into the everyday world of humans – and changed everything for all sides.

The blend is the world that Kai lives in. It’s not a world where magic has always existed, but once the event happened, humans discovered that they had magic. The sidhe and the unsidhe, those perennial antagonistic elven courts, found themselves forced to deal with a world that includes humans.

Everyone thinks they’re the apex predators. That battle is still being fought. There are plenty on all sides who think that if they just kill enough of the others that things can go back to the “good old days”.

Those good old days were never very good for Kai. Not only is he a mix of sidhe and unsidhe, but he was raised human, so he has a foot in all camps but a place of his own in none.

Not that Ryder, the Lord of the Southern Rise Court of the sidhe based in San Diego, doesn’t want to make a place for Kai in his court. And not that he doesn’t keep trying.

But then Ryder is the one sidhe that we’ve met who has figured out that there is no going back, that the only way for his people to thrive is to learn to deal with the world as it is and not as they wish it would be – or that they pretend that it ever was.

This adventure begins when all of those worlds and wishes collide with their usual explosiveness.

Ryder has decreed that his court will accept all elven, sidhe and unsidhe alike. His grandmother has sent one of his more ruthless and less trustworthy cousins to attempt to wrest control of the court from Ryder by any means necessary, so that it can go back to her traditional, repressive ways.

Kai needs Ryder to come with him on a Stalker run out into the great wide desert spaces between the cities and the courts, in order to rescue a mixed group of sidhe and unsidhe who are trying to make the dangerous border crossing.

Everyone, Kai, Ryder, the reader and everyone aboard this crazy train all know that the run is going to go pear-shaped. The only question is how many ways and in which directions.

And it’s a wildly awesome ride every step of the way.

Escape Rating A-: I’ve loved Kai from the very beginning, all the way back to the original publication of Black Dog Blues in 2013. My only serious complaint about his series is that its too long between books. And I’m betting that’s a complaint that most authors would love to hear!

Kai Gracen’s world is post-apocalyptic urban fantasy, which sounds a bit like a contradiction in terms. Post-apocalypse is usually SF, while urban fantasy is obviously fantasy. But this world is our world if magic didn’t so much develop naturally as crash land into it, hence the apocalypse.

While I haven’t read anything else quite like this, the DFZ of Rachel Aaron’s Heartstrikers series as well as the Atlantis-influenced world of K. Edwards’ Tarot Sequence both have a similar feel. So if you liked Nice Dragons Finish Last and/or The Last Sun you’ll probably like Kai Gracen and vice-versa.

Kai makes an interesting hero (sometimes anti-hero) because he has a foot in all of the various camps but a true place in none. Just as his name implies, he is “neither fish nor fowl nor good read meat”, but some of each and comfortable with none. He has an equally jaundiced view of all of the contenders as groups, while still loving, liking or detesting individuals within them all.

And he’s all snark all the time, which makes him a whole lot of fun to follow!

The world of this series is getting built layer by layer. The deeper we get involved with Kai, the more bits of the world around him are unfolded. And so far, it’s been fascinating all the way down.

Many of Kai’s stories are also road stories, and Jacked Cat Jive is no exception. Kai is a Stalker, his job is to go out into the wild places and hunt down the monsters that plague everyone. But this particular run is supposed to be a rescue – and it kind of is.

At the same time, it’s an opportunity for Kai to temporarily flee some of his own demons, while bringing one of Ryder’s along for the ride. Kai knows, and we know, that there’s going to be a betrayal somewhere along the way. That Ryder spends the trip hoping it will be otherwise does not make it so.

While I expected the betrayal, and while Ryder’s cousin Kerrick was a nasty piece of work from the second he stepped on the page, his constant reiteration of what he was going to do to/with Kai once he became Lord of the Court was not merely nasty but grating in its repetition.

Kerrick is looking for a slave, just one of the many reasons why he should never be Lord of the Court and why he needs to be sent packing at the first opportunity. The idea of forcing Kai is clearly part of his kink, particularly as Kai is still so messed up emotionally that he can’t even let himself give in to what he feels for Ryder – at least not yet.

Kai has taken a lot of damage and still needs a lot of healing. Watching that happen is one of the fascinating parts of his journey, and I can’t wait to see where the music takes him next!

If you want to read more about Kai and Ryder’s (mis)adventures there’s a blog tour for this book right now that includes all the pieces of a short story starring these fascinating characters along with a giveaway. I’m not part of the tour but I’m always happy to give this series more buzz!

Review: Tutus and Tinsel by Rhys Ford

Review: Tutus and Tinsel by Rhys FordTutus and Tinsel (Half Moon Bay, #2.5) by Rhys Ford
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: holiday fiction, holiday romance, M/M romance
Series: Half Moon Bay #2.5
Pages: 95
Published by Dreamspinner Press on December 21, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

Zig Reid-Harris has everything an eleven-year-old girl could ever want: a great home, two fantastic fathers named Deacon Reid and Lang Harris, and all the books she could possible read.

When a school assignment about holiday traditions unexpectedly broadsides her, she discovers burying the past isn’t as easy as it looks, and the stark reality of her life before her adoption sinks in. Ashamed of the bleakness and poverty she came from, Zig struggles with the assignment until an epiphany strikes the whole family—it’s time to start their own traditions.

Zig and her fathers plunge into the insanity of holiday joy, exploring everything the season has to offer and learning how precious family truly is along the way.

My Review:

Tutus and Tinsel is a sweet little “slice of life” story featuring characters that readers of the Half Moon Bay series have come to know and love.

Which means that if you haven’t read at least the first book in the series, Fish Stick Fridays, you won’t really know enough about these people to care about how far they’ve come and how heartwarming this short story is. As the series is marvelous, I highly recommend reading both Fish Stick Fridays and Hanging the Stars before diving into the sparkly pile of tinsel that is Tutus and Tinsel.

But if you are familiar with the characters and the setting, this story has a lot to say under its fluffy exterior about the spirit of the holidays.

And even though the holiday they are celebrating is Christmas, the story doesn’t go into the religious aspect of the holiday – or any of the December holidays. Instead, this is a story about family and family traditions.

It’s also about honoring what you came from while stepping forward to meet your future.

Deacon, Lane and Zig Reid-Harris are a combination of family-of-choice, family-of-blood, and family-of-love, all rolled into one great big sparkly and spiky ball. Deacon and Zig were originally uncle and niece. Deacon got custody of Zig after her mother died of her addictions. Deacon vowed to give Zig a better and more secure life, knowing just where and what she was coming from. His sister, after all, took after their mother entirely too much, so Deacon’s childhood wasn’t much different from Zig’s, without the timely rescue.

When Deacon and Lane got married (that’s part of the story of the series, they adopted Zig. So they are all family now.

But it’s a family that doesn’t have much in the way of family traditions, at least not for the holidays. Fish sticks and macaroni and cheese on Fridays IS a family tradition – but an all-year-round tradition.

So Zig gets thrown for a loop when her teacher assigns the class to do a presentation on the holiday traditions of their families. The families in Half Moon Bay are not wealthy, but are, well, solid compared to Deacon and Zig’s birth family. And there are lot more kids with two parents or two parents plus stepparents or other combinations of love and care than either Deacon or Zig ever experienced.

Lane’s parents may have been shitty, but his grandmother provided love and stability for Lane and his brother West for as long as she lived, giving him more family traditions than Deacon or Zig ever had a chance at.

After Zig’s freak-out about the assignment, she and her two dads come up with an excellent plan. They decide to try out all sorts of holiday traditions to see what works for them – and what occasionally blows up in their faces.

Zig makes her presentation about the journey, from where she started to where they are now, warts and all.

And it’s awesome.

Escape Rating A-: This is short, and that’s right for this little gem. There isn’t really much of a plot, more of a checking in to see how they are now and a whole lot about the meanings of the holidays, and families, and traditions. And what binds people into families, and places, and love.

In addition to telling the story of the Reid-Harris family’s attempts to create, remember and discover family traditions, it will make most readers recall whatever traditions their families have or had over whatever holidays they celebrate at this time of year.

Some of those memories will be bitter, some will be sweet, and some will be distant. But thinking about and celebrating those we love, even those we’ve loved and lost, is also part of this holiday season.

In closing, I’d like to wish you and yours a Happy Holiday Season, whichever holiday or holidays you celebrate this time of year.

Review: Sin and Tonic by Rhys Ford

Review: Sin and Tonic by Rhys FordSin and Tonic (Sinners, #6) by Rhys Ford
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: M/M romance, romantic suspense
Series: Sinners #6
Pages: 270
Published by Dreamspinner Press on May 15, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

Miki St. John believed happy endings only existed in fairy tales until his life took a few unexpected turns… and now he’s found his own.

His best friend, Damien, is back from the dead, and their new band, Crossroads Gin, is soaring up the charts. Miki’s got a solid, loving partner named Kane Morgan—an Inspector with SFPD whose enormous Irish family has embraced him as one of their own—and his dog, Dude, at his side.

It’s a pity someone’s trying to kill him.

Old loyalties and even older grudges emerge from Chinatown’s murky, mysterious past, and Miki struggles to deal with his dead mother’s abandonment, her secrets, and her brutal murder while he’s hunted by an enigmatic killer who may have ties to her.

The case lands in Kane’s lap, and he and Miki are caught in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse. When Miki is forced to face his personal demons and the horrors of his childhood, only one thing is certain: the rock star and his cop are determined to fight for their future and survive the evils lurking in Miki’s past.

My Review:

If you are a fan of this series, this finale is going to seriously cut you up emotionally. And if you’re not a fan, or at least not yet, I suggest starting with the first book, Sinner’s Gin. Be prepared for one hell of a ride.

This is also a giant hint that Sin and Tonic is not the place to start reading the Sinners series. This is where it ends, and the emotional resonance of that ending will be completely lost if you start here. This one packs a hell of an emotional wallop, along with the solutions to all the mysteries that stand at the heart of Miki St. John, but only if you go back to where it all began in Sinner’s Gin.

You might need one – or more – of the drinks that all the titles are based on before you finish.

In the end, this entire series is the story of one man learning over and over again to become strong in all of his many, many broken places. And that in order for that to happen, he needs to let people (and a dog named Dude) into his life and his heart.

In this series finale, Miki thinks he has everything he needs to step into his future, when his past blasts into his life and tries to end it, once and for all. And nearly succeeds, Again. But with the help of his lover, his new-found family and finally his old-found family, Miki is the one left standing.

After one hell of a lot of tragedy, there’s finally triumph. And a happy ending.

Escape Rating B+: As much as loved Sin and Tonic, and in fact the entire Sinners series, I also have to admit that the first 2/3 of this book wasn’t as absorbing as some of the other books in the series, and I think that has to do with its length and what it took to make it as long as it was.

And it feels long. I have an eARC in my kindle app, and at 5156 kindle locations, this book is considerably longer than the 270 pages that Goodreads and Amazon claim that it is. I’d estimate that it is closer to 400 pages if not more. And as much as I hate to admit this, too much of those extra 130 or so pages is sex. While I enjoy a good sex scene as much as the next romance reader, for me at least there is a limit to how much of other people’s sex lives I find interesting. I was completely invested in solving the riddle of Miki’s origins and all of the truly awful things that have happened to him, and the sheer volume of sex scenes got in my way.

It’s not that each individual scene isn’t well written, because they are. But there were so many that they got in the way of the story. At least for me. Your mileage, and certainly Miki and Kane’s mileage, definitely may vary.

However, and in this case it’s a great big however, once past that ⅔ mark, the story kicks into high gear with a series of gut-wrenching revelations and a hail of bullets. More than one hail.

From the point where Miki finally learns the truth about his own origin story until the end, the story races in high gear from one crisis to the next, and the hits just keep on coming until the hitter is finally taken out.

That last third leaves the reader reeling, as all the secrets that have been powering this book, and in fact the entire series, are revealed and shot away, one after another. And that ending is glorious.

There is a tour for this book, and even though I’m not part of the tour, I loved this series so much that I can’t resist linking to it. I really want to share the love for this awesome series. So if you want to learn more about the book and the series, check out the tour. Rhys Ford’s site has all the details.