Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review:The Merchant of Death (Playing the Fool #2) by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The merchant of Death coverA continuation of the story started in “Two Gentlemen from Altona”, this story is even better. There’s more humor, more angst, more drama, more complexity in the connections between Henry and Mac and most importantly, more romance.

The story opens with Henry reuniting with his twin sister, Viola, a young woman who suffered brain damage in her teens when she attempted to remove a violent man from Henry’s bed, thinking he was hurting Henry. When he flung her against a wall, she struck her head and nearly died. She didn’t understand what had been happening, but Henry did. He was allowing his mother’s boyfriend to have sex with him for the money the man promised his mother. Because he failed to keep quiet and that caused Viola to investigate, Henry blames himself for her injury. Now with a reduced mental capacity and the inability to care for herself, she’s been confined to a “care home” ever since, at a cost of over $5,000 a month— a cost paid by Henry through whatever means he can find. When Mac ultimately learns a bit more of this story, his attraction to Henry and his admiration of Henry’s inner strength grow exponentially.

Viola claims that a “bad angel” has killed her good friend Mr. Crowley at the home and begs Henry to find the angel and send it away. When Henry investigates, dressed as Viola, It satisfies not only his need to have a viable disguise to get into the facility, but his own inner desire to dress as a female. He finds evidence to suggest that the director and a volunteer have been conspiring to get some patients’ wills changed to their benefit and that Mr. Crowley may have been a victim of this death benefit scam.

In the meantime, Mac has been missing Henry, wondering where he could have gone after Mac had been shot, and he sets out to find him. After all, Henry is his missing witness in the arrest of a known gangster. Mac has also been under pressure by investigators into the brutal force supposedly used when that gangster and others in the past have been arrested by Mac. In addition, there are rumors that Mac may be a drug user and he may be implicated in the recent death of a police informant. He’s happy to take sick leave and just go to find Henry. When he tracks Henry’s sister, Viola, to the care home, imagine his surprise to find that it’s Henry, not Viola, who is in residence there. And when Henry explains his reasons for being there, Mac doesn’t know whether to kiss him or kill him for getting involved in another crazy scheme.

Mac is determined to get behind the façade of Henry Page to the real man, Sebastian Hanes, within. We see glimpses every once in a while, and Henry himself is now struggling to keep Sebastian contained. He’s never put his trust in anyone other than Viola, but he senses that Ryan “Mac” McGuiness is so very different from anyone else that Mac will protect his fragile inner child and keep him safe amid the shitstorm his life has become.

From this point on, Henry gets in deeper trouble at the care home, Mac gets in deeper trouble at work, and neither is aware that there are common threads between them in the form of certain people who have been negative influences in both their lives.

I love the way the authors are taking their time with this romance and the dynamic between Henry and Mac is outstanding. At times humorous, or poignantly romantic, their dynamic is often irritating or filled with sexual tension. And when the two finally do get together, with Henry in the guise of a female, it’s over-the-top, explosively hot. The storyline and subplots are complex and so intricately woven that I’m looking forward to the conclusion of the series so that I can view the finished product as a whole. I suspect that this is going to become one of my all-time favorite series.

Of course, this book does not end on a final conclusive note, but the promise of the next installment is much clearer in this book than in the last and I liked the way the authors left this couple. I’m definitely going to be first in line for the next book.

Cover Art by L.C. Chase depicts a partially full syringe indicating either the drug addiction of Henry’s good friend, Remy, or something far more nefarious. It’s cute and fits with the cover of the previous story.

Sales Links:  available for pre-order at Riptide Publishing now     Other links to follow

Book Details:

ebook, 205 pages
Expected publication: February 2nd 2015 by Riptide Publishing
edition languageEnglish
seriesPlaying the Fool #2

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