A MelanieM Review: Dirty Secret (Cole McGinnis #2) by Rhys Ford

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Dirty SecretyLoving Kim Jae-Min isn’t always easy: Jae is gun-shy about being openly homosexual. Ex-cop turned private investigator Cole McGinnis doesn’t know any other way to be. Still, he understands where Jae is coming from. Traditional Korean men aren’t gay—at least not usually where people can see them.

But Cole can’t spend too much time unraveling his boyfriend’s issues. He has a job to do. When a singer named Scarlet asks him to help find Park Dae-Hoon, a gay Korean man who disappeared nearly two decades ago, Cole finds himself submerged in the tangled world of rich Korean families, where obligation and politics mean sacrificing happiness to preserve corporate empires. Soon the bodies start piling up without rhyme or reason. With every step Cole takes toward locating Park Dae-Hoon, another person meets their demise—and someone Cole loves could be next on the murderer’s list.

Rhys Ford’s Dirty Secret takes all the relationships (family, romantic, partners) that we learned about in the first story Dirty Kiss, complicates them even further.  Some by deteriorating what little stability they had attained,  some by dredging up old relationships gone cold and making those feelings and grudges and passions alive once more.  Within these stories and characters, history is not a dusty educational subject or leather bound tome but the present in the cultural rigidity by which whole families of Koreans live their lives.  Its preserved in the business, marriage, every day affairs of Korean life no matter where that life may be lived.  Even to those living their lives on the edge of prescribed of Korean societal limits like Kim Jae-Min and Scarlet know exactly where they fit into the strata of lives of the Korean families around them.   And the pain that the knowledge brings to them.

Once more Rhys Ford’s ability to get beneath the surface of the bland face that most Koreans show towards non Koreans around them, Americans and otherwise and project just how all consuming that culture is and how its rigidity is strangling those that can’t conform, mostly because of their sexuality.  Most authors would have just one character carry the pain and angst represented for his culture.  That approach can’t work here.  Ford is talking about a societal cause so multiple characters are called for and multiple characters are brought in.

Here the spark that ignites an investigation, murders, and so much more old pain brought back to light is Scarlet, a beautiful Korean drag queen and a wedding.  The request?  Locate a gay man who disappeared two decades ago whose son is getting married. Simple and yet the firestorm it causes triggers further pain, old heartache and antagonisms reignited that will touch not only Cole and Jae-Min, but spread even further to touch those they love.

Ford introduces so many characters and yet keeps each one fresh, interesting, and sometimes quite chilling in their impact on each other and the storyline.  Or should I say storylines.  There is never just one going on at a time.  Cole has one investigation, the police have another, Jae-Min’s family has another drama going on and somehow, somewhere they will all intersect.  And not in a good way.

One strength of Ford’s writing is that you never double guess her choices in plot or relationship obstacle.  You may not like the way things are going within the relationship dynamics but given each character’s past history, you can certainly understand how slowly things may or may not be working out between the main characters.  Things happen at a rapid pace (just not in the relationships) in these stories.  When they slow, down, you know its not because happiness is around the corner.  Usually its bullets or knives or something else to draw blood or end a life.  This series is all about the small victories.  Making it through another day.  Hope.

In the end, that’s what Rhys Ford delivers. Hope and love.  For Cole and Jae-Min.  For a few others as well.

This is a seriously addictive series.  From the characters to the location and its settings within the constrictive culture of the Korean community in California, this is a series to binge on, to luxuriate in, one by one.  I simply can’t believe I missed them the first time around.  But I’m catching up.  If you missed them, catch up with me.  If you found them the first time, go back and enjoy them again.

I highly recommend this book and the first in the series.

Cover art by  Reece Notley.  I love the covers.  Great job with the tone and matching it to the rest in the series.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 234 pages
Published September 28th 2012 by Dreamspinner Press
original titleDirty Secret
ISBN 1613727763 (ISBN13: 9781613727768)
seriesCole McGinnis #2


A Sammy Review: Down and Dirty (Cole McGinnis #5) by Rhys Ford

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

“You are my brother’s best friend. And from what Cole’s told me about you, not someone I’d wake up to the next morning,” Ichiro murmured, scrubbing at his tired face. Peering out between his fingers, he barked a short laugh. “Fucking you would be a huge mistake, Bobby.”

Bobby’s laughter was nearly as bitter as the coffee he’d brought over for Ichiro to drink. “Well, if there’s one thing I’m good at, Sunshine, it’s making huge fucking mistakes.”

Down and Dirty coverBobby Dawson is an ex-cop with a bitter past and a slew of one-night-stands. Sure, he’s handsome, fit, and pretty damn hilarious, but if there’s one thing he’s not, it’s boyfriend material.

Jae, Cole, and most everyone who knows him all agree on that. But there’s something about Ichi, and Ichi with Bobby that make all the past screw ups seem surmountable.

It’s true. They’re the kind of couple that shouldn’t be together. Bobby has a son Ichi’s age, he sleeps around, Ichi’s too innocent… the excuses go on, but even excuses run out when love is involved

Bobby didn’t want this. He’d never wanted to feel that connection to another man. Men were… disposable. Holes and mouths who laughed and maybe kept him company but eventually wandered off like strays finding a new home.

He wasn’t supposed to want to keep them. To soothe them or wipe their tears when their worlds were shattered by violence. The world was a tough place. He’d seen enough blood and death to stare it down until it whimpered away, but he’d never wanted to keep someone else safe from its looming, dark presence.

Until now.

And it scared the shit out of him.

Down and Dirty runs concurrently with a lot of the events in Dirty Deeds, which I really appreciated, as it allows us to really see the growth of Bobby and Ichi’s relationship from the very start.

Like all other Rhys Ford books I’ve read, she has a definitive voice that is immediately recognizable and completely enjoyable. There’s a balance of humor along with a seriousness that one would think may be hard to maintain, but she does it with near flawless precision. The way she gives her characters life allows the reader to feel close to them, like they know them on a personal level, and this book was no different.

For readers of the series, we’ve gotten to know Bobby a bit along the way, and Ichi more recently. We had bits and pieces of their lives, but what I loved about this book is that it revealed a whole other layer to both characters, but particularly Bobby. I knew on a basic level that he was more than an aging man whore with a need to box and sharp wit, but that was more just my personal thought process. Rhys really gave us the window into his past in Down and Dirty, and it wasn’t at all what I expected.

On top of that, we also get to see pretty much all of our favorites, with a few exceptions. But if you’re worried that Jae and Cole are going to be forgotten in this, don’t be. They are in here plenty without taking over the story and making it their own. We even get a brief but kick-ass appearance from Claudia, some sweet words from Scarlet, and a dash of Mike that will make you want to hit your head on the desk. The story did a great job of making it Bobby and Ichi’s, but still giving us everyone we’ve come to know and love in the previous four books.

I do have a few small bones to pick. For one, that ending. WHAT WAS HIS ANSWER?! I mean, I’m hoping I know what it is. But… I need to know!. Secondly, I really wish we got to see more of Bobby with his family. We see him debating about telling his Uncle, but never really find out if he does. And I’d love to have seen more of him and his son. But can you blame me for being greedy? Of course I want more.

All around a great addition to a wonderful series.

The cover art by Reece Notley does a very nice job of connecting to the other books and making them all appear cohesive. I can definitely picture Bobby as the cover model, but I’m not so sure about Ichi. The model who is meant to depict him just seems a bit too buttoned up for me. Still, it’s a nice cover that connects to the story through small details.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press eBook & Paperback      All Romance (ARe)    Amazon     Buy it here

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Expected publication: January 2nd 2015 by Dreamspinner Press LLC
original titleDown and Dirty
edition languageEnglish
seriesCole McGinnis #5

  • Cole McGinnis Series includes:
  • Dirty Kiss (Cole McGinnis, #1)
  • Dirty Secret (Cole McGinnis, #2)
  • Dirty Laundry (Cole McGinnis, #3)
  • Dirty Sweets (Cole McGinnis, #3.5)
  • Dirty Day (Cole McGinnis, #3.6)
  • Dirty Deeds (Cole McGinnis, #4)