A MelanieM Review: Absinthe of Malice (Sinners #5) by Rhys Ford

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Absinthe of MaliceThose five words send a chill down Miki St. John’s spine, especially when they’re spoken with a nearly religious fervor by his brother-in-all-but-blood, Damien Mitchell. However, those words were nothing compared to what Damien says next.

And we’re going on tour.

When Crossroads Gin hits the road, Damien hopes it will draw them closer together. There’s something magical about being on tour, especially when traveling in a van with no roadies, managers, or lovers to act as a buffer. The band is already close, but Damien knows they can be more—brothers of sorts, bound not only by familial ties but by their intense love for music.

As they travel from gig to gig, the band is haunted by past mistakes and personal demons, but they forge on. For Miki, Damie, Forest, and Rafe, the stage is where they all truly come alive, and the music they play is as important to them as the air they breathe.

But those demons and troubles won’t leave them alone, and with every mile under their belts, the band faces its greatest challenge—overcoming their deepest flaws and not killing one another along the way.

Upon discovering Rhys Ford, this author quickly became a favorite of mine for her rapid flowing narrative, snappy snark-filled dialog and haunted characters with pain-filled pasts guaranteed to come back and kick them in the belly twice over. No series of Ford’s fits that bill better than the Sinners series.  Absinthe of Malice marks a return to the series and does so with a great story, a cast filled with the characters from all the other books and a mystery to boot.

In each of the previous stories, the remaining two members of a popular but defunct band found each other and started to reassemble a new band. Here they try to see if they still have what it takes to overcome their personal demons on the worst place possible…the road from gig to gig.   Its a high stress, lonely place that  takes them away from their newly found lovers and newly established homes.  Its long hours filled with no sleep, bad food, and  exposure to drugs, bad sound systems and more. And we see it from each person’s point of view.

For some readers this might be disconcerting, but dealing with four different relationships, each with its own specific issues, and each band member with their own internal demons threatening to rise up and demolish the newly formed band…this revolving pov becomes necessary and illuminating.  It gives the reader a whole picture instead of fragments and it works.

Another integral part of the Sinners (and other Rhys Ford series) is the linked mysteries that unfold.  That starts happening here and its every bit terrifying as we have come to expect from this author.  I’ll say nothing more but your mind will probably start taking it further and that makes it both more scary and cranks up anticipation for the next book to higher level all together.

My favorite Irish clan is back, the Morgans et all.  How I love them.  So you have Miki and Kane (Sinner’s Gin #1) , Damie and Sionn (Whiskey and Wry #2) , Forest and Conner (Tequila Mockingbird #3), Rafe and Quinn (Sloe Ride #4) and all the people who love and support them in one book.  Plus mysteries.  And music.  Yes,  I loved it.  And highly recommend it.  It sings and rocks and its sexy and full of heart.

What more do you want?

But please read them in order.  Why take the kick ass out of a kick ass series?

Cover Artist: Reese Notley does a great job with Miki on the cover.  The color starts a new branding for the second half of this series.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published June 22nd 2016 by Dreamspinner Press, LLC
Original TitleAbsinthe of Malice
ISBN 1634773268 (ISBN13: 9781634773263)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Series: Sinners:

Sinner Series:

A MelanieM Review: Tequila Mockingbird (Sinners #3) by Rhys Ford

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Tequila Mockingbird coverLieutenant Connor Morgan of SFPD’s SWAT division wasn’t looking for love. Especially not in a man. His life plan didn’t include one Forest Ackerman, a brown-eyed, blond drummer who’s as sexy as he is trouble. His family depends on him to be like his father, a solid pillar of strength who’ll one day lead the Morgan clan.

No, Connor has everything worked out—a career in law enforcement, a nice house, and a family. Instead, he finds a murdered man while on a drug raid and loses his heart comforting the man’s adopted son. It wasn’t like he’d never thought about men — it’s just loving one doesn’t fit into his plans.

Forest Ackerman certainly doesn’t need to be lusting after a straight cop, even if Connor Morgan is everywhere he looks, especially after Frank’s death. He’s just talked himself out of lusting for the brawny cop when his coffee shop becomes a war zone and Connor Morgan steps in to save him.

Whoever killed his father seems intent on Forest joining him in the afterlife. As the killer moves closer to achieving his goal, Forest tangles with Connor Morgan and is left wondering what he’ll lose first—his life or his heart.

Rhys Ford teased her readers with a pivotal scene from Tequila Mockingbird towards the end of Whiskey and Wry.  The scene was apparently an old one at the Morgan house, one that occurred multiple times over the years. Donal waits in the library for one of his children to tell him what’s been tearing at them emotionally so they can go over it together to solve the problem.  Only this time, the child is an adult Connor, the eldest who has followed in his father’s  footsteps who has an emotional bombshell for his Da.  He, Connor, the straight one, is in love with the gay victim of his latest case and he doesn’t know what to do.

Having that little emotional explosion (and Donal’s heartfelt reaction to it, how I love that character) firmly in our heads, the reader is ready for Tequila Mockingbird to start.  Of course, it does with a blast! From there the narrative roars to life with the ferocity of those magnificent Detroit muscle cars, and often with  as much subtlety.

I’m ok with all of that.  Because the engine driving this story is Connor Morgan.  He’s such a impressive figure, not quite as elemental, “henge-like” as Donal, but close. In Tequila Mockingbird, Connor retains all those qualities, yet Ford lets the fractures start to show that imbue him with the vulnerability we need to connect with him.  Those fractures come with his meeting with Forest Ackerman,  son of the victim of his case. And we see that scene again, from Connor’s perspective, this time with all the facts of the case and how he met Forest.

Normally, I have a hard time with “instant love”.  Very few authors out there have been able to make me  believe in their romances that include this feature.  Some have, true.  This is one of them.  And again, its comes back to Connor Morgan.  That character is so solid (as is my belief in him) that if he says he’s in love, ok, got it.  He’s in love.  With Forest Ackerman, that’s such a wounded soul that having found a safe haven for his heart (and body) in Connor, that case is made as well, albeit a little more cynically.  Plus there’s Brigid who’s finally found a son in law who needs her. How I love Brigid too.

I thought the murder/mystery was a tad on the weaker side this time.  For me, it didn’t have the strong power of the motives that the others did or the depth of the previous villains.  It also doesn’t help that when you compare Forest to Miki and Damien, he suffers by comparison. He’s just a little too sweet.

Still, the heart of this story is Connor, finding himself, moving past what he conceived his role to be in the family,  accepting his homosexuality and his love for Forest. Connor drives this story all the way to the end.  His family, that incredible, can’t begin to get enough of them Morgans, they are the frame work, and the love of Forest  and the man himself, well, that’s the fuel.  Put it all, together and it adds up to to one wild ride of a story, taken at high speed, and one to be savored once its over.

Plus there is some very hot, hot, hot, first time gay sex scenes to burn up the pages.

But now three of the four band spots are filled. One to go.  I hate coming to the end of a series I love.  Next up, the series finale, Sloe Ride (Sinners, #4).  We have one final band member to find, one space to fill.

Until that happens, I highly recommend this story and the entire series. The Morgan men and the wounded musicians they love are highly addictive, their stories fueled by high octane music, murder and hard won love. Once you start, you can’t put these books down.  I’m only sorry that I’m seeing the end of the road for this series in sight.  The Morgan Clan and this band should keep on living, loving, solving crimes, wailing on…singing, guitar strumming, and drum pounding for as long as Rhys Ford can write.  I wonder if she takes bribes?

Cover art by Reece Notley does a good job of branding the cover, but no model could really live up to my idea of Connor.  The one standing in for Forest is fine.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 250 pages
Published June 27th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published June 26th 2014)

A MelanieM Review: The Devil’s Brew (Sinners #2.5) by Rhys Ford

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A Sinners Series Novella

The Devil's Brew CoverMiki St. John’s life has been turned upside down but it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to him.

His best friend, Damien Mitchell, is back from the dead. He has a dog named Dude. And more importantly, he and his lover, SFPD Inspector Kane Morgan, now share Miki’s converted warehouse.

For the first time ever, Miki’s living a happy and normal-ish life but when Valentine’s Day rolls around, Miki realizes he knows next to nothing about being domestic or domesticated. Nothing about the traditional lover’s holiday makes sense to him but Miki wants to give Kane a Valentine’s Day the man will never forget.

Can he pull off a day of wine and roses? Or will his screwed up childhood come back and bite Miki in the ass?

Rhys Ford’s The Devil’s Brew is a novella that slides in between Whiskey and Wry (Sinners, #2) and Tequila Mockingbird (Sinners #3), both full scale continuations of the Sinners series.  At 70 pages, it concentrates on Mika and a singular crisis in his life.  Valentine’s Day.  For other’s it’s merely stressful or happy occasion but for the near feral Miki, with his heinous foster life, its a completely unknown element.

One of the benefits of bringing Damien back to life is that it gives Rhys the ability to compare and contrast these two characters.  Brothers in everything but blood and background, Damien is a social being,  He gets holidays and loves Valentine’s Day.  He’s expects presents and gives them. Damien and Sionn are on the same extravagant page.

On the flip side,  Mike is shocked to find out that’s its a holiday.  He has to be clued in. That happens only to be told that he has to find a present for Kane, that Kane probably always has a present for him, and that its all a very big deal and he’s panicking because he’s has no idea.  He  was raised outside of any culture, other than that of abandonment and abuse.

Damien and Sionn appear briefly to set Miki into shock and motion.  Its then that Rhys Ford’s quick-fire descriptions and ability to deliver the power of a character’s emotions, however inarticulate they maybe, within a scene comes to life.  The reader feels Miki’s inability to understand what’s going on, his lack of emotional foundation for the holiday.  We also get that Mike feels especially shaky because his relationship with Kane and the Morgan family is still so new.

I have always loved that as the intensity builds, Fords uses humor the level it a bit, whether its Dude, the irrepressible terrier or in this case “a chunk of forest leftovers”…that “a blind gypsy dropped off a tribute to Herne in your living room.” That last  bit was courtesy of one of my favorite other characters in the series, the Morgan clan father, Donal Morgan, who has a special relationship with Miki.  The part he plays here will bring tears to your eyes.  At least it did to mine.  And some laughs as well.

It all ends on a hot, sexy note as all great Valentine’s Day’s should, making it one to remember.  With The Devil’s Brew, Rhys Ford made 70 pages seem full and rich, a terrific thing for a novella. I highly  recommend this story, this series and this author.

Cover art by Reece Notley is nice but has little to do with the subject of the  story other than the main character.  Still does a good job of branding the series.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press |  All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 70 pages
Published May 21st 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published May 20th 2014)

A MelanieM Review: Whiskey and Wry (Sinners #2) by Rhys Ford

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Rating:  4.5 stars out of 5

He was dead. And it was murder most foul. If erasing a man’s existence could even be called murder.

Whiskey and Wry coverWhen Damien Mitchell wakes, he finds himself without a life or a name. The Montana asylum’s doctors tell him he’s delusional and his memories are all lies: he’s really Stephen Thompson, and he’d gone over the edge, obsessing about a rock star who died in a fiery crash. His chance to escape back to his own life comes when his prison burns, but a gunman is waiting for him, determined that neither Stephen Thompson nor Damien Mitchell will escape.

With the assassin on his tail, Damien flees to the City by the Bay, but keeping a low profile is the only way he’ll survive as he searches San Francisco for his best friend, Miki St. John. Falling back on what kept him fed before he made it big, Damien sings for his supper outside Finnegan’s, an Irish pub on the pier, and he soon falls in with the owner, Sionn Murphy. Damien doesn’t need a complication like Sionn, and to make matters worse, the gunman—who doesn’t mind going through Sionn or anyone else if that’s what it takes kill Damien—shows up to finish what he started.

Rhys Ford’s Sinner’s Gin pulled me in.  It made me love the characters, setting and plot. But with Whiskey and Wry everything just got better.  In Whiskey and Wry , the author dug deeper, added layers guaranteed to shock with nasty twists and turns, introduced Sionn Murphy, a character that will connect the remaining members of Sinner’s Gin and the clan Morgan in multiple ways.  And Ford brings back to life Damien Mitchell, Miki’s “brother” and band member everyone thinks is dead.

That shocker and twist does many things to the series.  It gives Miki back the other half of his “story” and presents the band with enough members to start thinking about going forward again if they are emotionally ready to.  All these factors definitely enrich the plot as well as deepen all the characterizations.

And on top of that, Ford has the mysteries (yes, plural) that Damien, Miki, and the Morgan clan, including Sionn Murphy (a Finnegan on Brigid’s side) have to solve and solve quickly as the bodies and body parts start to mount up once more.

I love the way Rhys Ford writes.  At times it flows like quicksilver.  It flashes, and darts, moving so fluidly and quickly that your mind must race along with it, especially when it comes to the villeins and their plotting against Damien.

Sionn and Damien are the primary couple but, no one or relationship stands alone in this series.  With their wounds they can’t.  So Miki and Kane, Donal (father) and Brigid (mother), and all the various siblings make their very necessary appearances as buttresses to the soul and heart. The support they provide in the storyline along with the amazing sense of synergy gives Whiskey and Wry, and all the stories of the Sinners series that outrageous spark, angst,  deep love, and dangerous appeal that will draw a  reader back again and again.

I loved this story.  The danger, the suspense, the sex and warmth.  Everything about it except that it had to end. Now I’m on to the next in the series.  I can’t wait for more of the Morgan clan the men they come to love.

Cover artist Reece Notley again does a great job with the characters while branding the series.  Love it.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 254 pages
Published August 19th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
original titleWhiskey and Wry
ASINB00EN9487K
edition languageEnglish
seriesSinners #2

Sinners Series:

A MelanieM Review: Sinner’s Gin (Sinners #1) by Rhys Ford

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Rating:  4.5 stars out of 5

Sinner's Gin coverThere’s a dead man in Miki St. John’s vintage Pontiac GTO, and he has no idea how it got there.

After Miki survives the tragic accident that killed his best friend and the other members of their band, Sinner’s Gin, all he wants is to hide from the world in the refurbished warehouse he bought before their last tour. But when the man who sexually abused him as a boy is killed and his remains are dumped in Miki’s car, Miki fears Death isn’t done with him yet.

Kane Morgan, the SFPD inspector renting space in the art co-op next door, initially suspects Miki had a hand in the man’s murder, but Kane soon realizes Miki is as much a victim as the man splattered inside the GTO. As the murderer’s body count rises, the attraction between Miki and Kane heats up. Neither man knows if they can make a relationship work, but despite Miki’s emotional damage, Kane is determined to teach him how to love and be loved — provided, of course, Kane can catch the killer before Miki becomes the murderer’s final victim.

I  arrived late at the Rhys Ford doorstep and am now reaping the benefits of being able to binge read through Ford’s amazing series starting with Sinners. What a rich tapestry Rhys Ford weaves with this first tale in the series, Sinner’s Gin.  A  musician, wounded in body and soul, a modern Gaelic warrior, read that police officer, who sees the treasure buried beneath the scabs and scars and a murderer bringing the past back with him makes this a story I couldn’t put down from the moment I started it. And did I mention a dog so entreatingly, believably scruffy and well, terrier true that he stole my heart as well?  I wolfed down Sinner’s Gin the way Dude would a fine piece of steak, ok, any piece of steak.  With groans of appreciation and a longing for more.

Sinner’s Gin, a band destroyed by a drunken driver which left one member alive to mourn the loss of not just the band but its members he called family, and the man Damien that Miki thought of as his brother.  After a tramatic prologue, Ford drops us into what’s left of Miki St. John’s life and its depressed and ugly.  Subsisting on booze and junk food, the only thing keeping Miki from death is the thought that Damie’s hateful parents would inherent  his music rights (and other things) and use them in ways Damien opposed.  That fight keeps him alive, just barely.  Ford brings this despondent man alive, from his caustic thoughts to his life at the stripped down warehouse which we see through his eyes.    It will take several grisly events and a scruffy terrier to get Miki moving again, the foremost is a eviscerated body dumped on the GTO Damien bought him.  That brings his past back and Kane Morgan into his life.

Kane Morgan is not a solitary creation.  And how I thank Rhys Ford for this.  Kane Morgan stomps into the story and our hearts carrying with him the Clan Morgan from mother Brigid who could teach the warrior queen Boadicea a thing or two to Donal, the “da”, a father so huge and elemental that he is frequently described as Ent like (a description I not only loved but could see).  It doesn’t stop there.  Conner, the oldest brother, the twins Kiki and Ryan, Braden, Riley, Ian and Quinn.  And yes I know I got the order wrong. Six boys and two girls.  A cousin, Sionn on the Finnegan side.  You take all that Irish, all that Gaelic love, heart, and  fire and when added together it become narrative magic.  One that carries over from book to book.  Oh, and except for Quinn, who in another book or alternate universe would have turned out to be a mage, they are all law enforcement officers or firefighters or something just fierce.  They are that known entity….an Irish dynasty found in police and firefighter families everywhere.

Not one of which is slighted in the character department.  Each person is rooted deeply not only in the family and story but in the authenticity of their characters.  In their very believability they carry weight within them, a depth of feeling and soul.  But each is so different from the other, even if only slightly.  And its that slight difference that makes them feel so much like family, along with a dialog and family dynamics that anyone with siblings will  recognize.

Yes, I have to mention Dude.  I have terriers.  Dude is a terrier and continuing character.  Yes, you should never give them broccoli.  The farts are catastrophic and profound.  It speaks of research or at least close proximity with terriers who are fond of greens.

The plot and killer will make you heartsick at times and adds in an element that continues through all the stories. That of musicians with wounded, abused backgrounds that will find their way into a new band with Mike St. John and into the Morgan family Clan. Music runs through this story and series, music is in lyrics at the beginning of the chapters or in mentions of favorite bands beings ticked off by Morgan sons.  It flows everywhere.

By the end of this amazing story I was  reaching for Whiskey and Wry (Sinner’s #2), hearing the beat of the Bodhrán pounding in my ears, growing louder as well as my anticipation for what I knew was coming next.  The startling ending of Sinner’s Gin had me on edge and now I’m more than ready for my journey to continue with the Clan Morgan and the musicians they love.

I highly recommend this story and the next, and well, the entire series.  Rhys Ford has quickly become a “go to” author for me  I love it when that happens.  Need a new author to love?  A new series to read?  Grab up Sinner’s Gin by Rhys Ford and get started.  Amazing people and things await you!

Cover art by Reece Notley.  I really like the covers for this book and the series, all done by the same artist.  Great job.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 260 pages
Published December 24th 2012 by Dreamspinner press
original title Sinner’s Gin
ISBN 1623802490 (ISBN13: 9781623802493)
edition language English
series Sinners #1: