Title: Sinner’s Gin (Sinners #1)
Author: Rhys Ford
Cover Art: Reece Notley
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Buy Link Sinner’s Gin
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance/Suspense
Length: Novel/260 PDF pages/85,843 words
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A guest review by LadyM
Review summary:Not without problems, but lovable characters made me overlook them.
Blurb: There’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.
Sinner’s Gin, the first novel in a new four-part series by Rhys Ford, inevitably invites the comparison with Ms Ford’s Dirty series. While I adored Cole, I had trouble identifying with Jae, probably because I lack even superficial knowledge of Korean culture. On the other hand, I loved both Miki and Kane and it took very few pages before I was invested in them. Unlike the books in the Dirty series, this one wasn’t a mystery, but rather thriller/suspense. The book isn’t without flaws, but I personally enjoyed it a great deal and was able to see them only after I finished the book. A few of those include some pacing problems and obscure writing. But, first things first.
After spending years in the foster system where he was horribly abused, Meiko “Miki” St. John had found family in his band Sinner’s Gin. But, only hours after receiving prestigious music award, the members of the band were involved in a car accident and only Miki survived. Now, he is spending days in his remodeled warehouse, avoiding everyone, with only a stray dog for company. The dog – Dude – is instrumental in introducing Miki to Kane Morgan, SFPD inspector with woodworking for a hobby, who rents a shop near Miki’s place. The dog is also a thief, watchdog and anti-reporter weapon! Kane, who comes from a family of cops, is intrigued, but a murder in Miki’s garage puts a different spin on their acquaintance. The murdered man turns out to be Miki’s abuser and Miki thus becomes the primary suspect. Soon, however, it is clear that Miki is actually a target.
The most difficult part of the novel is Miki’s reliving of terrible abuse. It was easy to understand Kane’s homicidal fantasies in the face of such inhuman behavior. Miki is vulnerable, but not incapacitated by the experience. In fact, considering everything, his strength is amazing. But, the abuse left real scars, especially on his self-worth and interaction with other people.
“I don’t mind being called a whore. At least it makes it sound like I had a choice.”
Thus, Kane hesitates to engage in a sexual relationship with inexperienced Miki, so they form an emotional relationship prior to falling into bed. I liked how that developed – they had a real connection without sex involved. I thought that the tolerance of Kane’s superior was a bit over-the-top, even for San Francisco, especially since at the beginning of their relationship Miki was still a murder suspect. But, I liked Kane’s partner Sanchez, Miki’s manager Edie as well as Kane’s family, even if they came across as overbearing and perfect in equal measure. I wonder if Quinn, Kane’s gay brother, would get a role in one of the future books.
It was extremely funny to read Miki’s reaction to Kane’s family, especially Kane’s mother:
“Brigid shifted closer, and Miki eyed her suspiciously. On the surface, she looked like the type of woman they’d cast as the warm-voiced mother on some drama where one of her kids caught a tragic disease. Then she spent the next couple of hours tracking through the jungles, looking for the one plant in the world that could cure him.
While wearing those heels. And flipping blueberry pancakes. And slinging an Uzi across her shoulder to fight off a horde of pirates.”
While the strength of the novel undoubtedly lies in the characters, it was the case as well as some of the writing that bothered me upon reflection. Somehow, after the steady buildup through the book, the revelation of the villain and his motivation was a bit of a letdown. Also, some of his actions (for example, arson directed at Sanchez) didn’t seem to match his previous behavior and was left unexplained. In terms of writing, there were some problems with the pacing. In the middle of the novel, the case disappeared and the story concentrated entirely on Miki and Kane. The time jumps within the story were far from smooth. The last one (three months) was especially jarring, considering that the last paragraph before the jump promised some big, dramatic event and what happened was… nothing. It was also hard to pinpoint exactly what happened and when during the sex scenes. I know some reviewers had a problem with an especially long masturbation scene and I have to agree that it was unnecessary. And, finally, there was a cliffhanger at the end – I can’t wait to see how that will be explained and remain believable.
All in all, it seemed to me that Sinner’s Gin would have benefited from another round of edits before its release. This way, I believe your enjoyment in the novel will depend on how much you liked the main protagonists. As I said, I liked them a lot, so have that in mind when you consider my rating. Hopefully, they will continue to grow throughout the series.