Title: Whiskey and Wry (Sinners #2)
Author: Rhys Ford
Cover Art: Reece Notley
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Amazon: Buy Link Whiskey and Wry (Sinners, No. 2)
Length: Novel/254 PDF pages/88,768 words
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance/Suspense
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
A review by LadyM
Review summary: Once again, the protagonists and, frankly, creepy villain made me overlook the book’s flaws. And – another plus – Miki and Kane are back!
Blurb: He was dead. And it was murder most foul. If erasing a man’s existence could even be called murder.
When 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.
He found me on a staircase of steel,
Nowhere near Heaven, a Devil making a deal.
Come on down, son, my Satan said with a grin,
Come with me and we’ll make Sinner’s Gin.
At the end of the previous book (Sinner’s Gin – reviewed here), it was revealed that Miki’s band mate, Damien Mitchell, wasn’t dead, but rather locked in a sanatorium where people try to convince him he is someone else. At the beginning of Whiskey and Wry, the fire starts in said sanatorium and while he’s trying to escape it, someone kills Damien’s handler and attempts to murder him as well. Fast forward a few months. In San Francisco, Irish pub owner Sionn Murphy, a former bodyguard, is recovering from a wound he got on the job. He’s rather directionless and avoiding his family. While hanging around the pub which once belonged to his grandmother, he’s attracted to a mysterious street musician and allows him to perform in front of his establishment. And, thus the story of Damien and Sionn begins.
I have to be frank here, because that’s the point of reviews. Rhys Ford is one of the authors who has me wrapped around their little finger. Meaning, I’m not blind to the flaws of her stories, but I enjoy them nonetheless. So, let’s get the flaws out of the way. The entire background of Damien’s false death is shaky at best. I didn’t get how it was done or why it was done. If all the villain wanted was the money, it would have been easy to kill Damien when he was vulnerable. I couldn’t fathom why his life was saved in the first place and what made the man change his mind afterwards. Indeed, it seemed to me that the villain’s only role in the story was to hire Parker, the sociopathic killer, who was truly chilling and brought a heightened suspense to the table.
Additionally, Sionn lacked the background necessary for me to connect with him. We have a sketch of it (in his mentioned bodyguard career and life with his grandmother), but once Damien enters his life, he seems to be existing only to be his boyfriend. He is good to Damien and protective of him, but I wanted more.
Damien worked for me. Uncertain of his memories, he clings to one that stands clear in his memory – his friendship with Miki. The way they have met was just so Miki that had me grinning. I have to admit: their reunion easily overshadowed any other scene in the book. Like Miki, Damien has his own baggage – an abusive father and alcoholic, neglecting mother. Miki appears to be as much his salvation as he was Miki’s. And there is music, of course, which is essential to who they both are. It’s no wonder Sionn is insecure and jealous in the beginning. Luckily, Kane is there to reassure him and give him advice. But, Sionn was already doing the right thing by being there for Damien and listening to him.
The other characters from the first novel are back as well – Kane’s partner Sanchez and member’s of his family. I know some readers didn’t like his family, which seems to be too perfect to be true. They were downplayed in this book. Instead, Donal, Kane’s father and head of the family, got his spotlight. I liked him a lot. He is strong, compassionate presence – just what the two damaged young men need.
The pacing of the story was better than in the first novel. Some readers might have a problem with all the gore though it didn’t bother me. When Sionn’s friend Rafe was introduced, I thought that the next book would be about him, especially since he used to be a musician. But, Ms. Ford throws us a curveball (again) at the end of the story – the next installment will concern Kane’s supposedly straight brother Connor and another character. How they will connect to the rebuilding of Sinner’s Gin? Well, we’ll just have to wait for the next installment.
In the end, in spite of all the flaws, I liked the book – it was an easy read and Damien and Sionn were likable, though not as charming as Miki and Kane. While the author successfully juggled four characters, I want to see how she will deal with six, because there are still issues that have to be addressed (for example, Miki still refuses therapy although Damien knows he needed it even before the accident and the events from the first book). I tried to rate the book as objectively as I could (in spite of little finger wrapping thing). I’m sure the fans of Ms. Ford will enjoy it and wait impatiently for the next installment – Tequila Mockingbird.