In the Flesh (Flesh #1)

Title: In the Flesh (Flesh #1)
Author: Ethan Stone
Publisher: DSP Publications
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: Novel (300 print pages)
Rating: 4.75 of 5 stars
A guest review by Buda

One-Sentence Review: A fantastic, non-stop ride into the world of framed-for-murder Reno Homicide Detective Cristian Flesh.

The Blurb:

Reno Detective Cristian Flesh lives his life by a strict set of personal rules, preferring one-time flings and anonymous encounters to committed relationships. His rules work for him… until his life is turned upside down when first, a former lover, a famous televangelist, is attacked, and then one of his one-night stands is murdered, making Cristian the prime suspect.

When handsome lawyer Colby Maddox takes his case, Cristian finds himself wanting to break all his rules about relationships. The instant attraction between them is undeniable. But before they can contemplate any kind of future together, they’ll have to clear Cristian’s name by finding the real murderer.

The Review:

Cristian Flesh is a man with flaws and issues, so deeply buried he manages them by living his life by a set of carefully constructed–and numbered–rules (“Rule number seventeen: Do it right, or don’t do it at all.”). He takes sex where he wants it and on his own terms–as sex only, no emotions–as rough and dirty as he can get it. His partner on the force, Alexandra “Lex” Luther, is his only close friend–and he keeps her as much at a distance as possible. But when Cris is arrested for the murder of his latest one-night stand, Lex hires a family-friend attorney to get him off.

Colby Maddox is a large man in all aspects–personality, confidence, size. He takes Flesh’s case and immediately gets our hero sprung from lockup on his own recognizance–even though Flesh’s previous representation, a public defender with a horrific stammer, tried to get Flesh to accept a plea bargain. He keeps his interactions with Flesh professional but not formal. And, of course, Flesh wants him. Colby doesn’t seem a mystery, though the story is told from Flesh’s 1st person perspective. We learn of Colby’s past, a bit about his family and his work. What we don’t see is him at work in the courtroom.

Almost a third of the book passes before Colby makes his appearance. In that time, we learn something about Flesh’s life, including his connection to the televangelist. We also see Flesh in, well, flesh action with the trick he is subsequently accused of murdering and, later, with another man. The story alternates between Flesh’s case and his budding relationship with Colby. Once the relationship begins, and Flesh accepts that it may be more than a fling, the rules of his life become a stumbling block. (Rule number three: No sleepovers.) The cast is large and varied, with interesting dynamics explored when necessary. Though the case against Flesh is resolved long before the end of the book, the mystery is not completely resolved then.

What Did Work:

Characterization is strong in this work. Each of the important characters feels genuine. Flesh’s character development is brilliantly handled. Never does Stone lose the essence of Cristian Flesh. Cristian doesn’t throw away all the rules after one hallelujah-and-fireworks orgasm. He’s still a man with major issues on a journey, taking it one small uncomfortable step at a time.

The story revolves so much around action that periods of self-reflection are few and short-lived. Flesh knows who he is and why, though we do not. We are given clues, of course, especially in his rules, each of which must certainly be a reaction to some experience in his history. Unfortunately, Rule Number Six: “I never talk about my past.”

Once the pair begin to pursue a relationship, it becomes clear Colby has issues being out in public. Flesh, who has always been out on the force, has a difficult time understanding and dealing with Colby’s reluctance to come out. To his credit, and in true Flesh fashion, he doesn’t push Colby, just makes his irritation known. This is really the only source of angst in the book and it is used wisely and well.

What Didn’t Work:

At one point, Flesh pays a visit to a man who had roughed up his friend Gabe. Although the scene fits Flesh’s personality given what we can gauge from his past, it didn’t seem realistic to me, given his position on the police force. If the man had wanted to do so, he could have used it as ammunition against Flesh and the department.

The second* time Flesh and Colby have sex, Colby doesn’t use a condom. Flesh says, “I have condoms, if you want them.” Thus follows the traditional “I’m clean” conversation. Considering Flesh’s appetite for random and anonymous sex, it seems out of character for him to willingly engage in bareback sex, especially with someone for whom he has no feelings, only desire.

*corrected comment.

Overall:

This book is amazingly good. The action was so non-stop I felt as though I’d been strapped into Colby’s 1956 Corvette and hurtled at maximum speed around a Formula 1 course. Thankfully, Ethan Stone was in total control of his characters and their story. If you’re looking for a solid story with characters who go on a journey while dealing with outside forces stacked against them, one that is short on angst and long on action, then this one is for you. I thoroughly enjoyed it and eagerly look forward to more from this very talented author.

Flesh Series


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53 comments

  • It took a few months to get from TBB to ‘read’, but I finished it last night. I loved it, and can appreciate the review all the more! Truly spot on, Buda! This book basically turned out to be what I’d expected Billionaire’s Row to be. And while that one disappointed, this one did not.

    I do, however, have one niggle in addition to the condom scene: there darn well better be a sequel!! It seemed like it was set up for it. I loved the character development in this one, and the way the mystery of the murder stuff played out. But there’s the mystery of Cristian’s past still to be revealed. I found the name Flesh odd until he explained he chose it, but I really want to know why he chose it.

    Personally, I loved the nod to Lex Luther. I rolled my eyes at first, even while grinning, until I realized Luther is her married name. I once lived next door to Kelly Kelley (her married name), so I know these names really can happen. And I could see Alexandra being the sort to start using the nickname Lex after marrying Mr. Luther, even if she’d gone by Alex or something previously.

    • Hi, Jessica. I’m so glad you enjoyed this book. It’s still one of my favorites I’ve reviewed here.

      Names are a funny thing, aren’t they? And yes, I want to know all about Cristian’s past, too. When did he start making these rules? Why “Flesh”? So many questions! You’ll be thrilled to know I just confirmed with Ethan that the sequel, Flesh & Blood, will be out some time in April. He also has a short story due out in March. I’m looking forward to both of them!

      Thanks for letting us know you enjoyed the book!

  • Nice review Buda!

    I finally pulled this book off Mt. TBR, where it had been languishing…in part b/c (like Jenre) casual promiscuity doesn’t push my buttons. What a pleasant surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope Ethan has a sequel in in works…really soon!

    Plot and character developments are sometimes a bonus in this genre, but both are front and center in this book. Well rounded and likable characters (primary & secondary). Although we don’t know much about Christian when the book opens, Ethan still manages to give him depth and personality. As we watch the relationship develop, I like how the author begins to reveal more about Christian…a slow, sexy strip tease rather than an info dump 🙂 Excellent pacing and well done all around, not what I would have expected for a new author.

    A fun read, this book was a series of nice surprises. IMO if you’ve been hesitating on this one, don’t…I highly recommend everyone read it soon as possible!

  • Hi Buda, I bought and read this based on your review, and I must say I loved it. Particularly Cris’s narrative voice, so very befitting his character. Wouldn’t have wanted to miss this! Thank you.

  • Ethan, thank you for writing such a great book. It was a pleasure to read, and is sure to be re-read several times.

  • Hey Buda-Thank you for the kind words. I am so glad you liked my novel.

    booklover6: I am currently working on a novel about werewolves. I hope to get it submitted soon.

    Tam: I hope you give it a try despite the names of the characters. As he states in the beginning, the name Cristian Flesh is not the name he was born with, but it is the one he chose. And I believe it fits him because, up until he meets Colby, he lives in the moment and in the flesh. As for Lex, that’s my nod to one of my other passions-comic books.

    Cristian actually wanted to make several comments himself, but I decided to hold him back because he has a tendency to be rude.

  • Sounds like a great book, Buda. I have to say that I was slightly put off by the blurb, but your review has convinced me. I’ve also recently read a short by this author that I enjoyed a great deal, so I think this will be going on my TBR pile very soon.

    • Thanks, Jen. I’m glad I could sway you towards the book. I’m curious, what about the blurb turned you off? Isn’t Being Taught insanely hot? As soon as I read that, I put In The Flesh at the top of my list–and Wave was kind enough to grant my wish!

      • To be honest Buda, it was because of the whole ‘only sleeps with a guy once’ thing. This seems to crop up so much in m/m romance at the moment that I’m getting a bit tired of it, especially as it’s often instantly ‘cured’ when the guy meets the other hero and sparks fly. I was glad to read in your review that this wasn’t the case so that made me think that perhaps I would like the book.

        • Ah. Yes, the blurb says Cristian prefers one offs, but he will do repeats. Without looking at the text, I can think of three guys he’s had more than once, mostly off page. Rule number 11 won’t let him hook up with the same person two nights in a row.

          I love the guy’s rules. They’re a trip.

        • Jen
          I’m reading a book where the blurb has some similarities to this one and the story is fabulous. I’m always interested in how the authors get their guys to change, and this book is really funny with great dialogue and one liners. I’m hoping to post my review tomorrow if I finish it in time.

  • Contragts on your first review Buda. It’s fab and I’m going to pick this one up. Sounds right up my alley.

  • Great review! am reading the story now and loving it. I hope Ethan Stone is writing another one! He is good!

  • Great review, thanks! My TBB list is already insanely long, but this sounds like one I’ll love; I may even have to put it near the top.

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