Sinner’s Gin (Sinners #1)

Sinner's GinTitle: 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.

Sinners Series


  • Thanks for your review Lady M!

    I just finished this book and really enjoyed it. Just an overall well put together fun story.

    I too lived the notes at the beginning of each chapter. They kept me aware of the rocker aspect of Miki’s personality even though it wasn’t where he was at the moment of the story. Loved that.

    Thanks for the rec that lead to a very enjoyable read. There needs to be a warning label on the preview for the next book. Now I’m all strung out waiting for the next one to come out at some unknown time in the future!!!! :asap:

    Rhys is an evil tease! 😆

  • Okay I finished. I also really liked Kane and Miki. I loved that they developed emotional connection first as you said and they just had such greaf chemistry imo. I would grade it like you did or probably even a bit lower though. Shower scene irritated me yes, but not because it is a regular pet peeve of mine – in another book I may not blink twice when reading it. Here it felt that the author did not trust me ( I am saying me because obviously I can only speak about me as a reader and nobody else) to wait for sex, as if the strength of their emotions would not be enough to sustain my interest without sexual connection. I mean this was throwing in at the standard half through point where so many books have their first sex scenes. And in this one their first sex scene came at around 60 percent on my kindle. Trust me, I would have been able to wait for that and without that just fine.

    But that’s not even my biggest pet peeve in this book. Miki is cured in three months after the events of the story unfolded ???. I mean granted it is not said that he is – but he acts completely differently. Kane cured him? Why no mention about therapy for him with this amount of damage nobody thinks even to suggest that? I thought it was silly – escapism or not. I do not need to see therapy sessions but at least some talk about it? With the years of abuse he is ok now as long as he is with Kane? I know there is half a sentence from Edie but this just was not nearly enough for me . Of course having somebody to lean on makes any illness easier to bear but it does not make it magically disappear .

    So yeah as you can see that bothered me a lot. Surprisingly I did not find killer’s motivations to be a letdown at all – I mean it was not flashy but to me it made sense. And I did love Kane’s family.

    Ending was well disappointing to me not because it was a cliffhanger on a horrible hard to wait for way but because I dislike the plot possibility which it will bound to lead us to.

    I still cannot wait for book two though – I loved the guys that much.

    • I like your points. I agree that we could have lived without any sex in the book. After all, they will reappear in other books. And, yes, therapy for Miki would have been a good thing.

      The wait will be tough. 😥

      • Lady M, Therapy for Miki will be discussed in future books. I can tell you from entrenched experience it’s not going to be an easy thing for him to cave to. He in no way is all kisses and butterflies. I just had to end the book but there are others. *grins* Physical therapy was as far as I pushed him. There is a madness to my method. I swear. 😀

      • I have read the book where while the circumstances of abuse were different one of the guy also recovers from abuse and the other one is absolutely determined to wait till he is ready. Sex happens in the epilogue, I think several months after the story events are done and that made perfect sense to me. But yeah, these guys are good together, so I am definitely getting part two, I am just dreeeeeading what the ending may foreshadow. We shall see.

        • Miki’s already had sex. A lot of abused kids from the system usually express themselves overtly sexually as a way to garner attention. It’s a patented response. Coded in. I’m not going to get into the particulars here but it is something that Miki will be discussing in the future books with Damien.

          There’s been some question about if I will bring Miki and Kane back for a novella featuring them since the other books will not be M&K centric. I’m not unwilling to do that because Miki’s issues aren’t something to be kissed away with butterflies and a band-aid. The balance between getting him someplace healthy and writing the series… oh that’s a tightrope to walk.

          Is he happy sunshine at the end of SG? Nah, although his leg works better. *grins* We’ll see how he does at the end of the series. *crosses fingers*

          • Yes I know that Miki already had sex. Miki at the beginning of the novel also barely leaves his house and barely eats – I do not really think that Miki can be considered an expert on what he needs unfortunately even few days after Kane comes along. The point I was making is that if Kane’s resolve to wait till Miki ready would not evaporate so fast I would have liked it even more. Also while it is very encouraging that you do not consider Miki to be cured at the end of the novel and that his issued can not be kissed away, I did not see anything to support that interpretation for me on pages of the book. Miki to me acts at the end of the novel as completely different person than he was at the beginning. As I said – I am encouraged to hear your intent but if you intended for me as a reader to walk away from this book thinking that Miki has a long way to go in front of him that absolutely did not happen. I will be glad to change my interpretation after I read the next book though.


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