Author ~ Rhys Ford
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 30th November 2015
Genre ~ Contemporary Mystery/Suspense M/M Romance
Deacon Reid was born bad to the bone with no intention of changing. A lifetime of law-bending and living on the edge suited him just fine—until his baby sister died and he found himself raising her little girl.
Staring down a family history of bad decisions and reaped consequences, Deacon cashes in everything he owns, purchases an auto shop in Half Moon Bay, and takes his niece, Zig, far away from the drug dens and murderous streets they grew up on. Zig deserves a better life than what he had, and Deacon is determined to give it to her.
Lang Harris is stunned when Zig, a little girl in combat boots and a purple tutu blows into his bookstore, and then he’s left speechless when her uncle, Deacon Reid walks in, hot on her heels. Lang always played it safe but Deacon tempts him to step over the line… just a little bit.
More than a little bit. And Lang is willing to be tempted.
Unfortunately, Zig isn’t the only bit of chaos dropped into Half Moon Bay. Violence and death strikes leaving Deacon scrambling to fight off a killer before he loses not only Zig but Lang too.
Rhys Ford is right up there in the pantheon of the very best, most talented, gay fiction authors writing today. Her unlimited imagination always seems to conjure up characters who are always different from what you might expect. Guys who look and act like bad guys, guys who believe they’re bad guys, often turn out to be the good guys. The bad guys are almost never who you think they are. Her mysteries are the web in which her love stories are spun, and like a web, they capture the reader’s attention, affection and loyalty from the first step into the unique world of Rhys Ford. There are few authors, in any genre, who paint such colorful, believable, empathetic characters reliably, book after book. For Ms. Ford, it’s always about love and it’s always about family – the ones we’re born into and the ones we create.
“Fish Stick Fridays” is no different. Deacon and Zig are all about family. Their story begins with a broken family, a family tragedy, leaving home to protect and nurture the remnants of their family, nearly being killed for family, and then finding redemption in the bosom of the family they create. It’s a wonderful, dangerous, exciting, moving, powerful, journey to family, fulfillment, and love.
The book opens on an unlikely pair of travelers. There’s Deacon, a bit rough around the edges, sexy as hell, and more than a bit jaded for a young man still in his prime. He’s looking down at his sleeping traveling companion, Zig, a normally-energetic eight-year-old wearing combat boots and a purple tutu. When Deacon’s baby sister died a violent death and her 8 year old daughter had to clean her mother’s remains off her body before calling 911, Deacon fought Child Protective services to get her out of foster care, and thanks to a skeptical judge, an overburdened system, and the fact that he’s her only living blood relative, Deacon succeeds.
He’s determined to make a safe life for his niece, a life filled with unconditional love. He and his sister never had that. They both bounced around “the system” for years. Nothing they owned was theirs, especially the love, protection and nurturing every child deserves. No place was ever home. Deacon owes it to the sister he couldn’t save, and the niece he’s growing to love, to provide for Zig what he and his sister both missed out on. It’s time to break the cycle and raise Zig in a real family. However, he hadn’t realized, when he took on this heavy, but welcome, burden, that it wasn’t only Zig who would be getting a family, but so would he – his first, ever. When he rescued Zig, he didn’t have a clue she’d be rescuing him, too.
They’re on their way to a sleepy, upscale Northern California town, Half Moon Bay. Deacon sold everything he owned, pooled every resource he could get his hands on, and bought an automobile repair shop from its retiring owner, sight-unseen. Deacon’s a whiz at mechanics. Neither a car nor motorcycle was ever built that he couldn’t fix. Even though he sometimes skirted the edges of the law, he never compromised his love of the machines that come to life beneath his skilled hands. He’s hoping for a new start for both Zig and himself. He doesn’t want her raised around the drugs and prostitution that were her mother’s fate, in neighborhoods no little girl should ever have to grow up in. And he needs a quiet place to learn how to be a parent. He doesn’t have any experience raising a kid, and no role models in his own upbringing. It’s something the two of them will need to learn together, and they need to do it somewhere safe, where he can raise Zig without worrying if she’ll make it home from school safely on any given day.
Of course, it’s not going to be easy. Even the drive to Half Moon Bay was fraught with violence and terror. The motel they stayed in overnight was blown up while they were in their room. The walls and drapes aflame, they barely escaped with their lives.
The violence doesn’t abate in Half Moon Bay, either. It’s as if it’s following them, an unwanted companion every step of the way. People die. The strip plaza which ends with Deacon’s repair shop is firebombed. The friends they’ve made, the colorful and lovely people they’ve come to care about, the neighbors who accepted them and supported them, are rapidly becoming the victims of the same forces that seem to be determined to kill them both.
They can’t run, they can’t hide. They have to stay, not just because of Deacon’s investment, but because of Lang Harris, the unassuming proprietor of the bookstore just down the block, the man whom Zig befriends and Deke falls in love with. As it turns out, Lang is much more than meets the eye. Apparently, he inherited a fortune from his Grandmother, owns the properties in which many of the trendy stores downtown are located, and he’s also Deke and Zig’s landlord. He owns the house they rent near the shop. Deke knows this guy is out of his league, but he can’t help himself. Lang is just so beautiful, sincere, honest and caring, that Deke is lost in his eyes – and, best of all, Zig approves.
If they can all survive long enough, their family will be whole, they’ll be safe, and they’ll never again be left to fend for themselves. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to suggest that they will. After all, this is a Rhys Ford book, and though people die, others almost die, and arson and gunfire run amok, our beautiful new family will survive. Ms. Ford never lets characters steal your heart and then tears them away from you.
Even once their small family is together and safe, they keep expanding it, embracing many of the beautifully-developed secondary characters: the two young men who work in the auto repair shop (they’re lovers), the impassioned black neighbor who owns and runs the beauty shop next door, the suspicious cop who turns into a good friend. There’s a host of potential characters to continue this series through many episodes, if Ms. Rhys decides to – and I do hope she will.
I admit I’m a fan of Ms. Ford, a big fan. I look forward to each new book and each new series. There’s a lot of angst and tears in gay fiction, but unfortunately, too much of it looks and feels manufactured or offends me with blatant attempts at manipulation. Not so in Rhys Ford’s books. Every one of her characters is totally unique and not a single one is a stereotype. Whether it’s a rock star, a cop, a con-man or an unassuming bookstore owner, every one of her characters is three-dimensional, unique and brilliantly written. They are, each and every one, absolutely authentic.
I’ve been thinking about what makes her characters more vivid, more believable than the majority of the protagonists of gay romance. I’ve been trying to figure out why they never fail to move me in very deep and often profound ways. I think I finally got it: her characters each has his or her idiosyncrasies. But their idiosyncrasies are not “color”, they are part and parcel of our common humanity, the feelings we share, the differences we celebrate. And that is always beautiful to behold.
“Fish Stick Fridays” is a brilliant combination of gay romance, action-adventure and mystery, peopled by great, believable characters who steal your heart and move your soul. How much more can anyone ask of any book, than to deliver a few hours of heart-pounding story, characters that lift your spirit, and exquisite writing to lift your heart?
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