Third Son, Mickie B. Ashling
Rating: 4 Stars
Publisher: NineStar Press
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Murder/Mystery, Contemporary Hong Kong Setting, Romance, Interracial MCs, Family Drama
Length: 280 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
American Niall Monroe returns to Hong Kong—a city he calls home—after being away for eight years. He hopes to finally find happiness with Peter Wei, his closeted lover of fourteen years, but is disappointed to find Peter has been put in an untenable position. He must marry and produce the long-awaited grandchild or get cut off by his millionaire father.
Gerard Sun, a talented artist, bursts back into Niall’s life after a one-night stand in Las Vegas. Circumstances force the men to deal with their attraction, especially when Niall’s firm considers Gerard to help promote tourism in the People’s Republic of China.
James, Peter’s younger brother, has been Niall’s best friend since they were schoolmates. He encourages Niall to ditch his brother and move on. He encourages Niall to ditch his brother until he finds out Niall is thinking of dating Gerard Sun, a talented artist.
Coming home seemed like a great idea until it wasn’t. Niall finds himself a stranger in a familiar landscape, slammed on multiple fronts by broken promises, jealousy, intrigue, unimaginable deceit, and undercurrents of evil. As his dreams quickly turn into nightmares, Niall reaches out to new allies for support.
Niall Monroe is in advertising and officially he’s back in Hong Kong to meet with a minister from the People’s Republic of China for a campaign to promote tourism. On a personal level, he’s back to the place he spent most of his youth, and to meet up with his former lover, Peter Wei. Niall lived in Hong Kong for fourteen years but went back to the USA for eight to attend college and build a career. And to give Peter some space. Peter comes from a moneyed and powerful Hong Kong banking family and he is well and truly closeted. Peter is thirty five now and the number one son and Kenneth Wei expects a marriage and grandchildren to carry on the dynasty. No more playing around. People know Peter is gay, it’s kept under some wraps, his father has turned a blind eye, but not anymore. Peter also sleeps around. A lot. He has never been faithful to Niall and he cannot tell him what he wants to hear – that he loves him. He certainly won’t walk away from his family’s money. There is a rocky relationship between Peter and Niall but Niall is in love and he is also in big, big denial about Peter. James, Peter’s younger brother and Niall’s best friend, thinks Niall should have left Peter ages ago.
On one occasion when Niall was working in Las Vegas, he met an artist while on the job that he slept with. He made sure Gerard knew it was a one off and he had a boyfriend back in Hong Kong. Just when Niall is back again, who should turn up in Pandora, Peter’s nightclub, but Gerard Sun. Peter hits on the tattooed and hot Gerard but he only has eyes for Niall. Gerard has not forgotten the sex and the companionship he had with Niall in Vegas, no matter how brief, and he’d like to rekindle that and see where it goes. Niall is resistant at first, he loves Peter, but when Minister Guo has certain demands about the poster for the PRC tourism campaign, Gerard Sun is approached. Gerard also volunteers his services for free so long as he has at least a same sex couple recognisable on the poster. If it helps one gay kid in the PRC then Gerard is happy. So Niall and Gerard are thrown together professionally, which morphs into more when Peter is even more erratic than normal.
Niall loves Hong Kong, he speaks Cantonese and Mandarin fluently, and there is so much about the place that calls to him. His father was in the diplomatic corps that’s why a lot of his youth was spent there. Plus a lot of his time was spent at the Wei home with his best friend James while falling for an older Peter, who took advantage. When he went back to America Niall felt out of place. He also prefers Chinese men. Niall doesn’t like his own looks a great deal – red hair, pale skin, freckles – but dark hair and smooth skin turns him on. The culture also speaks to him on so many levels. He is love-blind when it comes to Peter initially, and I felt Peter didn’t deserve his respect or his love.
There is a murder mystery, Peter falls from the balcony of his apartment block. Initially it’s thought to be suicide, and Niall feels guilt as he finally picked up the courage to leave him. However, you know that isn’t going to be the way it pans out. Because Peter is the first son of a wealthy family and being gay isn’t an option, that is a problem. People have been blackmailing him and his brother has been helping to bail him out – another problem. It’s expected he’ll marry and have children, one more issue. Peter’s right hand man, Shun, tries to intimidate Niall after he leaves, and Peter also stalks and harasses Niall, and he argued with Niall at Niall’s office before his death. On top of this there is a connection to Gerard as well. So there are any number of possibilities about what happened to Peter Wei.
I don’t want to talk anymore about the plot because when there is a mystery involved it’s best if people read the book and the review only skims details. So I’ll just add some extras from here.
There are two arcs that dominate, the romance and the murder/mystery, and I enjoyed both. Did I have strong suspicions about who did what? Yes, I did, but it was an action packed ride with some nice sexy times as well. Once Niall developed a backbone – sorry Niall, but you were initially a pushover – and he fell for the lovely Gerard Sun, I was a happy camper.
There is a great atmosphere and sense of the here and now via culture and the sights in Third Son. From Victoria Harbour, Kowloon, to Buddhist temples, Macau, luxury hotels, eating out and the late night energy, to river dwellers, there’s a lovely backdrop set in and around Hong Kong throughout. I felt like I was there, and the author’s passion, knowledge and great world building added to that.
There is a little bit of a frenetic pace that occurs toward the latter part of the book, and I would have liked a bit of a deep breath taken, but you can’t deny the intensity of the story and the book.
“Aren’t we going too fast?”
“If life-altering events are the litmus test for relationships, then we’ve passed with flying colors. Why wait?”
This is my first Mickie B Ashling book and I really enjoyed it. I like murder/mystery books anyway, and if you combine that with romance, gay romance, then I like it even more. There was a definite sense of place, a great passion for Hong Kong and it’s people. I really liked the two main characters, but I’m going to admit that I did have some Gerard love – he was brave and selfless and he said some charming and lovely things, and sometimes in the beginning Niall could speak without fully thinking things through. Together the two men born in the year of the dragon were a good match. There was a bit of, I guess, payback and satisfaction with the way things were wrapped up, and there’s a happy ending. Very nice reading in a great setting. 4 Stars!
ARC supplied in return for an honest review