Whiskey and Wry (Sinners #2), Rhys Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense, Psychological, Past Abuse, Series
This review was typed with the assumption that anyone reading it is aware of who Damien Mitchell is in regards to the Sinners series. If you have not yet read Sinner’s Gin and do not wish to have parts of that book spoiled for you, do not read this review. Spoilers have been kept out in regards to Whiskey and Wry but not Sinner’s Gin, the first in the series.
He was dead. And it was murder most foul. If erasing a man’s existence could even be called murder. – Goodreads Blurb
Damien Mitchell is dead. He died along with two of his band mates in a horrific crash after their band, Sinner’s Gin, had just won music’s highest honor. The lone survivor was the band’s lead vocalist, Miki St. John. Miki barely survived the accident that killed his band mates and the man he loved like a brother, Damien. He barely functioned and cut himself off from the world. No more fame. No more tours. He just wanted to be left alone to mourn those he lost. He was close to the others but not like Damien (Damie). He also had to recover from major injuries. Damien and Miki were closer than two men could be without having a sexual relationship. When Damien died a part of Miki did as well. Miki’s ordeal and coming back is all detailed in Sinner’s Gin, part one of the Sinners series. You can find my review for that one here. Other things happened in that book (in regards to Miki’s past) but the pain he felt over losing Damien was evident for all to see. I mention Miki because without the reader knowing Miki’s story, you can’t fully understand Damien’s. Each book could be read as a standalone I suppose, but I don’t recommend it. You must read Miki’s story to understand the emotion that goes into Whiskey and Wry, and there is a lot of emotion in this story.
With that being said………
Damien Mitchell has been confined to a mental institution. Called Stephen Thompson by the staff, he knows something is seriously wrong. He keeps getting memories of himself as another person. Even heavily drugged, he somehow knows the parents who visit him aren’t his own. He knows his name is not Stephen Thompson. He is convinced he has a ‘brother’ out there waiting for him somewhere. His body is recovering from major trauma but when he asks what happened, the stories told are never the same. Over time he becomes sure that he is another person entirely, but is he really the Damien Mitchell whose life is being replayed slowly in his mind? Or is he crazy as they all say and conjuring up another person’s life completely?
Truth was, he had no fucking idea if he was crazy or if everything they’d told him since he’d woken up was a lie. Somewhere in the back of Damie’s brain, a lingering doubt whispered hot maybes into his thoughts.
Suppose I am really fucking crazy? the mocking voice hissed. That I’m really Stephen Thompson and I just don’t want to be?
There were times when the fake Stephen couldn’t hold back the Damien inside.
Of everything Damien almost didn’t remember, it was the thought that the music wasn’t real and that scared him the most.
When there is a fire at the asylum Damien manages to escape as violence rains down around him. Hitching rides and doing whatever is necessary, he makes his way to San Francisco where he knows his best friend and band mate lives.
“Sinjun. Go find Sinjun, you stupid fuck. Everything will be okay once you find him.” He remembered his best friend. He knew they’d lost the other two members of their band in the accident. There’d been a hazy moment when he surfaced out of the darkness he’d been plunged into and heard someone say Dave and Johnny died.
Finding Miki, however, is extremely difficult but Damien doesn’t give up. His memories are slowly coming back but not all of them. He doesn’t remember where Miki lives or any other information that will lead him to him. He gets a battered acoustic guitar and starts singing and playing for tips, always in hopes of finding his friend. It’s a long shot but Damien is not willing to give up hope. He knows someone is out to kill him for whatever reason but he takes his chances anyway. He’s come too far to find Miki to give up.
Sionn Murphy owns Finnegan’s Pub but not by choice. An Irishman, who inherited the place from his fiesty grandmother, he would much rather be doing something else, not tending bar and dealing with customers. A former bodyguard, he bides his time doing his thing with the pub until he can figure out what he really wants to do with his life. One thing he does not allow at Finnegan’s are buskers (street performers playing for tips) and there is now one hanging outside his business in the rain playing a guitar. The man wears a cowboy hat so is known around the pub as “Cowboy” though no one knows much about him. Sionn goes out to confront the man but instead falls in lust and ends up offering him the covered patio of the pub to play his music… something his late grandmother never would have allowed.
Other men were for sex and company while watching a game…. offering the musician a cup of Finnegan’s dark-roasted brew was as foreign a thought to him as wearing a pair of pink frilly panties.
Yet here he was, eyeing up a long drink of a musician and thinking about adding a dose of cream to his darkness.
“Forgive me, Gran, but I promise, he can play here only as long as it rains. Then he’s out on his own again. I’ll give you that, Gran, if you just let me stare at that ass for a few hours a week. That’s all I’m asking.”
Over time a friendship develops between the two men but “Cowboy” keeps things close to the vest. He plays his music and accepts the occasional cup of coffee but keeps his secrets inside even though he is quickly taking to Sionn. Only when the violence following Damien finally catches up with him, and almost takes Sionn away in the process, does Damien let Sionn inside. All his secrets and fears are then revealed. With the telling of the secrets comes violence and with that, a closeness that goes beyond mere friendship. Sionn is familiar with the band Sinner’s Gin and has even heard a little of their old music but he was out of the country during their rise to fame so did not recognize “Cowboy” as who he really is.
A lot of the players from Sinner’s Gin are in Whiskey and Wry. There’s Kane, Miki’s man, who I fell in love with in Sinner’s Gin. There’s Kane’s large Irish family which includes his seriously overbearing mother. There’s Kane’s father, who everyone could only hope to have as a dad. There are the various brothers and sisters and other family members that you can’t help but love or love to tolerate. Everything, including the killer after Damien, ties together. To say more than that would be too telling. The same applies to giving too many details in regards to the killings or why Damien is targeted.
There is Rafe, Sionn’s best friend, who I really hope will be in a future book in the series. The door has been opened for it and I would really love to see him have his own happily-ever-after, even if the end of Whiskey and Wry makes me think it won’t be in book #3 of the series.
“…. We’re the ultimate gay bromance… a homo-platonic Romeo and Juliet, destined to be a tragedy and dying young while we look good. Well, me anyway. You.. well, you should buy stock in a paper bag company so the guys who have to fuck you have something to put over that ugly face of yours.”
“Anyone been sucking your baguette? You know, diddled your weenie?”
You can’t not laugh at Rafe. He’s the ultimate best friend.
Then there’s Sionn. I loved him. He’s a bit cranky. He’s stubborn as hell. But he is just who Damien needs as he battles to get back to where he’s supposed to be. The way he is with Damien is beautiful. He jumps in to protect the man he has grown to love and will let no one or nothing cause him harm. The two of them together are perfect. The sex is hot as hell. Rhys Ford does know how to write hot sex scenes. 😉
A lot comes out about Damien’s childhood. Having experienced some of what he was forced to in my own childhood, my heart broke for him as those particular memories were recovered. Not much is written about Sionn’s past but enough is given about why he left his position as a bodyguard to understand that he has to battle his own demons in order to move on with his own life and with Damien.
I absolutely loved this book. I have to give a huge thank you to the author for not dragging out the story to get to the reunion between Damien and Miki. They were given the time they deserved. I got seriously teary when that reunion finally happened. I remember well what Miki went through over his grief when he thought he had lost the man he loved as a brother. Damien’s pain is written just as well in Whiskey and Wry. He fights like hell to get to Miki and the reader aches for him as he battles with himself as he tries to remember his life before the accident and all the times that he questions his own sanity. Is he really Damien Mitchell, the lead guitarist of Sinner’s Gin? Or is he really Stephen Thompson, someone who belongs in a mental institution because of fantasies of being someone else?
There is quite a bit of violence and the author wrote some of it pretty graphically. I had no problem with that but some might. Everything is resolved nicely, though there is once again a cliffhanger. After the end of Sinner’s Gin, did we expect any less? I can honestly say that I didn’t see that one coming. Granted, the cliffhanger in Sinner’s Gin was major compared to this one but it still took me a bit by surprise. I am eager to see where the series is going after that. All is not serious, however. There is quite a bit of humor thrown in. Kane’s family is hilarious (even the overbearing mother) and there are funny moments with Damien and Sionn and Miki and Kane as well.
Overall, an outstanding continuation of the Sinners series. Sinner’s Gin was my first by this author so it will always hold a special place for me. I’ve read her other series (and I adore Cole and Jae as well) but there’s nothing like your first. 😀 Miki and Kane will forever be one of my all-time favorite M/M couples so it was a pleasure seeing them so much in Damien and Sionn’s story. I can’t wait to read the third book.
The cover model for Damien is perfect. Yes, we’ve seen the other model before but he is still a great Sionn so, unlike some readers, I didn’t mind seeing him again on this one.
This book was provided by Dreamspinner Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.