Author: Rhys Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (Early Purchase)
Pages/Word Count: 204 Pages
At a Glance: Dirty Heart is a poignant and perfect end to Cole, Rick and Ben’s story. And a perfect beginning to Cole and Jae’s happily-ever-after.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Former LAPD detective Cole McGinnis’s life nearly ended the day his police partner and best friend Ben Pirelli emptied his service weapon into Cole and his then-lover, Rick. Since Ben turned his gun on himself, Cole thought he’d never find out why Ben tried to destroy him.
Years later, Cole has stitched himself back together. Now a private investigator and in love with Jae-Min Kim, a Korean-American photographer he met on a previous case, Cole’s life is back on track—until he discovers Jeff Rollins, a disgraced cop and his first partner, has resurfaced and appears to be working on the wrong side of the law.
As much as Cole’s fought to put the past behind him, he’s soon tangled up in a web of lies, violence, and death. Jeff Rollins is not only trying to kill Cole’s loved ones, he is also scraping open old wounds and long-forgotten memories of the two men Cole loved and lost. Cole is sure Rollins knows why Ben ruined all their lives, but he isn’t looking for answers. Now Cole is caught in a cat-and-mouse game with a cold-blooded killer with the key to not only his past but his future.
Review: Back in July of 2011, I accepted a book for review from Dreamspinner Press. This book was penned by a new author in the M/M genre, and if you ask me now why I chose to read it, I couldn’t rightly tell you—although, it probably had a lot to do with the book’s title. Rhys Ford had me at Dirty Kiss, and she sealed my love for Cole McGinnis the moment a rifle toting leather granny chased his delightful ass over a fence.
From that moment on, those of us who’ve followed this series have watched Cole get shot, stabbed, chased by dogs, beaten to a bloody emotional pulp. We’ve ached for his losses and been enraged by a father and stepmother I wouldn’t spit on if they were on fire, for fear of dousing the flames (fictionally speaking, of course ::maybe::). We’ve watched Cole navigate a sometimes complicated relationship with his brother Mike; love his sister-in-law Mad Dog; discover he has a younger brother, Ichiro; good-naturedly endure getting his arse whooped and being called Princess by his best friend, Bobby; and build a relationship with a woman whose patience and wisdom and affection filled a void in Cole’s life he wasn’t entirely cognizant of until he nearly lost her in a hail of gunfire. We’ve watched that lush and luminous black woman become friends with a lithe and lovely Filipino transwoman. We’ve spent time with Bobby Dawson and have had a few laughs at Cole’s expense, but the affection between the two men is undeniable—and then we watched Bobby, the manwhore, fall head over heels in love with Cole’s baby brother, which felt deliciously karmic on so many levels.
And, we watched Cole fall madly, deeply, and irrevocably in love with Kim Jae-Min. A love that wasn’t easy to win but one that’s become so all-encompassing and all-consuming that in the face of everything Cole learns about the murder of his lover Rick, and his best friend Ben’s suicide—after Ben had laid down that spray of bullets that nearly killed Cole too—we witness, in Dirty Heart, the power that time and perseverance and a soul-deep connection have to heal a heart and empower a man who’d once been so broken that a part of him did perish on that sidewalk while his lover bled out in his arms.
It’s easy to become sentimental over the end of this series. In book one, we saw the spark that turned into a flame. We watched a love that didn’t suit Jae well—a love that was ill-fitting, too constricting and yet loose at the seams—alter his life in ways he likely couldn’t have imagined when Cole rescued his diva-cat Neko from a bombed out building. Jae’s commitment to honor a duty to his family and a culture that says the way he loves is wrong was, at times, frustrating and made it difficult to align our western sensibilities with his Korean heritage and understand why he was loyal to a family that treated him so shabbily. But now we see a Jae who has wrapped that love around himself, wearing it with honor, and oh, it fits him so well.
Told with a skill and precision we’ve become accustomed to from this author, and in this series, one that’s part mystery and part romance, Dirty Heart gathers together all the loose threads that have become the warp and weft of the series’ tapestry, and has lain them all out for us to see in the culmination of years of weaving these characters and their lives together into a family and, finally, reveals all its beauty—in the building of these relationships through trials and triumphs, through joy and sadness, through hilarity and heartache. We’re drawn into each scene, viscerally, emotionally, imaginatively, and, I might add, quite happily. And, in the end, Dirty Heart culminates in a place we’ve all been waiting for yet dreading because The End is never easy once a colorful palette of characters become so deeply ingrained in our lexicon of favorites.
The Big Reveal we’ve waited six books for was worth every word it took to get there. The tone of the scene is poignant, not belabored by extraneous detail and overwrought drama, in large part because along the way we’ve watched a slow purging of Cole’s anguish, a lancing of the pain that got him to the point of being strong enough—with Jae’s help—to read the truth behind Ben’s betrayal. The scene is laid out in the perfect blend of sorrow and the realization that a present which has been built upon the foundation of that grief may have been difficult to get to but has been more than worth the struggle to get there.
Dirty Heart is the perfect bookend to Dirty Kiss, and the beginning and the end support every book in between, wrapping up the lives of Cole and Jae and the family they’ve made together. For fans of this series, it’s a Must Read…although it may break your heart a little along the way.
You can buy Dirty Heart here: