Sinner’s Gin by Rhys Ford

So, that’s a super cool title. I received this contemporary romance as a gift, not for an “honest review” as one so often hears, but because my friend is lovely and knew I was looking for a good LGBT romance.

The Sinner’s Gin of the title is a blues-rock band that experiences a horrible tragedy the same night they win a handful of Grammys. Glorying in their success, their limo is t-boned by a large truck and three of the four band members are killed. The lone survivor, lead singer Miki, is recuperating alone in his converted San Francisco warehouse. When a stray dog adopts Miki and annoys his woodworking and happens-to-be-a-cop neighbour, Kane Morgan (romance novel name +4 points) enters the singer’s life. Complicating matters are the eviscerated body in Miki’s vintage car and the escalating violence around him.

A romance with a heavy dose of noirish mystery, there is a lot going on in this book (death of everyone Miki loves, murders, abuse, stalkers) and I don’t feel able to properly assess it because the novel made me squeamish. I’ll let the Amazon blurb explain:

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… 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.

I was really uncomfortable with the child sexual abuse subplot. There wasn’t graphic detail of the abuse, but enough oblique information to make my skin crawl. I do not belong to the group of people who enjoy a sophisticated, or otherwise, approach to horrifying topics. I can’t get past it to enjoy any artistry that may be underneath. Miki’s experiences overshadowed the reading experience for me and left me thinking more about the legacy of such abuse and the scars of its victims than the plot of the book, especially during the love scenes when my brain would be dragged back to what it is implied Miki has suffered. It was an interesting conversation going on in my head as I thought about recovery, the horrors that children are subjected to, how they rebuild their lives searching for some kind of “normal”, if it would affect their sexual tastes, wondering if Kane was being too forceful given what Miki had gone through, my own misconceptions and preconceptions about people who have been through these things, and the excellent movie Short Term 12. You can see how that is more interference with the reading experience than I might have been looking for. Sinner’s Gin’s love story was sweet and took its time, but it wasn’t enough to make me forget the more distressing content or the overburdened the plot, and did not make me want to read more in the series.

LGBT romance recommendations can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

P.S. I also wondered about the realism of sleeping at a crime scene, but after being horrified by the general goings on in Sinner’s Gin that quibble is neither here nor there.

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