Fish Stick Fridays
My, my, Ms. Ford likes her violence. I tend to really enjoy her series (Sinners, Cole McGinnis), largely because she writes well and she writes unusual and interesting gay men to whom I am always drawn. Ford also tends to like men with a lot of baggage, which goes well with all that action….
Deacon Reid is a young man with a history of trouble and is trying to fly straight now that he’s gotten custody of Zig, the daughter of his brutally murdered sister. Deacon rescues his spitfire of a niece from the foster care system and heads off to a new life in northern California. That’s when things start blowing up.
Having invested everything he has into buying a run-down auto repair shop in an otherwise upscale strip mall in Half Moon Bay, Deacon is ready to settle in for the long haul. He isn’t surprised at the challenges and joys of trying to raise a hot-tempered school kid; but he is thrown off by his instant attraction to the manager of the neighboring bookstore, Lang Harris. Ford starts out by presenting Deacon and Lang as opposites, focusing on the former’s trailer-trash upbringing and the latter’s inherited wealth. But in short order she starts to shed light on Lang’s own horrific past, gradually revealing the sources of his less than perfect emotional status. It’s not really a case of opposites attract, but more that you can’t judge a book—or a bookstore owner—by its cover.
Deacon and Lang (who is part Chinese) are both men who have little faith in love, for very different reasons. As violence continues to erupt around them, they become a team, determined to protect Zig at all costs. Their common love of the little girl becomes the emotional glue that cements their mutual physical attraction. While Ford puts plenty of sizzle into their connection with each other—and I really love this relationship as it bumbles forward–it is always Zig that matters most. The title of the book is taken from a weekly ritual that throws Deacon’s instinctive fathering skills into endearing relief.
This story has a very small cast of primary characters, but there are nicely drawn secondary players who populate the narrative, from the awkward gay couple who, oddly enough, work in the auto shop that Deacon inherits, to the proprietor of the hair salon next door—Yvonne Dupree—who seems to disappear without much to do. Ford doesn’t give these interesting folks much page time, which is a disappointment. Montague, the detective who tries to unravel the various mysteries besetting Deacon and Lang, is set up as a potentially complicated soul, but he, too, fades into the background without resolution. Most randomly, Lang has an identical twin brother, who appears briefly and for very little reason, except to make it clear that he feels that he and his brother, as gay men, are doomed to loneliness. All of this would puzzle me entirely, if I didn’t have faith that Ford is somehow setting them up for the next book in the series. Which, of course, I will be sure to read.