Title: Dirty Secret (Cole McGinnis Mystery #2)
Author: Rhys Ford
Length: 78,615 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Mystery Romance
Heat:4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Diverse, Korean, Closeted, Private Investigator, Murder, Cops/Crime, Secrets & Lies
Rating: LOVED It!
**Contains spoilers for those who haven’t read the first book of the series**
Loving Kim Jae-Min isn’t always easy: Jae is gun-shy about being openly homosexual. Ex-cop turned private investigator Cole McGinnis doesn’t know any other way to be. Still, he understands where Jae is coming from. Traditional Korean men aren’t gay—at least not usually where people can see them. But Cole can’t spend too much time unraveling his boyfriend’s issues. He has a job to do. When a singer named Scarlet asks him to help find Park Dae-Hoon, a gay Korean man who disappeared nearly two decades ago, Cole finds himself submerged in the tangled world of rich Korean families, where obligation and politics mean sacrificing happiness to preserve corporate empires. Soon the bodies start piling up without rhyme or reason. With every step Cole takes toward locating Park Dae-Hoon, another person meets their demise—and someone Cole loves could be next on the murderer’s list.
I read this sequel to Dirty Kiss (reviewed here) directly after that book, simply because I really love these characters and I feel very invested in their happiness. As a sequel, this book did everything it needed to rise above Dirty Kiss, both in the mystery and in the continuation of the romance.
Cole and Jae ended the first book on shaky ground but with a solid commitment to give their relationship a try — at least for the time being. The atmosphere of the Korean-American culture in southern California is such that Jae feels as if he’ll eventually have to give up Cole and create a family, if he wants to keep his own family. In Dirty Secret, the couple is surrounded by evidence of that decision made by other men, both in their father’s generation and their own, and the consequences of it are frightening.
Cole is brought a case by Scarlet, his cross dressing Filipino friend, to help a young man find his father. Park Dae-Hoon was Scarlet’s best friend and disappeared from a club in the pre-LA Riot’s days. He’s been missing a long time now, and his now grown sons are looking to make their own lives. One son is like his father, a gay Korean man entangled with the politics of their demanding society, the other is getting married to the daughter of their father’s lover. It is a hopeless mire of family secrets and lies that Cole must wade through, and nothing seems to be what he expects. At the same time his family has shown up and he must put aside his pride and hurt towards his parents if he wants a chance to meet his younger sisters, all while Jae is having problems with his own mother. Their obligations are slowly but surely encroaching upon their relationship, in a race against time until Cole can convince Jae that the shit-storm is worth sticking to his side.
The first book was really an incredibly written novel, and I was at first worried that this sequel might not be able to match it. I should have had some faith. The two things this book really needed were an even better mystery and a real progression in their relationship, both of which happened. The mystery is different from most that I’m used to reading. I found it less along the lines of serial killers and more in line with actual private detective work, and I love seeing Cole in his work. He’s such a wonderfully multi-faceted character and where the first book got the history out of the way so that we got to know Cole and Jae well, this book allows them to really shine. Cole really gets a workover in this book when his family crops up and he has to face his father and step-mother. It was a really, really difficult scene to read. I’m usually so scared to read angst, I just don’t like it, and it was beautiful how this author could explore such heavy emotion and hurtful things without getting lost in it. Instead, we really understand Cole better because of the way that pain is excised and also Jae for the way he handles it. This book shows them really working as a team, for the first time, and that gave me hope for their relationship. Where the first book explored their passion for one another, this one showed their commitment and deeper connections, something they’ll need with the teaser we’re left with in the end about the next book (and it is a DOOZY).
The only complaint I might have is how much like superheroes these characters seem, especially Cole. There is only so many times you can be shot at, or even shot without dying! It became absurd at one point near the end, and maybe that is because I read both books back to back and there are so many (cumulative) bullets flying by that point, all the characters should have been dead. It’s like the OK Corral in Cole’s front yard, seriously! If I had my way, I wouldn’t necessarily want the near death experiences to end, or even lessen, but I would enjoy a little more diversity than just flying bullets. A few more creative scenarios would be fun to read about
I love these books. Rhys Ford has become one of my new favorite authors and I won’t be able to rest until I read any book she releases. She’s incredibly talented and I’m really excited to see where both this series goes in the future and where her writing goes in the future. It would be interesting to read a different genre of romance from this author. Everyone should read this series, though you may want to do a quick search about how to read Korean names first! It would help you to have any trick in hand to keep them all separate and not slow down your reading.