Dana reviews Ramen Assassin (Ramen Assassin Book 1) by Rhys Ford (Published by Dreamspinner Press, June 25, 2019. 216 pages) A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
When life gives Kuro Jenkins lemons, he wants to make ponzu to serve at his Los Angeles ramen shop.
Instead he’s dodging bullets and wondering how the hell he ended up back in the Black Ops lifestyle he left behind him. After rescuing former child star Trey Bishop from a pair of thugs in the middle of the night, he knows it’s time to pick up his gun again. But it seems trouble isn’t done with Trey, and Kuro can’t quite let go… of either the gun or Trey Bishop.
Trey Bishop never denied his life’s downward spiral was his own fault. After a few stints in rehab, he’s finally shaken off his Hollywood bad-boy lifestyle but not his reputation. The destruction of his acting career and his relationships goes deep, and no one trusts anything he says, including the LAPD. When two men dragging a dead body spot him on a late-night run and try to murder him, Trey is grateful for the tall, dark, and deadly ramen shop owner he lusts over—not just for rescuing him, but also for believing him.
Now caught in a web of murders and lies, Trey knows someone wants him dead, and the only one on his side is a man with deep, dark secrets. Trey hopes Kuro Jenkins will stick around to see what the future holds for them once the dust settles, but from the looks of things, neither of them may survive to find out.
Reading Rhys Ford books are always a unique and enjoyable experience for me. I feel like Rhys’s voice is unique in the mm romance genre and even though this review is supposed to be about the book itself, I have to mention the writing style. I’ve read a lot of mystery/thriller books in mm romance and while I love most of what I read, there is a grittier feel to Rhys’s books. I am not one for graphic violence and sometimes that is what I get with this author, but everything is so powerfully written. I am brought more into the story and can feel how the characters feel. Like the stopping of time while the action occurs, the stark notice of an insignificant detail because they are so in the moment. Everything is surreal and vivid all at once. I haven’t read any author who is able to create those same feelings in me as this one.
And that’s not to mention the fun pop culture references from movies, television, and other books. There are cross over characters from her other series, and some from other authors that I also love to read. Rhys also writes with a lot of similes and metaphors. In this book there are references to Greek mythology, Norse mythology, and Hans Christian Anderson tales. I definitely get a little giddy when I know or recognize the references because I’m a fangirl of the author and trivia in general. Needless to say, I am a big fan of the author and her writing. There is so much more going on besides the murder mystery, and the romance that I just felt it needed to be mentioned.
So, on to the book. I’m so glad this is going to be a series, because I fell in love with Kuro almost as soon as I met him. I’m not sure how to best describe his job. We first meet him rescuing children from prominent families from their kidnappers. He’s somewhat of a gun for hire, but he has honor and a conscience. He has killed people but he’s not an assassin, despite the title of the book. Trying to settle into a normal life after age and injury made his job more difficult, he opens a ramen restaurant where he serves Trey food, but hasn’t talked to him. Not until Trey runs past the back of the store when Kuro just happened to be out, and two men with guns follow. Kuro is a stand up guy whose description sure makes him sound sexy, but the way he carries himself with confidence and capability makes him even more so.
Trey is not a character that I necessarily fell in love with, but I could definitely feel for him. He’s kind of a washed up actor after childhood fame and drugs took their toll on him. He a little aimless and still fighting the pull of drugs when he goes for a run in the wee hours of morning and happens to see two men putting a body in a truck. It’s even more unfortunate that he recognizes the body. The show he used to star in was about gangsters and violence but it doesn’t prepare him for the danger that enters his real life. What I most feel bad about for him is the way his family treats him. I can’t say that I know what it feels like to have a drug addict in the family. I don’t know how it feels to see someone do harmful things to themselves over and over. I can imagine that it gets tiring and and sometimes for their own health people have to let that loved one go. Not that Trey ever really felt familial love, and his family hasn’t really let him go, they only sit in judgement refusing to see how much Trey is really trying to stay clean and sober.
This is definitely an action packed book with a lot of suspects in the multiple attempts on Trey’s life. I didn’t really have a clue who was responsible though I found a few people very suspicious. In this case, I was completely off the mark. I loved the pairing of Kuro and Trey, though it felt like Kuro really carried Trey for most of the book. It wasn’t that Trey was spineless or useless, but years of feeling inadequate and not feeling validation from the ones he cared about, wouldn’t just go away as soon as he met Kuro. And Kuro wasn’t caring for a man who would never get his act together, but he realized that for the time being Trey just needed to be taken care of so that he would have that chance to figure out who he was. It’s a sweet love story with Rhys Ford’s usual gritty mystery and I loved it. I can’t wait to see what is next for this series.
9.5/10 Pots of Gold (95% Recommended) – Compares to 4.75/5 Stars
Rhys Ford is an award-winning author with several long-running LGBT+ mystery, thriller, paranormal, and urban fantasy series and is a two-time LAMBDA finalist with her Murder and Mayhem novels. She is published by Dreamspinner Press and DSP Publications.
She’s also quite skeptical about bios without a dash of something personal and really, who doesn’t mention their cats, dog and cars in a bio? She shares the house with Harley, an insane grey tuxedo cat as well as a ginger cairn terrorist named Gus. Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep a 1979 Pontiac Firebird and enjoys murdering make-believe people.