Okay, I have to start by saying that I didn’t finish this book. I tried. I really did. In fact, I pushed through to about the 60% mark. But the fact was, I just couldn’t keep reading. But let me sum up the part that I read, and then we’ll get to the why.
Rhys Metzger is living in a tiny tenement with his entire family and painstakingly saving so that he can get a place of his own. He works down at the fish shop and, when he walks into the ice room to find one of the employees raping another man, he kills the rapist. Not knowing what to do, he follows the man he saved who takes him to a friend who knows another guy. Eventually, Rhys ends up with Evan Bentley. Evan takes Rhys in and gives him a place to hide.
Evan is a hired killer, and blurts it out one night when he comes home covered in blood. Rhys takes an interest in Evan’s work, and goes with him to his next hit. They start working together after that and become lovers. But then they get a job taking out Declan Garrett, the head of the local crime family. When Rhys actually saves Declan’s life, Declan offers Rhys a job. Rhys hesitates, but then accepts because he knows he has no choice. Evan thinks it’s the perfect opportunity for Rhys to get close to Declan and take him out. But the more Rhys gets to know Declan, the more he sees the man underneath and starts to care for him. And after Rhys and Evan have a fight, it seems like Rhys has no choice but to fully immerse himself in the mob.
And that’s about where I stopped. See, the thing is, it seemed like an incredibly interesting premise. But the execution simply wasn’t there for me. At all. In just the part that I read, I encountered numerous problems. The writing was stilted and jerky. The characters were flat and one dimensional. Nothing worked for me in this book and I couldn’t engage in the story at all. It was a true struggle to read even the half of the book that I did.
Rhys doesn’t make any sense. He barely reacts after having killed a man. He takes help from strangers without worry or care. He has never thought of being with a man, and in fact believes it to be a sin, but the moment Evan makes a move on him, Rhys gives in and enjoys it. Even the sex was mediocre at best because the characters had no chemistry whatsoever.
Evan is actually a little bit better drawn, as we understand immediately his dedication to the job and seeing it completed. But honestly, I didn’t understand him either. He’s always worked alone, but he immediately accepts Rhys as a partner when the other man wants to come along. In fact, on the first job they do together, he lets Rhys make the kill. I had no idea why he does the things he does, or how he got into it in the first place. I have no clue what he saw in Rhys, as it was barely even mentioned that he thought Rhys was beautiful. His actions in this first half of the story make no sense as to what his character is supposed to be.
And Declan? Well, he was just starting to be a part of the plot, so I can’t say much about him. Perhaps he was the best thought out character as he actually had the most backstory in the portion of the book I read. But even then, he was stupidly naïve about his own lover when he was supposed to be this incredibly sharp mind running the biggest crime family around.
On top of that, I think this book was supposed to be taking place in the 1930s, but I’m not entirely sure. The only thing that showed were a lack of a few modern conveniences, a couple of mentions of Prohibition and tenements, and an elevator operator. There was little to no world building to show us when and where we were.
As I said, it was a terrible struggle and fight for me to read even 60% of the book, and even that much felt like I’d spent too much time on characters that I just couldn’t care about. It pains me to say it, but give this one a complete pass.