Absinthe of MaliceRating: 4.25 stars
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Length: Novel

It has been a long road for Miki St. John. He survived a horrible childhood to find success with his best friend and his band, only to lose them tragically. He got his best friend back, found the love of his life with Kane, and now has a new band to feed the music in his soul. Now with Crossroads Gin going out on tour, Miki is excited but also haunted by demons of the past.

Damien, however, is certain this is what the band needs to bond. Long days on the road in crappy motels playing little dives, meshing the band and its members together and getting them ready to move forward. It is a chance for Miki, Damien, Rafe, and Forest to figure out how to really work together and connect as a unit. But the trip isn’t easy for any of them. They face endless days of travel separated from the men they love. But it is all worth it when they get up on that stage and play. If only they can manage not to kill each other along the way. Not to mention all the odd and scary things that keep cropping up.

The trip is good, but the demons aren’t totally banished. Miki is still dealing with his past and the accident that killed his band members. Even with the support of Kane and Damien and the other family he has built, Miki is still haunted. Hopefully with their support he can make it through the trip, but things for Miki are not easy, and their love alone may not be all the help that he needs.

“We’re getting the band back together. And we’re going on tour.”

These are the words that scare Miki, but totally thrilled me! I had assumed that Sloe Ride was going to the last of Rhys Ford’s fabulous Sinner’s Gin series, as it features the last of the four band members finding his love. So when I heard that Absinthe of Malice was coming and it would feature all these guys together on tour, I couldn’t wait. I have adored this series and absolutely love those Morgan boys, so it was super exciting for an unexpected chance to see them all together again.

This story focuses primarily on the band members and their experience coming together while on tour. We spend a lot of the story following along with them as they go from town to town, playing gigs in rundown bars, and trying not to kill each other as they are stuck in the van for long hours. Although these guys have been featured in each other’s stories, those books were mostly focused on the individual couples. So I really liked the chance to see these guys interacting more with each other and getting a sense of the relationships between them. Some of the road trip aspect was a tiny bit slow for me, but for the most part I really enjoyed seeing these guys together and especially watching the thrill as they find the joy in their music and playing live. Miki especially just comes to life on stage, and we can see how much he needs this experience to help fuel him.

Never fear, however. The Morgan clan is not completely left out here. There are multiple occasions throughout the story where the Morgans connect with the band and we get to see the couples together. Most of the focus is on Miki and Kane, though we do get time with Quinn, Connor, and Sionn as well (not to mention appearances from both Brigid and Donal. Could I possibly adore anyone more than Donal?). I’ll admit, I was missing the sexy times a little here. We do get a couple full on sex scenes, but most of the intimate stuff is fade to black. I kind of wanted a little more given the chance to reconnect with these guys, but I get that focus of the story isn’t on the couples so much as the band.

Unlike the other stories in the series, this one doesn’t have a full on mystery thread. Again, most of the focus is on the band, as well as on Miki and dealing with his demons from the past. But there are some things that happen along the way, conflicts and issues that are unexplained and that seem to be building to something bigger that is not resolved here in this story. The way things are left (yes, Ford fans, we have another cliffhanger), I am assuming there are more books to come after this one that will address what is going on and put shape to the bits and pieces dropped here. So not quite as high octane as the other stories, but breadcrumbs here for the future.

Clearly for fans of the series, this is a can’t miss book. It is the unexpected chance not just to reconnect with these guys, but also to see them together as a band and not just part of couples. I did wish for a little more couple time, but I was also suffering from some “OMG they are all together in book”-itis and I am not sure anything could have fully met my enthusiastic expectations for everything I wanted in this book. But as always, Ford really delivers here with the right mix of romance, emotions, and intensity. I am constantly impressed by the beautiful pictures she paints with her words and the way she brings her stories and characters to life. I left this book feeling like I had some new insight into these characters, and that is something that is not easy to achieve five books into a series. So another winner here and I am so excited that it seems like there is more to come.

A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.

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