Title: Rough Trade
Series: Woodbury Boys: Book Three
Author: Sidney Bell
Publisher: Carina Press
Length: 496 Pages
At a Glance: Rough Trade is a gorgeous addition to this series of books. It’s every bit as gut-wrenching as I expected Ghost’s story would be, but through the painful journey of him becoming ‘real’, there is the payoff in the end of seeing him reach the starting point of a life he never even knew he could want, let alone have.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Quick-witted hustler Ghost is no stranger to living dangerously; survival has always been the name of the game.
He’s just always gone it alone.
Now he’s got the wrong people breathing down his neck, and the only way out demands placing his trust in the unlikeliest of heroes: Duncan Rook, a gruff cop whose ethics are as solid as his body.
Cozying up to a criminal is hardly what Duncan’s reputation on the force needs—especially when that criminal is temptation personified. Ghost is Duncan’s polar opposite, and the last person he expected to fall for.
So then why does every imaginable scenario for taking down their common enemy end with Ghost in his arms?
Review: I’m sure I’ve probably said this any number of times over the years, but sometimes the hardest part of writing a review is starting it. And sometimes the hardest reviews to write are for the books I love, because sometimes words are inadequate to the job of enumerating and articulating all the reasons why I loved it.
For everyone who’s been following this series and has waited patiently (or not) for this book, I can say that it’s everything I wanted, and more. When an author names a character Ghost, you’ve got to know there’s going to be some backstory to unpack. You also know that backstory isn’t going to be without some landmines embedded within its emotional landscape. While each of the Woodbury Boys books focuses on a different Boy—Church and Tobias coming first—I wouldn’t necessarily recommend reading Rough Trade as a standalone. There is too much to Ghost to attempt to embrace him without getting glimpses along the way of who he is to Church and Tobias: the kid who doesn’t do friendship (allegedly), who doesn’t have family, who lives and nearly dies by the streets, who has sex for money, who’s had every shred of innocence stolen from him to the point that it damaged him psychologically and emotionally. It left him a feral human whose social structure consists of mimicking certain traits and behaviors in order to appear as if he’s living while he’s fighting to survive a life he doesn’t seem sure is more than a figment of some vague reality. Ghost is like a physical scar in a wounded existence—he alone is evidence he has survived, but he has never healed (the likelihood he ever will, entirely, is minimal); he lives on a knife’s edge, literally and figuratively, and it’s the man who finally makes him want to try that defines this story so beautifully. Duncan Rook is a cop. A massive wall of man. And, he’s the last person I’d have figured would become an integral cog in Ghost’s machine. After all, not a single cop has ever done right by Ghost before, but Sidney Bell not only made it so, she made that single detail significant. Watching Ghost unravel before the solid reliability of the man who, it seems, is the first person to not only be unwaveringly honest with him but who also listens to Ghost and does what he asks, is a substantial foundation upon which to begin building their relationship.
One of the things I admire so much about Sidney Bell’s growing body of work is not only the absolute ease with which I sink into her books, but the way she weaves the relationships between her characters into the more significant aim of the storyline; it never ceases to impress me and in this case, the overall imperative is to make the world safe enough for Ghost to stop running. To do that, it means taking down a corrupt cop and a Russian mob boss first, not to mention him facing his past. The action and suspense along the way is paced to keep readers on the edge while the slow build of Ghost and Rook’s relationship unfolds as a grim reminder that Ghost is a shell wrapped around a fractured and fragmented inscape. So even after the exterior threat is eliminated, it’s the threat from what’s going on inside Ghost’s head that nearly wrecks everything he could have with Rook.
Bell’s work is beautifully character driven; her characters are flawed and all the more compelling for it, and I fall for them every. single. time. Ghost and Rook are not only a bit damaged, but they are strong and tenacious too, and I was so taken in by them. Rough Trade is a gorgeous addition to this series of books. It’s every bit as gut-wrenching as I expected Ghost’s story would be, but through the painful journey of him becoming ‘real’, there is the payoff in the end of seeing him reach the starting point of a life he never even knew he could want, let alone have.
You can buy Rough Trade here:
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