Review: The Bad To Be Series by Andrew Grey

LIKE MANY of author Andrew Grey’s M/M series, be they thriller or romance, characters from the first novel often play supporting ones in the next installment and so on. It creates a beautiful interconnectedness, a community of fabulous characters who each get a turn to tell their story with the added reader bonus of familiarity. Every entry in the Bad To Be series gives one of the three main protagonists a spotlight to showcase their distinctive personality, role within their friendship group, complex relationship to love and sex, and the unique way each man interacts with their intended paramour. Richard, Gerome, and Terrance are former mobsters from Detroit—gay former mobsters—who now live in Longboat Key, Florida, in the Witness Protection Program. If that’s not an intriguing premise, I don’t know what is. Back in Detroit, the boys were respected members of the Garvic family criminal organization, rolling in dough and engaging in plenty of no-strings hook-ups with hot guys. Pretty much anything they desired was at their fingertips. Friends and found family since childhood, the three brothers joined the Italian mafia as teenagers and worked their way up to respective lucrative positions until the death of Harold Sr., the head of the Garvic family, died, leaving his nasty, homophobic son, Harold Jr., in charge. Turning against the new regime by cooperating with the Feds is why our boys are where they’re at. [Above Image Is Property of Andrew Grey]

Bad To Be Good, the first entry in the series, is Richard’s story. In Detroit, Richard, the so-called “king of the gay mafia,” ran the gay clubs and fronted the legitimate aspects of their business, but now he’s a bartender trying to keep a low profile. Well, that is until he involves himself with handsome young bar patron Daniel, whose secret past as a hacker has returned to haunt him, putting him and his son in danger. Wanting to use the skills he learned as a criminal to help Daniel may jeopardize everything Richard has built for himself in Florida, risking the new identities, if not the very lives, of him and the friends he went into hiding with. If Daniel’s safety and love are the outcomes of his involvement, Richard is just fine with the ends justifying the means.

What stood out for me in this first novel is the concept of “You can’t go home again.” Both Richard and Daniel feel this but for very different reasons. Richard’s mob life in Detroit of social and financial power is a thing of the past, a memory, but it’s a ghost that haunts him. Daniel is estranged from his family as they disagree with what they consider his “choices in life,” which mainly includes the acceptance of his homosexuality and his beloved son, Coby, the result of a one-time encounter with a female friend. Even when circumstances bring parts of his old life back to plague him, Daniel still comprehends that the changes he’s made, whether by free choice or as the result of forced acceptance of others’ ignorance or cruel, self-serving conduct, have made these new experiences, his new life, all the more rewarding. Similarly, Richard understands that as much fun and excitement as his old mob life provided, even when unforeseen events offer him a taste of it again, it doesn’t compare with his personal growth since leaving it, especially the newfound ability to open his heart to another romantically and, yes, even fatherly. Wanting to embrace the responsibility of caring for others outside his brothers is eye-opening to Richard.

Bad To Be Worthy, the second book in the series, is Gerome’s story. He is openly happy for Richard’s newfound love and relationship and secretly jealous of it. In his new identity, Gerome works in a gift shop, a long way from the excitement of running Detroit’s gay clubs with his brothers. Feeling a loss of purpose, constantly watching his back for threats, and taking on the responsibility for keeping an eye on his brother, Terrance, a known “loose cannon,” Gerome longs for the days of action. When he encounters Tucker, a homeless man, things quickly change for Gerome, and not much stays boring or mundane after that serendipitous meeting. In his desperation to help himself, his friend Cheryl and her young son weather their current bleak living situation, Tucker agreed to assist some real shady individuals, inevitably placing himself and his found family in danger. Gerome falls hard for the sensitive young man hiding behind a tough, survivalist exterior and willingly involves himself in his calamitous situation, eventually recruiting aid from Richard and Terrance. The former leaders of the gay Detroit mafia risk everything to help Tucker out of a dangerous situation. And if Gerome and Tucker fall in love in the process, all the better. That is, if Tucker can accept Gerome’s former criminal lifestyle.

The theme of survivalism in Bad to Be Worthy is vital to the story. Grey explores how a person’s love for others, their welfare and safety, move them to do things that can be wholly selfless but also careless and even dangerous, if not downright illegal. Tucker is homeless himself, hungry and cold. Still, he is far more concerned with aiding his friend Cheryl and her son, “Joshie,” also homeless, than he is concerned about the sketchiness of the men who have asked him to do a job for them for money and DON’T ASK ANY QUESTIONS! Accordingly, Gerome grew up in the foster care system, which wasn’t easy or loving in his experience. With the aid of his brothers, Richard and Terrance, he did whatever he had to do to ensure he and, more importantly, his brothers survived their youth, especially as queer kids. Even when they joined the Garvic mob family, Gerome used his intelligence like a rapier to cut through any obstacle, getting whatever they needed to be successful. Gerome, the “idea man,” never wanted his found family to feel powerless or under the gun again, finding solutions to every problem. Even when they were forced to flee Detroit, he was the one who secretly stashed away a significant amount of their mob money for access at a later date. His worrying about problems, including potential ones, has given him the nickname “Grumpy Gerome,” which indicates his desire to put the happiness of Richard and Terrance before his own, even if it means sublimating his desire to once again experience excitement and feel purpose beyond managing a gift shop in Florida.

Bad To Be Noble, the third book in the series, focuses now on the final brother, Terrance, the one with the most intractable personality. A bouncer at Richard’s bar, big and brawny Terrance is conflicted about his feelings toward his brothers’ new relationships. Is he truly happy for them, or does he secretly feel derisive toward the new familial dynamic? Being an “uncle” to Daniel’s son Coby and Tucker’s “son” Joshie is wonderful, but are romance and family really meant for him? Is loneliness really the fate he wants? Terrance soon discovers the answers he seeks when glass artist Ashton Weller enters his life. Ashton fled Chicago and came to Florida to escape a dangerous ex-boyfriend, and all he wants is to support himself through his art and live a peaceful life. When the young artist is harassed by some bikers, the last thing he expected was a muscular hunk to come to his rescue and follow it up with an invite to dinner with his family. When Ashton’s crazy ex re-enters the picture to screw with his life, Terrance wants to come to the rescue again, no matter the cost. It’s a slow-burn romance that really pays off in the end.

An exciting aspect of Grey’s writing in Bad To Be Noble is the juxtaposition of personalities within the text and the growth that inevitably comes from interacting with people who possess and display traits one doesn’t have, perhaps ones that don’t feel easily attainable. By being with Ashton, Terrance realizes it’s okay to open up more emotionally, both inwardly and publicly, and relate to sensitivity in a way he never had before. Ashton learns to become more assertive and self-confident from Terrance, who has those qualities in spades. The two male leads are incredibly charming when together, particularly Terrance, whose nervous behaviour in the face of intimacy and romance, plus his instinctual protectiveness toward Ashton, is quite endearing. Even highlighting big, brawny Terrance’s selfless desire to aid Ashton with the business end of his art creation, a form of grace and delicateness that he is unfamiliar with, both in the physical nature of the artwork and the symbolic fragility Ashton’s art speaks to concerning emotional vulnerability. And speaking of the art—the amount of detail Grey put into describing the glass art and its creation was fascinating. After finishing the novel, I was motivated to search for glass artists to view their work online. It’s a testament to a writer’s proficiency and ability to engage readers when their storytelling inspires real-life curiosity and investigation.

In the Bad To Be series, Richard, Daniel, Gerome, Tucker, and Terrance have all done illegal or morally questionable things for profit or survival. In some cases, both. Grey uses this series to explore themes of ethical behaviour and the root causes for people engaging in criminality. Through his storytelling, Grey asks his readers to question their perception of the concepts of right and wrong and the inflexibility of judgment. Can good people do bad things and still claim to be good, and how far can one push that conduct before their innate goodness suffers? How flexible does one’s morality have to be concerning willful felonious action to still feel they’ve maintained a balanced scale of principles versus unlawfulness, let alone favour the moral side? Are people born predisposed to what society has deemed “bad behaviour,” or are they made that way? In some cases, can the means justify the ends? 

It’s a profoundly fascinating overarching narrative with evocative questions throughout this gay romance series. Is Grey playing with his readers’ moral compass and trying to alter their perceptions of “bad” and “good?” Is he showcasing how the power of love and the impact of active selflessness—willingly putting another’s prosperity and safety above one’s own, outweighs the damage done through past self-interest and unethical behaviour? Of course! This is Romance with an abundance of well-deserved HEAs!

BONUS! With Born To Be Merry, Grey has provided a short Christmas tale as an epilogue for the entire Bad To Be series, a brief glimpse into the future lives of all these characters. Richard wants to give his new husband and stepson, Daniel and Coby, the Christmas he never had as a child. However, Daniel grew up wealthy and privileged, wanting for nothing, so lavish gifts and extravagance mean very little. Plus, Coby is in the hospital recovering from a tonsillectomy, which has Daniel’s mind preoccupied this holiday season. That and his work which has not gone unnoticed by his hubby. Growing up a street kid, Richard wants to provide for his new and found family, meaning Gerome and Terrence, an abundance of Christmas cheer and bounty. Daniel, however, has his own idea for a Christmas that isn’t about receiving gifts but the opportunity to help others, which Coby’s stay in the hospital has inspired. There is the expected trope of assumptions causing distress, but it all works out in a true HEA just in time for Santa. This story is a quick read, but Grey successfully highlights the meaning of friendship, love, and selflessness, all entertainingly and charmingly. 


Bad To Be Good is available for purchase at, and Barnes & Noble.

Bad To Be Worthy is available for purchase at, and Barnes & Noble.

Bad To Be Noble is available for purchase at, and Barnes & Noble.

Bad To Be Merry is available for purchase at, and Barnes & Noble.

For more information about this author, follow Andrew Grey on Instagram, & Facebook. Also, check out his AmazonAuthorPagewebsite.



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