Rebel, by Rhys Ford
Series: 415 Ink, Book 1
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: December 29, 2017
The hardest thing a rebel can do isn’t standing up for something — it’s standing up for himself.
Life takes delight in stabbing Gus Scott in the back when he least expects it. After years of running from his past, present and the dismal future every social worker predicted for him, Karma delivers the one thing Gus could never—would never—turn his back on; a son from a one-night stand he’d had after a devastating break-up three years ago.
Returning to San Francisco and to 415 Ink, his family’s tattoo shop, gave him the perfect shelter to battle his personal demons and get himself together… until the firefighter who’d broken him walked back into Gus’s life.
For Rey Montenegro, tattoo artist Gus Scott was an elusive brass ring, a glittering prize he hadn’t the strength or flexibility to hold onto. Severing his relationship with the mercurial tattoo artist hurt but Gus hadn’t wanted the kind of domestic life Rey craved, leaving Rey with an aching chasm in his soul.
When Gus’s life and world starts to unravel, Rey helps him pick up the pieces, and Gus wonders if that forever Rey wants is more than just a dream.
Content Warning for: Past murder/suicide, past attempted murder, off-page child abuse
It took me a while to warm up to Rebel but once I did, I was completely and utterly in love with Gus, Rey and the entire 415 Ink family.
But first let me start with the bits that bugged me. After a dramatic opening scene that left me breathless for more, I was disappointed to find myself bogged down with, well, a whole lot of world building. It’s probably an odd thing to say for a contemporary romance, but there was a whole lot of supporting characters and backstories to get through. Speaking of odd… I’m largely against italicizing foreign words in English books because of the way it screams otherization, and I found myself really annoyed that all the random yummy Chinese dishes that peppered the story were in italics. But despite the rocky start, I must admit that once I settled into the story I was completely hooked – not only on Gus and Rey, but on the premise of this new series, which will presumably star Gus’ close-knit band of brothers, blood-related or otherwise.
Without giving anything away, simply put, Rebel packed a wallop. Neither Gus, Rey or any of the brothers had happy upbringings and their stories are perhaps not for everyone (see content warnings listed above). The book pulled no punches in spotlighting the shortcomings of the foster care system (and yes, abusive parents) and its lasting effects on the lives affected, and I’m guessing the rest of series will do the same to varying degrees. But despite the hurt and horror, ultimately the story is about finding hope and happiness through found family and well, like I said before, I’m already utterly and completely sold on this series.
Gus and Rey’s story is about second chances – at love and at life. As the book title suggests, Gus does what he wants – which masks his insecurities and heartbreak perfectly while conveniently portraying an unreliable asshole persona to the rest of the world, even to those closest to him. The push and pull between Gus and Rey was intense and dramatic in all the best ways, but it was Gus’ growth while facing his inner demons that really had me captivated. Through his character, we see how life can be full of surprises, and it was wonderful seeing him realize that sometimes the things that scare him the most could turn out to be the very things that bring balance and focus to his life. And I haven’t even gotten to his relationship with Rey.
As you might have picked up on, there’s a lot happening in the book but it never detracted from the romantic element one bit. Whether in anger or regret, Gus and Rey were never far from each other’s thoughts and their chemistry during every interaction was off the charts. I relished the slow burn and it made their reconciliation all the sweeter. And this might seem weird, but I also liked that the reason for their initial breakup several years ago was a major misunderstanding and a subsequent breakdown in communication. I know a lot of readers tend to hate that especially as a major plot device, but within the context of their lives back then, to me it just made sense. It also made me appreciate the ways they’ve matured independently since then and their determination to be together even if it’s going to take a lot of plain honesty and hard work.
Rebel was a bit bumpy at times but overall was such a great read. And all those supporting characters I was complaining about at the beginning of my review? Yeah, I need their stories right away. Like yesterday.
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 Yoshi, a grumpy tuxedo cat and Tam, a diabetic black pygmy panther, 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.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.