Reviewed by: Ulysses Dietz
Member of The Paranormal Guild Review Team
Oh, boy. Rhys Ford is back in full throttle, with what I suspect is the start of a new series, linked peripherally to the Cole McGinnis books through the tattoo shop, 415 Ink.
Ford’s roiling, sometimes stream-of-consciousness writing is both mesmerizing and assaulting. So overwrought, so…I dunno, unsubtle. But effective, I have to say. She opens this affecting story of broken men and their chosen families with a hair-raising scene in a burning house that both sets the hyperkinetic tone for the novel’s prose and introduces the main characters.
Rey Montenegro is pulled from his burning house as a teenager by a huge fireman named Mason, who subsequently becomes his best friend and fellow fireman. As he struggles with consciousness, Rey catches a glimpse of a handsome boy his age with a wild mane of blond hair. That’s Gus, or August Scott.
Gus Scott and his brother Ivo are both tattoo artists at 415 Ink. Ivo, while flamboyantly transgressive in his dress, is apparently less gay than the brooding, butch, motorcycle-riding Gus. This is something of which I have no experience in my very long gay life, but I won’t get into the different realities of the m/m fantasy world. Ivo and Gus have survived something even more harrowing than Rey’s burning house, and their damage is what ties them to the house that Barrett (Bear) Jackson built. Bear’s lost boys—literally his cousins, but emotionally his brothers, have created a family denied them by their parents and the foster system.
Rey has a family, thanks to his mother’s remarriage to a loving, open-hearted man. But his mother can’t quite embrace the chosen family to which Rey is tied in complicated ways through Gus.
Gus, on the other hand, can’t deal with Rey’s past rejection, piled on top of his discovery of the child that was the product of his reaction to that very rejection.
As you see, there’s no lack of trauma or drama in “Rebel.” Gus seems like a mess, and Rey seems regretful and determined to be forgiven when Gus rolls back into town to deal with the newly-learned fact of his son Chris. I love the way Ford uses the child’s mother, Jules, and her broad-minded, gentle parents as catalysts for Gus’s grounding in his own potential fatherhood. Humanity slowly conquers inhumanity, and Gus, after years of wallowing in the horror of his childhood, begins to see that Chris, as well as Rey, might well be the road to happiness.
For all the familiar prose style, there’s a kind of low-key romanticism in this book, and possible series, that I suspect will keep me coming back.