Reviewed by Ulysses Dietz
Member of The Paranormal Guild Review Team
The “415 Ink” series touches tangentially on both of Rhys Ford’s other San Francisco-based series, the Cole McGinnis books, and the Sinner’s Gin books. Here again we focus on a group of young gay and bisexual men who have bonded together as a family. The “425 Ink” family is further bound together by ink—by the eponymous tattoo parlor by the San Francisco Piers owned by this band of brothers.
Mason Crawford is a fireman, not a tattoo artist, but he is one of the brothers-by-choice, having been rescued from a horrifically abusive father and placed in foster care. Rob Claussen is a rising star at 415 Ink, making his way amidst the talented men, including Mace, who own and run it. Half German and half Philippino, Rob has a less traumatic story, but is distanced from his family, where class distinctions and racial prejudice made his youth unhappy.
Mace has yet to learn to trust outside his chosen family and has decided that love is not for him. Inconveniently, he is obsessed with Rob, and is terrified of letting his feelings free. Indeed, Mace’s dark past is the central theme and plot driver of this book, weaving its way through the tenuous connection between him and Rob, and spreading its influence throughout Mace’s new family. Each of the brothers—who will likely be the subject of future books in this series—plays an important role in the drama. They not only help Mace learn to trust his feelings, but they also hep Rob understand what family really means.
I like Rhys Ford’s rather hyperbolic style, and while there was a little too much lovey-dovey palaver toward the end, she really puts her heart into her characters, making each one of them vivid, interesting, and fully realized. Ford has a taste for drama and relishes violence as a lynchpin for her plots. But there is a gentleness to this series, so far, that sets it apart from the other two. The empowerment of self-identity is stronger in this series, and gives it a stronger poignancy. As always, Rhy Ford’s rich emotional infusion keeps the reader on edge and makes it difficult not to fall in love with all of her men.