Tag Team Review: Rebel (415 Ink #1) by Rhys Ford

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.

Lost in a Book - 4.5 Hearts

My oh My this was an angsty read.


On face value it has many of my favorite elements. Rough upbringing? Check. Tattoos? Mmmhmm, Yep. Tortured and broody MC(s)? Oh yes. Then, when I actually started reading it, so many more of my hot spots were being hit. Slow burn, patch-work family, overcoming crippling obstacles, etc… All were a big yes, please. Hell, I was even all about the second chance aspects of this romance when it isn’t something I actively seek.

Three years have gone by since Rey walked away from Gus. Both men have scars from their childhood but Gus’ are much deeper than Rey’s. When he walked away, it reminded Gus of every social worker, judge, foster family, parent, and random person who decided he wasn’t good enough. In the beginning I just thought Gus had a gypsy soul and kept on moving. It isn’t until the surfacing of his kid from a one night stand that he comes back home and we really get to see a different side of him and the effects of his heartbreaking past on his present circumstances.

Rey is a firefighter and best friends/roommates with Gus’ brother, Mason. We learn very early on that Mason pulled Rey out of a fire when they were younger. This solidified their bond as well as Rey’s bond with all of Gus’ brothers. Rey had his reasons for walking away when they were younger but their love for each other hasn’t dimmed over the three years. When Gus moves back to town, they have plenty of encounters and even more time to evaluate their choices.

As I mentioned, this is a slow burn. Both men have baggage and past hurts to work through. It was amazing to *see* how each man held stubbornly to their anger and as time went on, they were able to understand the other’s perspective. I also loved how they had to really work to get to a healthy place without the arrival of the magical peen to help make all the woes go away. Don't get me wrong, they had chemistry and were H.O.T. together. But, their reconciliation was ugly, beautiful, and real. Their character arc was so transformative and I absolutely enjoyed each step of the way and where they settled.

Let’s talk about the baby mama. I LOVEEEEEEE that this wasn’t written as a bitter ex/one night stand scenario. I was thrilled that all parties acted like adults and Jules wasn’t written to be a she-bitch. Actually, all of the characters acted like adults (minus brotherly shenanigans) and it was refreshing.

It takes the entire book to fully appreciate the complexities of the characters and the role each plays. It reminded me of a kaleidoscope where the patterns can be distorted or crisp with only minor manipulation. The secondary characters of all the brothers added another dimension of angst, confusion, and clarity. Gus and Rey earned their HEA but I think that we’ll understand them even more as each brothers’ story is told. I’m down for that, especially Luke. AND Ivo with his "fuck me heels." Oh and Bear with him being all big, growly, and soft-hearted. Actually, I just want them all.


I really really enjoyed this book. There are still holes of information needed but I think the key to understanding each brother individually is to understand them all. Definitely recommended.

“Loving someone doesn’t mean needing them to be what you want them to be or swaddling them in bubble wrap so they can’t move. It means them knowing, deep down inside of their heart, you’re going to be there to hold them when they fall and celebrate when they fly.”

SheReadsALot - 4 Hearts

This review is from a person who hasn't read many Rhys Ford romances.

*whispers* This is actually my second Rhys Ford book. *gasp* Don't tell anyone, okay?

Rhys Ford's back list is mystery heavy and that ain't my gig. Rebel's premise however, contemporary romance that stars ex-lovers who try to connect once again while dealing with baggage? My gig, wholeheartedly.

Rebel is told from dual POV but it's mainly tattoo artist's Gus Scott's story. Gus is approaching thirty, had a hard childhood that ruined him in some ways. He's run away from his band of brothers (some blood relations some chosen) and his ex, firefighter Rey Montenegro. Both men met when teens, tried having a relationship and didn't get it right at the time. It's been three years and Gus returns back to San Francisco with a bombshell: he has a son he's never met. The fact how his son was conceived is a kick in the gut.

Second chances and single parents are some of my favorite themes to read about. Rebel did a good job with these themes. It's a slow burn, meaning it isn't romance heavy. It was more of a personal growth and showcasing Gus's family. I'm happy that this wasn't sex heavy. It's less believable for me to see two adults who actively have baggage just jump into the sack without attempting to fix their baggage first. (I don't need quick fixes or band-aids). That can't be found here.

But...the way the story is written while good, took sometime for me to get used to. It's lyrical in way. And some chapters I found myself rolling my eyes and skimming to get to an interaction between the characters. The author takes time to describe the surroundings, the feel of a room. It was very descriptive. And for readers who enjoy this, you'll adore Rebel.

Truthfully, I think I enjoyed the families more than Rey and Gus. Both men were nice enough and since it was inevitable they would be together (there really isn't any conflicts stopping them), I wasn't as invested in them as a couple. Gus's brothers? They were funny, nosy as hell, rough around the edges and easy to love.

There were a few niggles for me: like Rey's mom and her view on Gus's family. I wish it was revisited so we can see if she grew as a person or not. It obviously bothered Rey, so I wouldn't have minded a revisit. Another thing was the guy Rey was supposed to be seeing. Mace, mentions him. I'm thinking 'yes, some conflict'. But it just disappeared into the ether. *shrug* I never tire of those plot devices. So missed opportunity for me.

I'm not familiar with this author's style. Overall, Ford gets the job done. It's a story with bones and meat. It not only shows its scars, it only reopens the barely closed wounds and drags the reader through the pain. That part I didn't mind...though I felt it got a tad repetitive at certain points. And I cursed a blue streak at 89%. I though the story was going to use a plot twist to add for drama, one I wasn't too keen on. But it got resolved. So I won't harp on it.

Rebel is about redemption and reconnection. Once you learn how horrific Gus's childhood is (triggers: abuse), you'll get to understand why he is the way he is. I don't think there is anyone else for Gus but Rey. They make a good pair. And the last chapter? The last three paragraphs got me intrigued enough to want to try the next book.

So it looks like I might have a new series to follow. Recommended for readers who won't mind the triggers, enjoys slow burn, tatts and damaged protagonists who figure out what life should be for them. On their own terms.

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