Story Rating: 3.5 stars
Audio Rating: 3.75 stars
Narrator: Tristan James
Length: 9 hours, 11 minutes
Gus Scott and Rey Montenegro met back in high school when Gus and his “adopted” brothers (Bear and Mace) pulled Rey and his mom from the burning wreck of their house. Rey and Gus felt an instant attraction, though they waited some years to get physical. Rey never thought they’d last, because Gus never seemed to settle, so Rey broke it off.
Three years have passed, with Gus drifting as a guest tattoo artist in and out of tattoo parlors, but now he’s returned to San Francisco and his collected family. There are five “brothers” in the Scott family—Gus and Ivo, who are actual brothers, their cousin Bear, and two strays picked up from the foster system, Mace and Luke. They are all partners in 415 Ink, a tattoo parlor started by Bear, and they have lived together in a communal house for years. When Rey broke things off, Gus had a drunken night with Jules, a gal doing a guest artist stint at 415, and, well, he’s got a young son, Chris.
Rey doesn’t know what to do with Gus, except love him, I suppose. He’s best friends with Mace, who he lives with and works with as a firefighter. This is a second-chance love story for Rey and Gus, but it took me a long time to get on board with this romance. The writing is dense with description to set up the series, and that translated poorly in the audiobook. Every time I thought the story was moving forward, there was a giant chunk of backstory or description of the setting that completely undercut the pace.
Gus is a man with serious trauma. His drug addict mother died while murdering another of her children. Yeah, whoa. Gus is a mess who never planned to be a father—seemed simple as he’s gay—which was a sticking point for Rey who does want kids. That said, I didn’t get how Gus was a rebel. His biggest problem about “commitment” was that he didn’t want to settle with other men while he was so attracted to Rey.
I loved when the story got going, roughly halfway through the audiobook. There are a lot of interesting characters, and the relationships between the brothers demonstrate very cool dynamics. Chris was a little precocious for me, having raised four sons. The way all these guys lift each other up was awesome—even Ivo, who is a mean SOB, and tells the harsh truth in the harshest way possible.
The narrator did a great job with this wide and varied cast of characters. I could normally tell Ivo from Gus from Bear…etc, however, it was especially hard to follow conversations. With such a large cast, group talk became difficult to follow. Also, the very slow start to the story made it difficult for me to stay engaged. I liked the story, but I didn’t love it. The pace was bogged by backstory and set up, and holding back the action made it hard for me to connect with the characters. Oddly, with all the backstory and set-up, I still had questions about why/how Rey reconnected with his father. And, it felt like the reconnection between Rey and Gus was a little fast, with an almost inconceivable coincidence that involved Jules. The next story is about Mace, who had a very small slice of this story. He was really the least interesting of the brothers, so I was curious why his story would be the next in the series.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.