Title: Ink
Author: Isabelle Rowan
Cover artist: Anne Cain
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Amazon: Buy Link Ink
Genre: Paranormal
Length: 230 pages
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

A guest review by Sirius

Summary: Beautiful vampire romance, where the characters carried the book for me.


Roman centurion Dominic drew his last human breath during the time of Hadrian. In the centuries since, he’s seen much of the world change around him, but the vampire finds himself held captive in Melbourne, Australia, by his fascination with young, passionate, fun-loving, and alive tattoo artist Michael Chapman. Unable to resist the lure of Michael’s beauty, Dominic finds himself entering the parlor to get a tattoo he knows will fade.

The attraction he feels only grows, and despite Dominic’s extreme reluctance to get involved with a human, he and Michael form a bond—a connection that all too soon attracts the attention of a dark specter from Dominic’s bloody past. Soon, a dangerous game of cat and mouse threatens not only the budding romance, but also their humanity.

This is an expanded novel based on the novella Ink originally published in the Desire Beyond Death anthology by Dreamspinner Press.


There are some writers in this genre who have written brilliant books which stand on the list of my favorites, but unfortunately  seem to disappear. Of course there are gazillions of reasons why a writer may not continue with their craft, and I respect that, but I feel sad anyway. I was so worried that Isabelle Rowan was one of these authors to completely disappear as well. Her A Note in the Margin proudly occupies its place amongst my most beloved paperbacks in this genre and ever since I read that book, I wanted more and more and more. I do remember reading one short story by her, but I could not find anything else and I gave up. Needless to say that when I saw that this book was out I grabbed it up; heck if she would have written a cook book, I would have grabbed it!

I may have mentioned in the past that I am in a stage of being tired of vampires, but as I said above, I would have probably read any book by this writer, so vampires it is. I did overall like this book very much, but unfortunately, while there are some aspects of freshness with the trope, I am afraid I did not find the descriptions of the vamps in this book to be very original.

But, I did feel that the originality was in the way the characters’ human qualities were portrayed, how they were compared and contrasted with their vampire qualities, and ultimately the characters made the story. Dominic and Michael were interesting characters because of their humanity, and as “human beings” they were appealing. While Dominic was not a unique description of an old vampire, who had been lonely for ages, I found his conflicting desires to have something with Michael and protect Michael from himself to be so beautifully done and just so believable. I also enjoyed that the author seemed to remember that her characters, who had lived for ages, would most likely not be prone to quick bursts of temper, at least maybe not as often as younger ones. 🙂 Dominic saw a lot, lived through a lot and it left an imprint on his personality. How could it not?

Michael was a breath of fresh air and my favorite character in this book (even among the secondary characters I liked as well). I really liked how he took the challenges the life threw on him head on. I loved that once he made a decision he stood by the decision, did not put a blame on anybody else, and while admitting that he could not foresee all the consequences, he was determined to make the best of it. I loved his optimism, I even loved him making rush and wrong decisions sometimes.

The tension of the first part of the story is mostly within Dominic, and Michael trying to convince him that they should be together. I thought they had great chemistry right from the beginning, and the tattoo-making scene was one of the most erotic I have ever read about, even though it was just a tattoo-making scene.

I am sorry to say that the second part of the story did not work for me as well as the first part; the pacing felt a bit off and it overall confused me somewhat. On an intellectual level I realized that the visitor from Daniel’s past that is mentioned in the blurb was needed to further examine Michael and Dominic — how much they know about each other and how much they are ready and able to stand against the darkness within themselves and outside themselves. The issue I had was that the visitor himself did not work for me because he just did not feel like a threat despite him being dark and violent. It is very hard to explain without spoilers, but I just felt that their love was strong and Michael was strong, so the challenges presented felt meaningless and useless.

Recommended despite my niggles.



  • Sirius, you’re absolutely right about cultural access/proximity. One of the things I loved about “Ink” was its setting in Australia. (I live in the Southwestern U.S.) I seem to be reading Australia/Oceanic settings lately — A Note in the Margin, The Island.

    I also think that the time in one’s live and/or when the book was written (aside from its historical setting) affects what/how we read. “Interview” was unlike anything else at the time, and spoke to those of us who imagined ourselves “outside” the mainstream (our het-gay-bi clan of student-artists and dancers).

    I was worried that I was getting too far off “Ink,” but it is really nice to have this type of conversation. I tend to have episodic bouts of extreme enthusiasms, and about 15 years ago I read everything I could reasonably find (pre-Wikipedia, etc.) on Alexander and Hephaestion. I even could describe Alexander’s battles, but all of that’s gone now…

    • I agree with you about time when one lives and/or when the book was written affecting our reading experience. I have heard from several people that some gay fiction classics did not age well for them. I would not know, I have read several of them rather recently, but it was an interesting observation.

      I am reading a book about Alexander right now 🙂

  • It’s been a long time since I read “Cry to Heaven.” I loved it then. I’m not sure how I would feel now, years and so many m/m books later. I loved Rice’s lush, overblown prose.

    I’m always surprised that so few of the readers posting about m/m or vampires seem to have read at least Rice’s early Vampire Chronicles, but I suspect that may be because I’m probably older than a lot of you. I read “Interview with the Vampire” in my undergrad days… the original paperback edition! (A gay boyfriend shared a copy of “The Persian Boy” with me then; I shared Interview with him.) I read Rice for her take on gothic themes and for her m/m relationships. Her m/f were never convincing to me. Whenever Lestat was dallying with a female character, I was more than impatient for him to get back to Louis or Armand or David.

    I’m still a sucker (yes, you may imagine smileys scattered about in my comments) for vampires, but much more critical and selective about it. I’ll lay that on a longtime penchant for gothic (an early Jane Eyre seen from the backseat at a drive-in movie when my parents thought I was asleep) and recognizing the homoerotic undercurrents of vampire film/stories long before I had the words for them or slash/fanfic came to be.

    Also, I want to say thanks for participating in this blog. I’ve been delighted to find such intelligent writing and conversation.

    • Heh, I also think it is because I grew up in different culture and while of course I have read books by authors from many other countries, I may not have read the books which are considered well known in american culture. Sorry, I am making an assumption here, I of course dont know if you live in America. Anyway, what I am trying to say is that no matter how hard I am trying to do what I call “filling cultural gaps” and no matter how successful I feel I am being in certain ways, there are still will be plenty of famous books that I will not have time (or desire :)) to read. Right now for example I am giddy with excitement because I found out that Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin are available on Kindle. I have read and reread those books in Russian translation, when I came here I bought whole bunch of them in english and now I am trying hard to remember which ones I already have and which ones I dont. So I guess it is totally arbitrary for me – I may know and love some books which are well known and some I will have no clue and be totally ignorant of. I actually only read “Cry from heaven” about a year ago and this was after reading many mm books, so I guess for me this one held up pretty well. Not sure whether I will be reading Vampire chronicles any time soon – probably when I feel more enthusiastic about vampires in general. I think I also simply getting more and more squeamish about graphic descriptions of blood, although of course not all vampire books have it. I love Mary Renault, but I could not finish Persian boy, fell in love with Alexander and Hephastion as couple in Fire from Heaven and felt too sorry for Hephastion in that book :). Her Charioteer though was one of the first mm books I have ever read (also four or five years ago) and was one of the books which set the bar for me in this genre, really enjoyed this one.

      I really enjoy talking about the books, so thank you for participating in these conversations Karen 🙂

  • I’m surprised how little response this book or this review have received. The cover is absolutely stunning, both the art and graphics. Your review is nudging me to re-read this one. I’ve been reading so much (perhaps too much if that’s possible) and need to revisit the details on this one to see whether I agree with you. I would probably have rated this a bit higher. I only recently read A Note in the Margin, and agree that anything by Isabelle Rowan is surely worth reading. I’ve been reading vampires so long before they were ubiquitous (yes, there was such a time) that the how the longevity (less precisely, immortality) issue is handled is often the deal-maker or breaker for me. Rowan does this beautifully, for the most part, although I recall noting more than a passing nod to early Anne Rice (without as much Baroque angst of course). I also very much appreciate Melbourne as the setting.

    • Hi Karen, I became over saturated with vampires and still am I think, so these days I only read about them if somebody who knows my tastes well recommends the book or if I just want to read anything by the author whose works I love. As you said for me anything this writer does is worth reading. The issue of longetivity/ immortality is important to me as well. It feels wired, when the being who is supposed to be centuries old, be it vampire or werewolf starts throwing temper tantrums as if he was still a teenager. I thought Rowan handled this issue well and for me her vampire behaved as somebody who lived for a long time. I never got to read Anne Rice’s vampire books, so I would not recognize a homage paid to her. The only book by her that I have read was “Cry to heaven”. Yes, cover for Ink is amazing – totally agree. Thanks for commenting Karen.

  • I am very curious as to what you will think, especially about blast from the past. I am wondering if I may have shortchanged this one while rating because it really is a beatifully written story. At the same time, something felt just a tiny bit off about that part. I was also questioning myself whether my general weariness with vampires played a part here, but at least to this question I could wholeheartedly answer no. Thanks Rayne.

  • I’ve been waiting for the review on this one…..lovely cover…..and I’ve read the extract. I think because of your analysis of the characters its sold! I really like what you said here….

    ”Dominic saw a lot, lived through a lot and it left an imprint on his personality. How could it not?”

    Thanks Sirius.


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