Title: The Strongest Steel
Author: Scarlett Cole
My Rating: A
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Second Circle Tattoos #1
Main Characters: Harper and Trent
Release Date: July 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot
Trent Andrews, local legend and owner of the Second Circle tattoo studio, has his own reasons for specializing in inking over scars. And in spite of her mysterious past and the difficult road ahead, he quickly realizes that Harper is funny, smart, and--under her ridiculously oversized clothing and SPF 100 sunscreen--totally hot. He's happy to take on the challenge of designing a meaningful and deadly full-back tattoo for her.
But when cryptic messages start appearing on Harper's phone, strange deliveries arrive at her door, and Second Circle is vandalized, Harper is convinced that her ex-boyfriend has tracked her down, and worse, that he knows about Trent. Running was the only thing that saved her last time, but now that she's started to put down roots in Miami, she'll have to decide if she can finally fight back instead.
This book was so, so good. I've never read this author before, and I really didn't know what to expect going into the story, but I quickly found myself swept away with an inability to put the book down.
Harper's story is devastating. It's hard to imagine what she's been through and the title of the story is so perfect for her. That and the symbolism of her tattoo is just perfection. (And can I just note here that there are so many great visuals in this book? From the tattoos to Second Circle to the sights of Miami and LA...I loved all the visuals the author drew in my mind as I read the book.)
The flip side of that is Trent. I loved his empathy for her. Immediately he's drawn to her as just an attractive female, but once he sees her scars and her vulnerability his heart belongs to her. There's a connection between the two of them that leaps off the page. It goes beyond sexual and was simply gorgeous to read. I love how carefully he handles her, but he never, ever sees her as weak. Vulnerable, yes. Wounded, yes. But never does he see her as any less than strong for what she's gone through and recovered from. I loved him for that.
I loved everything about this story. I thought the set-up was brilliant, the backstory intelligent, the bad guy appropriately creepy and psychotic. There's a level of intelligence to it all... from the literary symbolism, to the discussion of music and heavy metal, to the scary anagrams. I loved that. I like books that challenge my thinking and now I feel the need to study some Dante.
And it wasn't just Harper and Trent who were done so well. The entire cast of supporting characters were bright and vibrant and varied in what they brought to the story. I was drawn to all of them in their own way. I am so excited that Cujo and Drea have an upcoming story. I would also love to see more of Pixie.
My only real complaint was Reid, Harper's brother...I feel like that aspect of the story was left hanging. What happened to him? Why did he turn his back on her? None of that made sense with who she described him as, even with the lies about what was going on with her at the time. I'm really hoping that dangling story line means that the author plans to revisit him and his side of the story in an upcoming novel. That would be so good...
I definitely recommend this book. I'm hoping it releases in print so I can add it to my keeper shelf. In the meantime, I'm counting down the days for the release of book #2 in the series.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.