Book Review: The Strongest Steel by Scarlett Cole

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Title: The Strongest Steel
Author: Scarlett Cole
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: 297 pages
Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis

Harper Connelly never expected to find herself outside of a tattoo parlor at one in the morning, summoning the nerve to take back her past. She’s determined to forget her old life and is looking for an artist who can tattoo over the scars on her back.

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.

Ivy

Harper Connelly is trying to take back her life and she goes to Second Circle Tattoos to start herself on that path. She meets Trent, tattoo artists specializing in covering scars and he helps heal hers, inside and out. When the past catches up to Harper, will she stay and fight or will she take flight? Along the way, delicious romance happens.

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Good debut: Ms. Cole has an excellent premise here (I’ll confess that yes, I do have a weakness for the tattooed boys) and I loved the way she integrates Dante’s Divine Comedy references throughout the book, including the name of Trent and Cujo’s shop, Second Circle Tattoos. From the editing through pacing and plot, I was impressed with many aspects of this novel, including her ability to take a story that could be frustrating and make it all work in the end. Such as…

Loved seeing Harper’s growth: Harper could have been a frustrating heroine, because when it comes to fight or flight, she’s all about taking off. However, in this instance, once I realized exactly what she’s suffered though, I was hard pressed to hold it against her. The backstory is compelling and while you could have moments where you want her to place her faith in others, I could understand why she would struggle with it.

Trent is a sweet, hot tattoo artist: He’s physically practically perfect in every way – I mean really, you can’t shake a stick without hitting a hot, six and a half feet tall, gorgeous tattoo artist all over Romancelandia.  But he’s so much more than a pretty face and hot bod. He’s also protective, patient and caring, and a very good match for Harper. While supportive, he also pushes her boundaries in a realistic manner, and helps her want to live again. Once he’s with Harper, he doesn’t look at another woman, and while there is one incident where a random gets fresh, he rebuffs that with a quickness which I loved.

Secrets are the enemy: In this case, there are misunderstandings and secrets used as a way to create obstacles for their romance, but I loved the fact that they made sense, and that when the big moments happened, communication lead to understanding and growth in their relationship. Now, I wasn’t as into the reality show subplot, but it felt more like a seed for the future, and that’s just fine with me.

Tension builds well: The villain of the piece, her ex Nathan, is truly horrible and Ms. Cole sets up the story in such a way that the bits and pieces of their past do give a basis for his villainy. I would have liked to have seen Harper’s family, though I’m hopeful that it may be revealed in later installments in this series. Am I planning a full series? Yes, because…

There’s a good set of secondary characters: Between Harper’s friend Drea and Trent’s co-workers at Second Circle, there’s decent chemistry between them all, a group of friends that have potential to carry a series. Ms. Cole’s writing has a good foundation and I believe the potential to get even better as she goes along.

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I really enjoyed it. All in all, a solid debut by Ms. Cole, I am definitely interested in continuing with this series and reading Drea and Cujo’s story next.

– Ive

*An ARC provided by publisher via netgalley for review.

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