This was an amazing follow up to Hard as It Gets and I am absolutely loving this series! Laura Kaye is an artist when it comes to creating characters and then interlinking them through relationships and bonds. We see right away that Crystal is strong and she has a plan to escape her misfortune. I liked that Crystal isn’t just wasting away until Shane comes in like a white knight. Instead, she’s hiding away money, she planning to get out, and she’s secretly disobeying Bruno. She might be oppressed and beaten down by life, but she’s not a passive participant in her troubles. I also admire her dedication to her younger sister and the fact that she’s willing to literally put up with anything in order to keep her sister safe. I also loved how she moved from being Crystal (the name Bruno wanted her to have) to being Sara (her real self).
Shane is also a wonderful character who’s a great foil for Crystal because he’s so charming and sweet. He has that perfect Southern gentleman persona that provides a comforting and safe place for Crystal to finally be herself. I loved watching the slow and gentle development of Crystal and Shane’s relationship. Though they fall in love under unusual circumstances and Crystal comes to trust and be attracted to Shane quickly, I think that Kaye does a great job of setting up her strength of character to later show that Crystal can take what she wants.
This one was also interesting because the guys delve a bit deeper into vigilantism, but Laura Kaye does a really good job of justifying these actions and not making it seem like just a bunch of ex-military guys going off and doing whatever they want. They can’t trust the cops and they know this for a fact, so they have to handle things on their own and they’re doing their best to not cross too many lines. I greatly respect Kaye for doing this, as sometimes I read romance novels and the heroes just run around killing people left and right. Yes they’re bad guys but they don’t ever seem to have any regard for what they’re doing and how it can sometimes come across. Kaye handles this much better than I’ve seen in the past.
There was a lot of really great emotional moments between the guys, especially when Nick and Shane finally have a moment to address how things went down after they returned stateside. Watching them have a chance to finally mend some fences was beautiful. Another thing that Kaye does so well is creating bonds and expressing the emotions of her male characters. There is a way to write male characters emotionally bonding and still have it come across as very genuine and natural and real.
I’m also loving the rest of the Hard Ink guys, especially Marz! This book really showed his personality and his goofy humor and I really can’t wait to read his book. I would have liked a little bit more character development of Beckett and Easy. Crystal’s sister got on my nerves just a little bit. Granted she didn’t know what was really going on with her sister and once she does, she really turns it around.
Content Note: references to kidnapping, gangs, sexual slavery, human trafficking, rape, and torture; other man (forced), forced attempted sex scene
••• Book Details •••
Hard Ink #2 • Romance, Suspense • Avon • February 25, 2014
Ever since hard-bodied, drop-dead-charming Shane McCallan strolled into the dance club where Crystal Dean works, he’s shown a knack for getting beneath her defenses. For her little sister’s sake, Crystal can’t get too close. Until her job and Shane’s mission intersect, and he reveals talents that go deeper than she could have guessed.
Shane would never turn his back on a friend in need, especially a former Special Forces teammate running a dangerous, off-the-books operation. Nor can he walk away from Crystal. The gorgeous waitress is hiding secrets she doesn’t want him to uncover. Too bad. He’s exactly the man she needs to protect her sister, her life, and her heart. All he has to do is convince her that when something feels this good, you hold on as hard as you can—and never let go.