By Karina Halle
Publisher: Metal Blonde Books
Publication Date: January 25, 2013
Genre: Adult Contemporary
Ellie Watt is used to starting over. The daughter of a grifting team, Ellie spent her childhood being used as a pawn in her parents’ latest scam. Now she’s much older, wiser and ready to give her con artist life a rest. But returning to the dry desert town of Palm Valley, California means one more temptation than she bargained for – Camden McQueen. Once known as the high school weirdo, Camden is bigger and badder than the boy he used to be and a talented tattoo artist with his own thriving business. Ellie’s counting on Camden still being in love with her but what she’s not counting on is how easily unrequited love can turn into obsession over time. When Camden discovers Ellie’s plan to con him, he makes her a deal she doesn’t dare refuse, but her freedom comes with a price and it’s one that takes both Ellie and Camden down a dangerous road.
***The Artists Trilogy is a dark and sexy contemporary ride about three flawed individuals caught in a world where it’s so easy to justify the bad things we do. This is a pure adult read (Not YA or NA).
After I finished this, I went to Goodreads and changed my temporary review from, “does ‘want to read’ mean ‘give me this or I’ll bite your face off?’” to “Mind. Blown.” That’s pretty much it, but it would be especially lousy if I left my review there. First things first – believe the synopsis when it says that this isn’t YA or NA. It isn’t erotica, but there’s a reason it’s an adult book. Second – set aside a block of time needed to finish the entire thing in one sitting. You don’t want to stop and start this. Third – toss out your notions of a conventional romance with damaged people. These two are the unexpected.
When they were younger, you couldn’t find a more unlikely pairing than the gimpy girl with the grifter parents and the creepy Goth freak, but there they were: Ellie and Camden. Both were bullied mercilessly at school and while it seemed like they were each other’s friend and occasional confidante, both were keeping secrets from each other: big, angry and bitter secrets. Angry and bitter are good ways to describe Ellie; I never really knew what I was going to get with her, but somewhere deep down, there would be one of those two emotions. One day at school, both reared up and Ellie damaged their relationship terribly. Once she was on her own with no Camden as a shield, the moral shiftiness of her parents didn’t seem so bad to her.
Now having tempted fate one too many times running her scams, Ellie’s back home, hoping no one from her previous life there has been left behind. She has to make a fresh start and if anyone that was around when her parents were “ushered” out of the town remembers her, it might prove difficult. Of course the guy she runs across in the diner who makes her hormones arch and purr happens to be none other than Camden, grown up buff, dark and tatted out. He’s back in town too, and interested in her all over again. For Ellie, Camden is absolutely perfect – as a mark.
The story is told in alternating sections of bits of Ellie and Camden’s early friendship and then in the present day and it’s not only done painlessly, but it’s unsettling as their friendship builds then, devolves now, devolves then and builds again now. Ellie isn’t necessarily a nice person, no matter what her excuses are and I wanted so desperately to like her. She just yanked all of these weird emotions out of me and then I wondered if Halle was playing me just like Ellie was playing Camden. Her relationship with him should have been a train wreck; it began with dishonesty and a desire to hurt the other person. It was a mass of Dysfunction, capital D. It was also ridiculously hot and dangerous for a while, knowing one of these two people might shoot the other if they were angrier but until then, they couldn’t stand not being naked together one more second.
Camden is not your average gorgeous, guitar-playing, tattoo artist hero. Doesn’t that sound great on the surface? Of course, the guy had to have his own moments where he made my jaw drop with a WTH moment or two. Nobody can look that perfect and not have a big dose of crazy somewhere is the new rule. He and Ellie come to an understanding where she does something for him, he won’t do something to her and warped guy that he is, I have to wonder if it turned him on.
The ending is a cliffhanger. No doubt about it and I won’t sugarcoat it. As someone who is fervently and passionately opposed to them, I’m actually not that bothered by this one. I know where everyone is, I know how everyone is and I can see where the next book is going. I also trust Halle to screw with my brain in book two and heaven help me, I’m looking forward to it.
I didn’t just read this book; I gulped it, devoured it and gorged on it and I’m still hungry for more of this insane, murky ride that Karina Halle just spun me on. It’s going to be torture waiting for Shooting Scars to be released in May and the final book later this year. I have an older model firstborn available, he’s pretty cute and he’s fairly self-sufficient. How to utilize this hot commodity….
My Rating: A