Release Promo/Reviews: The Strongest Steel: Scarlett Cole

The Strongest Steel (Second Circle Tattoos #1)
Scarlett Cole
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Releases July 7, 2015

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.

Harper Connelly is taking steps to move on from past trauma. And one way she plans on doing it is is to cover up some physical scars with a tattoo. Not only is the idea of a tattoo out of her comfort zone, but so is making herself vulnerable to another person to see her scars, touch her, or know her past. She is guarded, untrusting, but is also strong sweet, funny, and smart.

Trent Andrews is the owner of Second Circle Tattoos and is a very popular tattoo artist. He is flirty, charming, handsome, and hot. He is quickly entranced by Harper and is motivated to wear down her strong defenses. He is patient, kind, sweet, and protective with her. They have an excellent chemistry and a connection, and he also understands her issues and limitations. He does not try to force her to change, but instead encourages her to open up and supports her in her own journey of self discovery.

They have to navigate fears, insecurities, and trust issues. They begin to build a relationship, but at the same time both have secrets that could ruin it. Harper is  facing demons who don't want to stay in her past and could truly become a safety issue as well. But Trent's secret could also send Harper running.

I really liked them together. they had such a fun rapport, tenderness, but also hot chemistry. Trent was such a swoon worthy hero and Harper was both vulnerable and strong at the same time. I enjoyed watching her try to take back pieces of her life that had been broken and finding her inner fight. I loved the quirky side characters especially his best friend, Cujo and her best friend, Drea.  They were feisty, unfiltered and protective. Dred, Pixie, and Lia were also interesting. And the back story with her brother Reid was intriguing as well.

I was surprised that this is Scarlet Cole's debut novel. It is well written, engaging, and has likable, complex characters and a layered plot. It is sweet, romantic, humorous, emotional, and has just enough drama to keep it interesting. There was a lot of foreboding, suspense and danger lurking throughout the story, but I did feel the culmination of it was maybe a bit rushed at the end. At times it felt a bit long and maybe slowed down in a few places. But it is still a wonderful story of strength, determination, survival, hope, and healing. I am looking forward to more in this series and with these intriguing characters. We already got a taste of Cujo and Drea in this one and I cannot wait for more with them.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review. 
The strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire.

Harper has so many layers in the beginning of the story. Scared. Scarred. Strong. Hiding. Harper went through a complete transformation over the course of the book. She had so many secrets she was running and hiding from, all related to one huge moment in her life. I enjoyed watching her open up to Trent.

Trent was smooth, smart, and focused. His tattoo shop had been his focus for most of his life, and his specialty in covering scars came from a personal place. His experience with scars is what drew Harper to the shop in the first place, but it was his understanding and patience in working with her that brought her back.

This had a slow build up between the two of them, simply because of Harper’s fear of touch. Her determination to transform her scars forced her to move past the panic, and as she became more comfortable with Trent and the process, her walls continued to crumble. I loved his patience with her, and his ability to let her pick the pace. Trent was a great hero for Harper not only for his patience, but for his interest in making sure she feels safe without him.

There were some great side characters that added to the fun. Drea and Cujo, Harper and Trent’s best friends added some hilarious tension and as the center of the next book should bring some interesting angles.

This was a fun, sweet read with a bit of suspense thrown in the mix. The threat isn’t entirely surprising as Harper’s past is revealed, but knowing something is coming and waiting for the moment that it does don’t lessen the impact. In some ways it reminded me of another title I’ve read, but I loved the way the story became it’s own. As the beginning of a series of interconnected standalones, this was a great pace and great entertainment.
I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Scarlett Cole

Scarlett Cole is a contemporary romantic suspense / contemporary romance author (represented by Beth Phelan at The Bent Agency). Her debut novel, THE STRONGEST STEEL, book one in the Second Circle Tattoos series, will be published by St. Martin's Press on 07/07/15.

When Scarlett isn't writing, she spends her time reading, hoarding mason jars, and working out to off-set an epic sour candy habit.

Having travelled the world for work and fun, Scarlett is a citizen of both Britain and Canada. A true city-dweller, she considers Toronto and Manchester home and likes to set her books in vibrant locations such as Miami and Los Angeles.


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