"An incredible story about healing, pain, and trust...you don't want to miss this one!" --New York Times bestselling author Jen McLaughlin
"I know what you're up to," she said.
"And what would that be?" he asked with a devious smirk.
"Is it working?"
She looked over her shoulder to where he was still reclining against the wall, watching her patiently. All the reasons she'd vowed to stay alone, to remain uninvolved, fled as he grinned at her.
In Scarlett Cole's The Strongest Steel, Harper Connelly never expected to find herself outside of a tattoo parlor at one in the morning. The scars that decorate her back are just one more reminder of things she'd rather forget, the past she wants to leave far behind her, but before she can move on, she needs him.
Trent Andrews has his own reasons for specializing in inking over scars. And there's no way in hell he's going to turn Harper away. Not when a swirling mix of tenderness and desire slams into him every time he sees her. Being with Harper is like going ten rounds in the ring—exhilarating, powerful, and dangerous. She stirs feelings in him he thought were long gone... if he can only get past her carefully constructed defenses.
Running was the only thing that saved Harper last time, but each session at Second Circle Tattoos brings her closer and closer to Trent. His lingering touches seduce her, making her believe in a life without fear, where she can be happy, whole, in love. 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. She ran from her past once before; this time will she have the strength to fight back?
"This book gave me so many feels! Angst, passion, and love all set in Miami, my favorite city. I can't wait for more from this author and I can't recommend this book enough." - Sidney Halston, USA Today bestselling author of Against the Cage
About the Author
Born in England, Scarlett Cole traveled the world, living in Japan and the United States before settling in Canada where she met her own personal hero – all six and a half feet of him. She now lives with her husband and children in Manchester, England where she's at work on her next book. She is the author of The Strongest Steel.
Read an Excerpt
The Strongest Steel
By Scarlett Cole
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Scarlett Cole
All rights reserved.
The blue envelope from the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, still sealed, weighed heavily on Harper Connelly's mind. It sat in her purse, where it had been since she'd collected her mail the day before. Out of sight, but not out of mind. Until she opened the envelope, she could continue to pretend that she was safe. Once her finger slid under the seal, she'd no longer be able to ignore the decisions she'd have to make.
Standing at a crosswalk, waiting for the lights on Collins Avenue to change, she shoved the letter deeper into her purse and watched as the young couple standing across the street from her kissed each other deeply, his hand gently cupping her face as his thumb ran softly across her cheekbone. Harper looked away, trying hard to ignore the empty feeling in her chest. Could she even remember that feeling of first love? It had been so long since she'd experienced those heady moments of wanting to be with another person all the time. Of being unable to stop touching each other, like magnets drawn together.
Finally the light changed, and Harper almost sighed with relief before hiking her bag farther onto her shoulder and crossing the street, not sparing the young couple a second glance. She just had to get through work today without turning into a nervous wreck. Then she could fall apart with the envelope in her bag.
Lost in her own thoughts, she felt someone push into her on the sidewalk. Harper jumped in her own skin. A loud buzzing filled her head, and a cold trickle of fear snaked its way down her spine. Her heart tried to pound its way out of her chest while her shaking hands struggled to hold her purse.
She reeled around. A white-haired gentleman with the tiniest dog that looked like a rat on a leash murmured a distracted apology for nudging her. Willing her heart to slow down, Harper tried to reply in kind, but her mouth was so dry that she couldn't respond. She prayed the weak smile she gave him sufficed as forgiveness.
It was just an old man and a little dog, she told herself, leaning against the nearest light post and counting each breath in for five, then out for five, trying to slow her racing pulse. Nothing to do with the letter burning a hole through her purse and thoughts. Or a prisoner a thousand miles away. Harper watched his stooped frame continue down the palm tree–lined street until he reached the sandy side road that would take him to the boardwalk that ran the length of Miami Beach.
A cold chill gripped her despite the hazy heat. She still wasn't used to the weather — somehow she couldn't believe it after all this time. It would be a good twenty degrees cooler back home. She shivered harder and looked down at her hand, watching her own fingers flare in and out in panic without her permission.
The couple she'd been watching earlier walked by, reaching for each other, entwining their hands.
Harper looked on longingly. That simple intimacy was unthinkable for her. She didn't need a brush with a stranger to prove it. The sender of the letter had made sure of it. Even after all these years, she couldn't stand the touch of another human being, not even for a second.
Still shaking, she took a light hoodie from her bag and put it on, desperate for some warmth.
Turning the street corner that led away from the ocean, she pulled her hands inside her sleeves and walked slowly, trying to bring her heart rate down. She tried to focus on the graceful art deco buildings Miami was famous for. Tried to believe that she wouldn't have to run and leave this beautiful place behind. The stunning façades and interiors were among her favorite things about the ocean-facing city. Paint colors with names like fresh mint, buttercream yellow, and coral pink adorned the stylistic symmetry of the buildings that truly came to life at night when neon lights served as a beacon to revelers. Harper imagined looking out of the classic porthole windows, waiting to see the giant steam ocean liners arrive from far-off places. The extravagant ornamentation and fanciful panels echoed back to a time when the wealthy would sip champagne and dance the Charleston on the rooftop patios.
The light ocean breeze blew her long, dark brown hair across her face. She plunged her hand into her purse, carefully avoiding touching the envelope, and retrieved one of the many elastic bands swimming around at the bottom. Quickly, she swept her mass of thick layers up into a messy bun at the base of her neck as she approached the small shop where she worked.
José, her boss, had already rolled out the brown awning over the patio area of the coffee shop that bore his name. The early morning rush was about to begin.
Drea, the assistant manager, sat on one of the tables, the sun reflecting off natural gold highlights that graced her layered brown hair. They were both twenty-seven, but with her tanned skin and petite frame, a contrast to Harper's own athletic figure, she looked younger.
Relief flooded through her, the very sight of her best friend helping her panic subside.
"Morning, honey," she said, hoping Drea wouldn't notice how breathless she sounded.
Hazel eyes squinted in her direction. "Morning, Harp." She tilted her head curiously. "You okay?" Since the day they'd met, this girl had just gotten her. Private as Harper was, Drea still had managed to gently bulldoze her way into Harper's life and had made it clear that only an eviction notice would get her out.
"Fine, fine." She brushed the question away. "You're here before me?" Harper asked, trying to distract her. "Did I get the shifts wrong?"
"No, it's me. I'm early. My aunt gave me a ride over this morning, since my car doesn't get out of the shop until this afternoon."
"Ready for another day in espresso heaven?" Harper nodded her chin in the direction of the main door.
Drea sighed. "Quit and go spend the day in the Keys?" she whispered.
"I heard that, Drea," José bellowed from inside as he turned the lock to let them in. "You," he shouted, pointing at Drea, "can quit. Her ... not so much!"
Both girls laughed as they walked in and headed toward the break room to put away their purses.
"I'm feeling the love, José," Drea muttered.
"I heard that too." José laughed, his voice softening.
José's had been a fixture in South Beach for nearly fifty years. The original José still came to the store religiously for his coffee every day, though he'd long turned the reins over to his son, José Junior.
The long, thin store was more than just a coffee shop. It was comfort food wrapped up in soft cream walls and light woodwork. José was busy loading the long counter with the freshly made pastries. Traditional Cuban pastelitos were lined up next to classic croissants and cinnamon rolls. A black apron tied tightly around her waist, Drea started stacking the healthy salads and sandwiches into the coolers.
Harper leaned over the counter to turn on the espresso machines, blenders, and coffeemakers that flanked the left wall. She pulled out the tray of empty metal jugs for steaming milk and set them up next to the coffee station.
Hours later, once the lunchtime crowd had started to thin out, she began the process of cleaning up the tables before the afternoon business would again pick up.
"But doesn't it just mean that she had blood on her hands?" she heard someone say. Wiping a tabletop on autopilot, Harper glanced at the teenage girls sitting at the next table.
"She says, 'Out, damned spot,' but I don't think she actually had blood on her hands. I don't think she actually killed someone."
Harper paused. Macbeth. Act 5, if she wasn't mistaken. The hallucinations of the manipulative Lady Macbeth, it was one of her favorites. She wanted to help the girls, but schoolbooks and notes were another reminder of things she swore she'd left in the past long ago. That life was gone. Harper thought about the blue envelope sitting in her employee locker in the back of the shop. She could no longer ignore the letter, regardless of how much easier life would be if she never opened the damn thing. For the second time that day, her chest tightened. It was better to know. After a quick glance around to make sure no one else needed her, she slipped into the back room and ripped the envelope open, wishing that the past could really stay buried.
* * *
"What the hell did you make me drink last night, Cuj?"
The coffee scalded Trent's tongue as he took a sip and leaned back against the front window of Second Circle. Straight-up black as he liked it and strong enough to stand a spoon in, but nowhere near enough to take the edge off the five-alarm bell ringing in his head.
"Some weird-shit martini those girls were drinking. They wanted us to toast your birthday one more time. I told you they were trouble."
"I didn't hear any complaining when that blonde had her hand down your pants."
Cujo rubbed his hand over his bald head and then fingered the bar in his eyebrow, grinning smugly.
"Man, she was freaky. How was the redhead?"
"Curved in all the right places and a yoga teacher," Trent said. Cujo barked out a laugh. Trent looked down at his scuffed-up boot resting on the window ledge and made a mental note to take care of the sill's chipped paintwork.
Second Circle Tattoos was his baby and his pride, the by-product of a misspent youth salvaged by his mentor, Jimmy "Junior" Silver. It had been a long journey to the store's current location on one of the up-and-coming streets in Miami. Years of apprenticing before going out alone — years he and Cujo had spent in a crappy studio before biting the bullet and investing in this place. The team he'd built had a solid rep, with people coming from out of town to see them, and the craziness of his calendar reminded him daily that people liked his work.
Knocking back a long draw on the coffee, Trent caught sight of an incredible brunette, classically beautiful, making her way down the sidewalk on the other side of the road.
Cujo let out a long, quiet whistle. "That is one mighty fine-looking distraction."
Trent stared, grateful he'd pulled out his shades to enjoy his coffee break. Shit, what was she wearing? A staid button-down shirt that appeared two sizes too big, paired with saggy khaki shorts that seemed to have lost their will to live. Take away the ugly clothes, though, and you were left with a seriously rocking body. He was such a sucker for the athletic type, toned but still curvy. Likely a foot shorter than his own six foot six, but with legs that went on forever. Her skin was porcelain white, and hell yeah, as a tattoo artist, he would bet from a hundred yards away that she was a tattoo virgin, the very best kind of canvas.
She wore her thick, dark brown hair in a messy updo, revealing a beautiful neck and that soft spot, just behind a girl's ear, that he always loved so much.
As she got closer, he could see she was holding a pastry box from the coffee shop down the street.
"Those for me, darlin'?" he shouted across the street, breaking out the smile that chicks seemed to go for. He heard Cujo laugh to his left but stayed focused on the woman. She looked confused for a moment before she realized he was calling out to her. Damn. A slow, shy smile — and then there was that simple flush of her skin. Such a turn-on. Holy shit.
He waited with bated breath for her to say something in return, but she kept walking.
Disappointed, he could only imagine just how beautiful those pink cheeks would be if he wrapped her in his arms in the soft sheets of his bed, all that delicious warmth curved around him.
* * *
Harper inhaled deeply and shook her head. She crossed streets until she hit the boardwalk and the steps to the soft white sand. It was after six and the beach was starting to empty, parents dragging tired and cranky children back to their waterfront hotels. The tall palms swayed rhythmically in the cool early May breeze. The sun was starting to descend over the dark blue water, frosting the rippling surface with sparkles.
He had spoken to her. Trent Andrews. To her. The tall, shaggy-haired tattoo god had called out to her, and she'd scuttled off like a church mouse. Once upon a time, she'd have had the confidence to come up with something more original than just a smile.
He probably assumed she knew who he was. Which, of course, she did. Heck, everyone in Miami knew who he was — not only was he one of the most talented tattoo artists out there, but he was a local celebrity of a sort in Miami. She'd seen pictures of the work he was able to do covering up scars — and it was beautiful. So beautiful, she'd been dreaming of what her own back would look like. He could fix it for her, she knew it, and if she was going to get past, well, her past, she was going to need a pretty spectacular cover-up artist.
She did the mental math. Between what she had brought with her when she'd moved to Miami and what she had been able to scrimp and save over the last four years, she hoped she had enough money to cover it. She could always stretch out the appointments if she had to.
Without thinking, she reached around to touch the base of her back. It was an automatic, self-protective instinct. Not that it could change anything now any more than it could have four years ago when the knife had cut into her.
With a design in mind and a tattoo artist selected, the question wasn't whether she wanted to get a tattoo. That part was easy. But could Trent make what was already on her back disappear? And could she force herself to lie there and let him?
* * *
Shit, it was still cool at night. Trent pulled the hood of his sweatshirt up over the top of his baseball hat. So what if he looked more thug and less upstanding citizen? It would keep people out of his path, getting him to his bed sooner.
He took one last look around the studio, and turned off the main lights, leaving the design on the huge front window illuminated by a couple of can lights in the ceiling. The alarm panel beeped as he keyed in the code before turning to leave.
One o'clock in the morning in a city that was still wide awake. A cacophony of sound roared around him. Pulsating beats from the hotels, bars, and nightclubs that peppered the strip reverberated through the air. Drivers revved their engines as they cruised up and down the street, seeking attention.
The lock was temperamental and he jiggled the key with a finesse born of necessity until it turned.
"Can you tattoo over extensive scars?"
A soft voice, thoroughly unexpected, came from behind him. He looked over his shoulder, his fingers still on the key. In the shadows of the giant palm tree that dominated the sidewalk, a lone figure stood. She stepped toward him.
It took only a moment to recognize her — the girl from this afternoon. Wow. She'd changed clothes, tucked her clearly tight body into skinny jeans and an ivory top that looked like it was made out of, well, clouds or something. Her hair was down now, lying in soft curls on her shoulders, accentuating the most perfectly smooth skin he'd ever seen. Her arms were pulled tightly against her.
Trent paused with the key in the lock, never taking his eyes off her. "Depends on what kind of scar. How deep, how big, where, et cetera?"
She stared at the pavement like the cigarette butt by her foot was the most fascinating thing ever. Her hands clenched into fists and just as quickly she released them, over and over, as if wanting to do something but not knowing what.
"Are we talking about for you or someone else?"
The fingers were still twitching. She lifted her chin. The look in her eyes, which were an incredible shade of green, like sea glass, told him she was scared shitless.
"Me," she said quietly.
He was exhausted. And the whole thing felt weird. He should just tell her to come back tomorrow — or better still, call and book an appointment. But if he turned her away now, she wouldn't come back. He knew it for sure — he felt it. She needed something, and it would kill him not to know what he might have been able to do for her.
"Want to come in and let me take a look? The place is closed, so no one else will be around ... if you're cool with that ... I'm a good guy, I promise."
Why was she even here at one in the morning, alone and looking terrified? And not the I'm-scared-of-needles-will-it-hurt variety of terror. Girls nearly always came in with someone. Friends. Boyfriends. Same way they always went to the bathroom in pairs. Why wasn't anybody with her? He had a bad feeling this wasn't going to be your everyday scar.
"Well, Harper," he said, opening the door he'd just closed, "welcome to Second Circle."
* * *
"Don't want anyone thinking we're still open," he said, locking the door behind them after he turned off the alarm. He walked over to the curved counter, but instead of going behind it like she expected, he perched himself on the edge.
Try as she might, Harper had been unable to sleep, restless from the letter and seeing Trent earlier. One minute she'd been wide awake, staring at the ceiling in bed. The next she was standing in an empty studio with a man she didn't know, unable to recall the details of the bus ride and walk she'd taken to get there.
Excerpted from The Strongest Steel by Scarlett Cole. Copyright © 2015 Scarlett Cole. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Original Review Link: http://asdreamsaremade.com/2016/07/book-tuesday-the-strongest-steel/ I’ve been on a NA kick lately because of Nikki and Sarah! We’ve all been binging on it and when I saw this one, I knew it was different than any other NA’s I’ve read because of the tattoos! Harper Connelly has been running from her horrific past for four years. She’s made a quiet life for herself in Miami working at her friend’s coffee shop, but nothing can hide the scars on her back–a constant reminder of her past. Nothing until she finds herself outside the Trent Andrew’s tattoo studio. When she asks him to help her cover them up with an epic tattoo, Trent is more than willing to help her. As he works on her back, they discover that there’s more to each other then they thought. However, when cryptic messages and veiled threats start filling up Harper’s phone, she knows her past has finally caught up with her and she’s faced with a choice–run like she always has or stay and fight. This was a great, fast, summer, NA read. I really enjoyed Harper’s story, as tragic as it was, and watching her grow throughout her arc. As much as she’s hiding from life, she really does try and make the best out of everything and Trent slowly allows her to do that even more. Trent was great. He brought out the best in Harper and showed her that living a half life is no life at all (I feel like that’s very reminiscent of a Harry Potter movie quote….). They bring out the best in one another and Harper finally comes out of her shell while Trent learns to trust again. The plot moved fairly well. Like I told Nikki and Sarah, it was a bit dramatic at times, but not Abbi Glines dramatic (you’ll know exactly what I mean if you’ve read any of her books). It definitely moved and didn’t suffer from the no communication thing that I absolutely abhor. The other characters made it interesting with their dynamics especially Drea and Cujo. The animosity between those two made it hysterical at times. I think their story is next in the series and I can’t wait to get started on it! If you’re looking for a quick summer beach read, pick this one up! It’s sure to keep you entertained and will definitely pull at your heart strings. Also, men with tattoos….hotness overload. Your welcome.
I really enjoyed this book I do feel that there where parts that I felt didn’t always make sense from paragraph to paragraph but other than those few instances well worth the read!!
I am so glad I found this book, great read through the whole book. Trent and Harper have perfect chemistry. Can't wait to start the next in the series
Lyrical Life Quote - Strength shines even in the darkest of times. The Strongest Steel is a courageous story, with heart breaking details of trauma and pain. The novel has a delicate and tenderly written status which showcases how past incidences even when once healed still hinder and loom with their ever present shadow. A strong thought provoking story line in an original idea with a heart felt underlying cause. Harper is the lead character and has two opposing sides, both vulnerable and bold in her effort to move forward. Her struggle to overcome the fear and anger is an enormous undertaking, and the amazing strength that is evident in her actions and words are breath taking. Along side the difficulties in Harpers life, Trent appears and almost instantly begins to breathe life back into her. His character is loyal, caring and supporting but even so he still has his own vulnerabilities. Trent's talent as a tattoo artist and Harpers reminder of the past bring the the two together as a tentative relationship begins to blossom, but unfortunately the past never stays buried and new challenges are thrown their way. Scarlett Cole has claimed a regular romance which has materialized into a powerful novel emphasizing how support or lack there of can have the same profound effect as the actual crime itself. A wonderful read that has you smiling even with a tear in your eye. www.lyrical-lifeindiebookreviews.com
Love!!! Looking forward to the test of this series
A beautifully written story of finding love at the right time & letting go of the past. Harper & Trent are an awesome couple.... any woman would be blessed to have a man in love them like Trent. And it was so cool to learn about the art of tattooing This story had love, intrigue, friendship, & of course some sexy time. Can't wait to read the nexrt book because the friends in the story are just as interesting. This was the first book I've read by Scarlett Cole but it won't be the last! Advanced Reader Copy provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
If you are looking for a sexy as hell tattoo artist with a huge heart Trent is your man. He has built an extremely successful tattoo business in Miami and loves what he does. Trent was approached by a quiet and nervous Harper outside his shop about 1 a.m. when he was closing up. He wasn’t sure what to think of this woman but he had to know what it was she wanted from him that would make her approach him. All Harper was looking for was a tattoo that would cover up the hideous scars she had all over her back. She thought if she could hide these scars it would help her to move on. Harper was in hiding from an ex-boyfriend who carved words into her back during one of his fits of rage and that was after he broke her nose, jaw, ribs, etc. Harper was afraid of her own shadow and doubted everything about her. She had been around her ex, Nathan, who never had anything good to say to her or about her and she started buying in to what he said. Nathan also knew people in high places so his stint in prison was next to nothing and he was up for parole. Nathan had vowed to get even with Taylor. (She had changed her name to Harper when she ran four years ago in fear) Harper knew that Trent had made a name for himself being an excellent and well sought after tattoo artist and it didn’t hurt that he was extremely good looking. She had been saving her money up during these four years and was ready to take that leap and try to get her life back on track and erase everything that Nathan had done to her physically. Trent seen something in Harper and had to know what it was that this girl was trying to cover up. Harper hadn’t shown anyone what Nathan had done to her so showing Trent was a huge step for her. Trent could tell that this was a monumental thing for Harper and he tried everything in his power to make her feel ok about doing this. He could not believe his eyes when he seen what Nathan had done to Harper’s back. Trent knew that he had to help Harper and he also knew it was going to be one of the toughest things that Harper was going to have to do. If you like books with strong women this would be a book for you. Harper came back from hell to try to reclaim her life while still fearing that Nathan would find her and make her pay as he promised he would. Trent was swoon worthy in not only his looks but in his patience and in his trying to help Harper through this. Harper had a defense mechanism and that was to run anytime things were too hard for her to handle so what would it take to get Trent to break through all of these issues and try to get Harper to see what she had buried deep inside herself? I strongly recommend this book and it was a book that was hard to put down because you couldn’t wait to see how everything was going to play out. Another outstanding book by Ms. Cole and I can’t wait to read about others from Second Circle Tattoos. This book was provided as an ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
Absolutely loved Harper & Trent....my only question is what happened to Reid? Harper shouted his name at the end but still no wrap up with him.
Great read, not perfect but I enjoyed the characters and story.
Excellent story! When a book is written well and written with an engaging story line, it plays like a movie in my mind while I'm reading. This book played vividly! Trent Andrews is one sexy tattoo artist. I still have the scenes from the private room at Second Circle playing in my head. Harper Connelly is an amazing woman. The things Nathan put her through were gut wrenching and it felt good, as a reader, to go through the healing steps with her. The finished tattoo...WOW! I absolutely loved this first book in the Second Circle Tattoos series. I can't wait to read book 2. Received a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated for my review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinion expressed is my own.
AMAZING debut from Scarlett Cole! This book was on my TBR list for months, and an author spotlight on FB group (I
I really don't know what to say about this book, it had me in tears before I even finished the first chapter, it had me wanting to hit someone when the bar scene happened, and it had me on the edge of my seat biting my nails when Harper's past caught up with her. I loved how Trent was with Harper when she first went to see him at the tattoo studio. He knew how to handle her delicately without even really knowing why she was as skittish as she was. After hearing a little of her story he was able to designed the perfect tattoo for her to show her rebirth into her new life. Not only were Harper and Trent great together but all the secondary characters were great as well, the chemistry and the banter with all of them made you feel like you were one of their friends out for a drink with them or just hanging around the Second Circle tattoo studio. This is Scarlett Cole first novel and I look forward to reading more of her work. ***I have received this book from St. Martin's Press through netgalley in exchange for my honest review***
I really enjoyed this book! Trent is great; he's sweet and caring with enough spice to make things interesting. I loved the tattoo shop and seeing Trent's passion for what he did, especially working with scarred people. Harper's journey was great; seeing her really become comfortable with who she was as well as finding happiness again. I can't wait to read more in this series!
Look forward to reading more by this author!
Beautiful love story about strength and survival.
This was a fantastic debut book by Scarlett Cole! I couldn't have guessed that I would like it as much as I did! It had wonderful characters, a very engaging storyline, and an appealing setting. It was a wonderful start to the series, and I am highly anticipating the next book! Harper Connelly went through a horrific experience and has decided to try to take part of her life back by covering her scars with a tattoo. Trent Andews, a respected tattoo artist, is immediately drawn to this damaged girl and is determined to help her however he can. Harper, who hasn't trusted anyone since the incident that changed her life, finds Trent's protective understanding and patience just what she needs. The two quickly become very close, developing a strong relationship, but as Harper's attacker is released from prison and appears to be after her again, they have to not only deal with keeping her safe, but also with the secrets they have been keeping from one another. I really felt for Harper, with all she went through in the past. She was such a loving, sweet person, and I was so glad when she found Trent. Trent was strong, protective, and very appealing. The two of them were wonderful together, and I thought their romance was incredibly sweet and touching. I liked the storyline and thought it had a nice balance of suspense with the romance. Miami and the Second Circle Tattoo Shop provided a great background for the story. This book was such a wonderful surprise for a debut novel! Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest review.
Really enjoyed it and would recommend it
Harper had to relocate because of a crazy ex-boyfriend. Prison would only keep him away for so long and then Harper knew he'd come after her, as he'd always threatened. The scars on her back led her to Second Circle, a tattoo parlor owned by well-known tattoo artist, Trent Andrews. He specialized in inking over scars and she needed to see if he could help her with her own scars so she could move on with her life. Not only will he help Harper, but he's immediately attracted to her and can't turn her away. Harper is also attracted to him, but she's been badly burned before and balks at anything that has to do with men. Trent won't let her hide away from life so he's determined to help her. I was completely glued to every single page of this heartwarming and extremely romantic book. "I couldn't get enough" is such an understatement! Right away I knew this one's a keeper and I'll be spouting off about The Strongest Steel for a very long time to come. Ms. Cole's plot is unique and thought provoking and the hero and heroine are a perfect fit. I love a lot of romance book heroes, but Trent has to be one of my top favorites. Every interaction between Harper and Trent made my heart shudder and tickled my tummy. I absolutely, without a shred of doubt, loved The Strongest Steel and Ms. Cole is my new favorite author! Her writing style is superb and she brings the love across as plain as day. This is not only an emotional story, but one with sex, romance, and the ultimate love. I won't have any rest in me until I get to read more from Ms. Scarlett Cole. Woo hoo, this is not only a Must Read, but a Keeper too, without a shadow of a doubt! 5 Stars
I think it happens to me more often than I thought it would – but again I am sitting here thinking – “I so did not expect this when I started to read this book – wow”. The Strongest Steel by Scarlett Cole is a powerful novel about two people that fit so perfectly to each other it almost hurts to read it ( in a good way). The authors writing is perfect and the reader is captured in a developing relationship of two broken/damaged persons. I found it hard to put the book down and I hope my fellow readers will agree with me on this as I really would like to recommend this book. And if the author continues this writing style I have to say I can hardly wait for the next book.
What a story! Just wow! This novel runs the gamut with hard hitting, emotionally in depth topics, sweet romance, and wicked sensuality. The in-your-face look at the aftermath of serious, life altering abuse was brought even further to life by Cole’s vivid descriptions. At the same time, the recovery and sense of self was empowering. I love the in-depth look at tattooing. The why’s and how’s were intriguing, and Cole really made the notion palpable to those on both sides of the fence. I loved Harper’s courage to get passed everything with Trent, but every time something came up she’d revert to her past reactions. Trent’s patience was heart-warming, yet his alpha maleness really shone through. Separately these two were intriguing individuals, but together, they’re a couple you won’t soon forget. Cole also develops her supporting cast quite well. I fell in love with many of them and can’t wait for them to get their own stories. This novel was suspenseful and hard hitting, yet the idea of moving forward was very powerful. Cole has launched a series that I can’t wait to read more of. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.