Title: The Strongest Steel by Scarlett Cole
Genre: New Adult Romance
Publisher: St. Martins Press
**E-ARC received via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review**
2016 RITA Finalist for Best First Book and Best Romantic Suspense!
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.
Strongest Steel is my first experience with Scarlett Cole as an author and I decided to request this one via Netgalley because the synopsis left me really intrigued. I liked the mysterious nature that would accompany this book with the cryptic messages Harper was going to receive and I wanted to read the story behind her scars.
Strongest Steel features our main female protagonist Harper who has been through something horrific in her past. The story of Harper was really interesting, her past was horrendous but as the story develops we get to see her break out of her shell and become more confident. As Harper interacts with Trent she begins to let a little bit of the fear that continuously plagues her go.
I also want to mention a potential trigger warning to readers, at different points in the novel Trent refers to his sister who used to self harm. Whilst he doesn’t go into explicit detail he mentions bits of information about her and he refers to ‘cutting’ numerous times, I understand books can sometimes be a trigger therefore I want to mention this so you each know what to expect.
This is the first Contemporary Romance novel I have read which focuses on Tattooing as the subject, this in itself is interesting because Harper is looking to have a tattoo to cover some serious scars on her back. I like this element because I always like to read the articles which pop up in the news about Tattoo Artists offering help to abuse survivors or cancer patients therefore this scenario felt very realistic to me.
Whilst I did enjoy this book I had some issues with certain parts, for example at one point Trent is rather angry with Harper for – it’s not really lying so we’ll say keeping some real information to herself. This really got to me because here he was acting hurt and angry when he was basically doing the same with her by not telling her about his TV show opportunity. I just wasn’t a fan of this contradiction between the characters, Harper didn’t tell him all the information because it’s pretty crucial to her safety and as his character was usually understanding towards her, I did expect a somewhat different response.
Additionally to this the book also glazes over some things, for example after her first session for her Tattoo it is revealed later on as a side note that Harper rang up Trent complaining of the pain and wanting to go to hospital. This seemed like a funny scene and I think it would of been a great addiction to actually have it within the story rather than as a little side note.
Finally I was to mention the mysterious messages Harper receives, these come as anagrams. Now for some people they might enjoy this part especially if they like anagrams but for me it was rather confusing. I don’t understand anagrams and I can’t do them, of course the book gives you the muddled letters then tells you what they actually mean as Harper works them out for herself but I spent so long trying to see how she got them worked out that I was getting a little confused and it was slowing down the pace and flow of the book for me. I’m all for just standard creepy and cryptic messages.
I only have one wish for this book and that is this; at numerous points in this book, Harper’s brother is referred to and it is explained that he basically left the family and nobody has heard from him. I wish the book included some resolution on Harper’s brother and her relationship with him, just so we knew where he was or what he thought of the whole situation after the final parts of the book unravel.
Overall I would give The Strongest Steel 4 stars, I really liked this story especially with the additionally mystery and crime scenes. The ending itself is very fast paced but I would of probably enjoyed it more without the anagrams or if their was a little bit more description leading up to Trent and Harper’s relationship. I’m referring to the little moments only added as side notes here. I would of also liked resolution with Harper’s brother or any information after the fact we know he just upped and left.
- Realistic Plot – Trent (Tattoo Artist) and Harper working together to create a Tattoo that will cover her scars
- Elements of mystery and crime mixed in to the romance
- Lacked Resolution in terms of Harper’s Brother but their is resolution to Harper’s ex as well as with Trent
- Quick, Easy to get into read.
- Anagram – Creepy Messages – If you like Anagrams you will like this. Of course they tell you what the answers to the anagrams are but it was just not my thing.
Let me know in the comments if you are adding The Strongest Steel to your TBR, also let me know what contemporary books you are planning to read this summer!