Rating:3.75 stars out of 5
This is the third book in the series featuring five brothers who own a tattoo shop together. The whole series has a strong theme of survival and friends as family, so they would have the best emotional impact if read in order, but there is so much recapping that it’s not necessary. This opposites attract story revolves around SFPD Detective Ruan Nicholls and tattoo artist Ivo Rogers. I have to admit I was looking forward to this pairing, so I enjoyed seeing how they first met. It’s not what happens plot wise that is the draw so much as exploring what happens when people put aside their learned behaviors of defense mechanisms and judgment.
While I like both of these characters, most of the words were spent re-weaving a world that was already built. A novel without a lot of plot could have really delved into getting to know Ruan’s partner Maite, or his friend and landlord Cranson, or his boss.
The prose is always beautiful and focused on observations: “There was a simple beauty in an older woman—a purity of the soul having settled down through life, a river-tumbled gemstone run smooth from its journey through the waters and over unforgiving rocks.” Yet, no one is explored with much depth, nor are any of the words used to layer in more information about the other brothers and move their story forward.
About 50% of the way in, it gets real as Ruan and Ivo connect, talking about their professions, which are their lives. Then it grabbed me by the throat and ripped my heart out. While this scene is powerfully emotional, it is a standout. Also, it is way too much, too early, for a couple barely dating who have seen each other a few times. It works because it’s what damaged people do: throw it all out there to see if the other person runs away. Ivo definitely gives Ruan one hell of a test when he shows up at the police station. My complaint is that Ruan don’t seem to lay himself bare as much as Ivo does, which means the reader doesn’t get to know him in the same way. Yes, the books are about the brotherhood, but the person each picks–their person–needs to be as fleshed out as they are. It gives you glimpses of Ivo’s and Ruan’s daily life and how they start to mesh them into one, but I didn’t live and breathe it.
To be fair, I have been really thinking hard about why I’m a little disappointed because I know fans of this series will love this. While I don’t like to compare books, it’s difficult when I just read Ramen Assassin by the same author and it’s just so much more entertaining. This gives a nice, romantic ending that I think will please everyone. There is a bit at the end dealing with James, so the audience knows whose romance is up next.
The cover art is by Reece Notley (firstname.lastname@example.org). The covers of the series are eye-catching with great models and have a unified look. This isn’t quite how I picture Ivo because of the hair.
ebook, First, 240 pages
Expected publication: September 17th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language English
Series 415 Ink #3