Review: The Strongest Steel by Scarlett Cole

Posted October 17, 2015 by Shannon in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review: The Strongest Steel by Scarlett ColeThe Strongest Steel by Scarlett Cole
Series: Second Circle Tattoos, #1
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on July 7th 2015
Genres: Romance, Contemporary, New Adult
Pages: 297
Buy on Amazon

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 has lived through a horrendous attack and needing to escape, finds herself living in Miami. She’s alive but at this point just barely. Scars stain her body and mind and she wants more than anything to forget about that night and move on with her life. Trent Andrews specializes in tattooing over scars and has become on of the best in his craft. A damaged Harper seeks out Trent to create a tattoo for her, not knowing he would turn out to mean so much. She won’t let anyone stand behind her, let alone a man touch her. Will she really allow Trent to cover the scars that were left on her body? All Trent knows about this beauty that walked into his shop is that she’s terrified, and he has to know why. While creating her masterpiece in ink, the bond between these two grows strong as they learn to rebuild each other, learn to trust and let go of what holds them back.

The Strongest Steel

Trent Andrews. Or should I say bad ass, alpha, swoon worth tattoo artist? I don’t know if there truly is a way to explain how perfect this hero was, and how much good he does for our heroine. He was sweet and caring, patient and intuitive. He knew exactly what Harper needed and would always figure out a way to help her through her obstacles. His words and actions added up to everything a swoony Hero should be – including being able to gain a chorus of ‘Awws’ with his kind heart. But hold up, he’s not you’re average guy next door, sweeter than Iced Tea. Remember when I said alpha? Trust me. You want to know what this guy thinks, says, does. I think Trent might just be one of my favourite book boyfriends to date!

“I know what you’re up to, Trent,” she said as they leaned back against the wall watching Cujo take his shot.
“And what would that be?” he asked, turning to face her with a devious smirk.
“You know.”
“Is it working?”
Harper walked to the table, taking a moment to think through her response to the incredibly simple question. Pausing while setting up her next shot, 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 my opinion, a story has to have a strong heroine to be able to work. The Strongest Steel? It works! Harper is absolutely amazing. She has gone through a horrific experience and doesn’t shut down. She’s screwed by the system and she’s badly scarred – both emotionally and physically. You know what she does about it? She doesn’t give up! And this is all just the beginning of the story. Her strength and character growth were off the charts incredible, it was like two different people. I loved everything this heroine did and thought, what she accomplished to face her fears and learn to fight back. She relearned to trust herself and others and to be able to continue living her life. It was a completely inspiring journey and I know she had a lot of help from Trent and the supporting characters, but that is still a hell of a lot to go through.

Trust is a major part of this novel. A lot of Harper’s strength and growth started with the fact that she could finally talk to and learn to trust Trent. She was vulnerable and raw, opened up to him and the entire time he was nothing but supportive and understanding. He had an uncanny ability to calm Harper and to help her realize they aren’t all bad guys. This was one of my favourite aspects about the entire book. Having something that was so destroyed, you thought you could never get it back turning into such a beautiful relationship. At the beginning, Harper couldn’t even walk down the street without looking over her shoulder and wondering who, what, when, where, why. She couldn’t be touched or alone with strangers. Trent was able to help Harper brick by brick build herself back up into a beautiful and stronger human than she was before.

“I don’t want to move.” The whispered words drew him from his thoughts.
“So don’t.” He pressed a soft kiss into her hair.
“No one has hugged me in a very long time,” she said, pulling away to study him with those soulful eyes. “Thank you.”
“Any time. Tattoos and hugs. I’m great at them both. Just don’t tell the guys out there or I’ll never hear the end of it.”

As of lately I’ve discovered my genre niche seems to be Romantic Suspense; I can’t get enough of it. I’ve heard some people say this story is predictable, but I’d honestly have to disagree. There where clever plot elements that I never would have even thought to use. Cole uses twists and turns strategically so that just when everything starts to settle, JUST KIDDING, she takes you somewhere else or the story shifts. My heart was genuinely racing for these two characters, I not only wanted but needed everything to work out for Trent and Harper.

Is this a Romance? Obviously.
Suspenseful? Yes.
Dark? To an extent.
But you know what else this book was? Heart warming. Funny. Inspiring. These characters (secondary included) worked in harmony to achieve a common goal, and I believe they did so in a magnificent way.

“Trent Vincent Andrews!” came a voice from inside the condo.
“What was that?” Harper jumped. Trent grimaced. The morning was about to get a lot more entertaining.
“Are you home, sweetheart?”
Harper’s eyes went wide. “Vincent?”
Trent jumped off the bed and threw the cover over Harper. “My mom shows up, you’re naked, I have a raging hard-on, and yet you focus on my middle name?”

Another small proclamation of love is for the Playlist. Everyone run right now to Scarlett Cole’s website and find the playlist for Trent and Harper. I love when an author takes the time to find music for inspiration or that matches different scenes and characters because I do that for people around me in real life. As it relates to this story – that Metallica song makes me blush a little bit every time and I have no shame about it.

Are we sure this is Scarlett Cole’s debut? If someone told me she’s been writing under a pen name for years and has oodles of best sellers, I’d believe them in a heart beat. The writing is flawless. How flawless? I’ll let you in on a little secret. I strongly dislike reading stories in third person nowadays (I think a lot of YA and NA have spoiled my brain). The other ladies her at TBB Sisterhood know how I feel, and know to warn me before I start a book with third person narrative. Now skip forward to when I start TSS, and it took me until almost the end of the first chapter before I realized that’s exactly what this book is – Dual POV 3rd person narrative. Wait, what?! Yeah. I was that hooked on the story from the beginning that I didn’t even realize I was loving something I so often dislike. That’s how good the writing is. The descriptors and imagery were absolutely perfect and not once did I feel like I was missing anything from the way the story was written. For this fact alone, Scarlett you have my wallet. Whatever you write, I will buy! The story being spectacular on top of that is just merely a bonus.

This has easily become one of my favourite stories, and better yet it’s the beginning of a series! Make sure to check out Drea and Cujo’s story, The Fractured Heart releasing January 5th, 2016.

“The strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire.”





About Scarlett Cole

Scarlett Cole is a writer of contemporary romance. Rep’d by Beth Phelan at The Bent Agency, and published by St. Martin’s Press. Her debut, The Strongest Steel, has already become an Amazon best seller in romantic suspense. Look for the rest of the Second Circle Tattoo series, coming out soon.

When Scarlett isn’t writing, she spends her time reading, hoarding mason jars, and working out to off-set an epic sour candy habit. She likes hot men, cold beer, and expensive shoes.

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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