Series: Second Circle Tattoos #4
Published by Swerve on August 30, 2016
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Suspense
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When her car breaks down off the side of a lonely highway far from her sunny Miami home, tattoo artist Lia never expected her very own white knight to ride up on the back of a barely street-legal motorcycle...and she never expected to fall for her dark savior. After a string of failed relationships and a bruised heart, Lia is not looking for forever, and the hot mechanic, with his sexy scruff and shaggy hair, is simply impossible to resist and the perfect candidate for a mind-blowingly-perfect, no-strings-attached one night stand.
Reid left his life in Chicago far behind him and hasn't been back, but he's never been able to escape the guilt he feels about his own painful role in inviting a monster into his baby sister's life. A monster who almost destroyed her. Being with Lia is an unexpected gift, one he doesn't feel he deserves, and their one night together has him wanting more than he should. When he surprises her at her tattoo studio, Second Circle Tattoos, in Miami, he's in for a shock - and a fist to the face - when his past and present collide.
With secrets coming to the surface, Reid and Lia are thrown into a world of betray and lies that threatens to pull them under, and the last link to his former life, may be the darkest of them all.
Since the beginning (of the series), Lia’s character intrigued me. Then, when I heard about Reid getting a book, I couldn’t help but jump for joy. I wanted him to redeem himself and who better to be along side him than a sassy firecracker who knows what, and who, she wants? The Darkest Link can be read as a standalone, but I would highly suggest reading The Strongest Steel first, as this book is partially based on the events of the first. Reid and Harper meeting again made my heart so happy, and how this book was their reconnection was even better. Both sides got to explain their stories and secrets and I really enjoyed how interconnected the stories are. The Darkest Link brought every character’s journey round full circle.
“In the words of Meatloaf, I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that.”
Reid burst out laughing. “Meatloaf? Really?”
Reid is the just like the typical guy you want in your life, fictional or not. He’s loyal, protective, can take charge of a situation, hard working and has a huge heart. He sacrifices so much and will do anything in his power to right past wrongs, even when he isn’t at fault. He’s sweet, demanding, and throw in his at times cocky attitude, Lia reeled herself in a real keeper who I wouldn’t mind stealing *wink wink*.
He spun on his stool and waited for her to walk around to him. Large hands gripped her hips and pulled her to stand between his legs. “I need you to promise me that you will never let anybody dim your light. It’s the most goddamn beautiful thing about you. Don’t dim it for anyone. Ever.”
On paper, Lia and I really have nothing in common, however I formed an attachment to her emotionally. I can’t even pinpoint exactly what it was but I loved her. And thank the freaking lord she could be upfront about something like how she falls hard and fast for a guy, and not be like the characters that hold it in and exploded over their feelings. She was always open and was such a beautiful person. She’s a true example of never judge a book by its cover.
Can I just say how much fun it is to read about flirty banter? How often is that skipped over these days and all of a sudden were already into the ‘I love you’, part of the relationship. I want to see a connection grow! I want to read about a fictional couple like how you might experience a real relationship. I want to see the attraction, the butterflies, the smiles, the giggles. Scarlett Cole delivers in every aspect.
“Okay, babe. Enjoy the rest of your day.”
“Don’t babe me.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,”
I noticed that this book isn’t *quite* as heavy as the others. There’s laughs, smiles, and plenty of love. It still has its own set of issues, and trust me, there’s plenty, but I could laugh along with the characters without worrying what might be around the corner. They were resilient and dedicated.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There’s no Second Circle couple that can top my love for Trent and Harper, but damn if Reid and Lia didn’t come close at times! I loved getting plenty of time with the past couple as well and how they all grew together as a unit. This helped to bring back all of the familiar feelings from the rest of the series and really remind the reader how much they love the other characters beforehand. They can’t take first place, but Reid and Lia have officially become my second favourite Second Circle couple (sorry Cujo, Drea, Dred and Pixie! Still love you all).
“Babe, look at me. Whatever happens from now on, we’ll always have this. You and me. I promise.”
My biggest wish was that we could’ve had some more emotional attachment between Reid and Lia because at times it seemed to be 98% physical. I get it, trust me, physical is important too, but I just think back to the other books and love how much stronger the characters get while having those moments. Also how much I swoon over them. Things like Trent and Harper’s hug, or Cujo’s tattoo, that sort of stuff. Reid’s constant term of endearment, no matter how some people think it’s overused, was so sweet. Plus, the fact that he had some serious balls to start calling Lia a pet name.
One thing I loved about this story is that no matter how much was going on (and trust me, there’s some drama), it’s uncomplicated and easy to follow. You always understand what’s happening, who is being referred to and what issue is being addressed. Not only that, but the twists, secondary characters and conflicts from the plot are easy to follow along. This was one of my setbacks from Drea and Cujo’s book, so I’m glad to see that addressed.
“Anyway, at the end of Labyrinth, Jennifer Connelly’s character, Sarah, breaks Jareth’s spell by saying, ‘Through dangers untold, and hardships unnumbered . . . my will is as strong as yours . . . You have no power over me.’”
“I really want to be all serious and nod my head at that, but I think you just attempted to drop knowledge by quoting a movie in which David Bowie wears tights.”
One thing I noticed that I would’ve loved to have been expanded upon was the twists/conflicts. It seemed like they were very briefly described and all of a sudden moved on from. Moved on, not meaning the conflict had been resolved but I mean literally the scene changed. It seems we were given more of a psychological look at the incidents and their effects on each character, rather than the emotions and visuals as each trauma takes place. This being expanded upon (in my opinion) could’ve helped not only with imagery and depth, but the emotional connection/growth between characters as well. A rather minor point, but something felt was important to address.
Have I mentioned that I want to live in Miami? Or say… Have an extended vacation there. That sounds like a good plan, get a feel for it first. There’s very few books that make me want to actually live within the city or world that the author created, but this series is one of them. Given the chance, I’d check out the sunshine state in a heartbeat!
I hate (like, avoid if at all possible), the third person narrative style, so that says something about Cole’s writing, considering the fact that I DEVOUR these books. Sure, it helps that she gives dual POV but with every paragraph, I’m entranced. She makes me forget that this isn’t my preferred style and just enjoy the book. I, for one, am starting a slow clap because I’ll be the first to admit that I’m picky. Scarlett wholeheartedly stays true to her characters and commits to telling their story. You can’t help but hold your breath, dive in, and swim. I promise, you won’t surface until you flip the last page.
My favourite part of The Darkest Link has to be the epilogue. Every character had time in the spot light, conclusions were drawn, and it was not only the perfect ending to each individual couple, but a magnificent ending to the series. The Darkest Link concluded in the perfect send off to the Second Circle series and all of the characters that we have grown to love. I couldn’t be happier with how it ended. There may have even been a little tear, though I’m sure I’d deny that.
“We might all be in a bit of a mess for now,” Harper said. “But we’re finally all reunited, and there are no more secrets. I feel like we’ve come full circle, finally.”
*An ARC was received from the publisher and Barclay Publicity in exchange for an honest review.
Reid’s phone rang. He pulled it from his rear pocket and saw Lia’s name flash on the screen. He smiled as he answered.
“Hey, babe,” he said, walking through the open double doors of the garage. He perched on the low retaining wall that separated the garage from the unit next door. It needed knocking down and rebuilding, but neither he nor his neighbor really had the funds to do it.
“Did you just call me babe?” Lia said. From the way her voice went up at the end of the sentence, he took it that “babe” wasn’t a good thing.
“Guilty,” he said. “You don’t like it?”
“The sentiment, yes. But babe has always struck me as the kind of word a guy calls all the girls he dated. I can never decide if it’s just habit or he just doesn’t want to get my name wrong.”
Reid laughed. “Believe me, Red, no one could ever forget your name. How’s your day going?”
“Oh . . . you know,” she said, in what he assumed was her fake-it-’til-you-make it tone. “It’s going.”
“You know, if you just put a fraction more excitement into that, I might just believe you.”
“No, it’s fine. I’m fine. There’s just a lot going on, but for some totally messed-up reason, you were on my mind. So I decided to give you a call.”
“I like that,” Reid replied sincerely.
“What? That there’s a lot going on in my day?”
“No, of course not. That for whatever totally messed-up reason, I’m on your mind.” He couldn’t help the grin spreading across his face.
“Funny,” she replied.
“I like to think so. So is this a booty call? Because I need to know if I’m about to be taken advantage of.”
Finally, she laughed. “No. It’s just a call call. No booty.”
“Pity. I’m here to serve. You want to talk about my booty, I can get down with that. As long as I can talk about yours in return.”
“There was definitely no booty in the purpose of my call.”
“Damn, because you do have a pretty spectacular—”
“Kenny,” she warned in a tone just like his mother used to use when he was in trouble, and he rubbed a hand around the back of his neck.
“Well, whatever it is, I’m glad you called called me. Are you at work?”
“Yeah. Just sitting outside for a ten-minute break, but I’ll be done at five. I should head back inside.”
His chest tightened a little at the thought that she had called him for absolutely no reason at all. “Okay, babe. Enjoy the rest of your day.”
“Don’t babe me.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” he said, before hanging up the phone.
Need another reason to one click? Check out Shannon’s reviews of The Strongest Steel and The Fractured Heart here.