I foresee quite a few reviews of your books over the next few months as I work my way through your backlist. I discovered you through a review copy of a book of yours coming out in August (which will be reviewed on or after the release date), but I liked that so much that I hunted down your other books. This one intrigued me because of Jane’s recent post about infidelity in romance and because I think tattoo artists are hot.
Seb is a tattoo artist. His ex-boyfriend Luke comes in asking for a custom tattoo: an angel holding an American flag with the initials AJ — obviously someone Luke loved very much in the four years since he left Seb. Seb is still hurt and betrayed by Luke’s constant cheating during their relationship. Luke has come to ask for the tattoo and for forgiveness. Of course, before he can do that, he and Seb fall back into bed with each other.
This is a short little story which I enjoyed very much. Your writing doesn’t sparkle (for me). It’s utilitarian and while it doesn’t get in the way of the story at all, it doesn’t really stand out either. But I enjoy your characters a lot and I love the unconventional situations you seem determined to put your characters in (more on that in future reviews). This story seemed to be you asking, “Can I do a believable reconciliation story of a serial cheater and this cheated-on boyfriend?” and, with the four year gap and the obvious and well-demonstrated maturation of both characters, I’d have to say, yes, you pulled it off.
I liked the tenderness and urgency of the sex scenes:
His lip brushed mine, and that flash of gentle contact startled us apart. Only a fraction of an inch, but that was ground that had taken an absolute age to gain.
“Seb,” he breathed, his voice unsteady, “I want you so fucking bad right now.”
“I know.” I gulped. When I spoke again, barely whispering as I stared into his intense blue eyes, my voice shook more than his had. “That’s why I’m here.”
“I’m…” Luke exhaled, releasing a long, warm breath against my lips that raised goose bumps along the entire length of my back. He drew another, and I thought he was about to speak again.
All at once, he seized the front of my jacket, slammed me up against the wall and instantly overwhelmed me. His desperate, demanding kiss. His hard cock against my own. Hands in my hair. His hair between my fingers. Stubble grazing stubble.
“Fucking Christ,” he whispered, breaking the kiss and touching his forehead to mine. “You’re…” His hands trembled in my hair. He pulled back a little, drawing away just enough to send panic surging through my veins. “Fuck. Seb, this is—”
“Kiss me again.” Don’t you dare have second thoughts now.
“You heard me.” I swallowed. “Just…kiss me again.”
Sometimes the sex seems a little too…intensely amazingly wonderfully awesome. I get that it was the main basis for their relationship — although you do a great job showing that they had and will have a real relationship — but still, it was a bit much at times. And I could have wished to see more of them figuring out how to work things at the end. They’ve got the HEA and then you gave me a “1 year later” epilogue, after they’ve figured out how things work. But, it was a short(ish) story (although Samhain claims it’s category length), so there’s obviously just not time.
But I loved the characters. I loved Seb’s battle to stick with quitting smoking and with choosing the right path with Luke. I loved Luke’s real contrition and obvious maturation. I enjoyed the story and believed they’d make it, even without the epilogue. If readers want a story about infidelity that works, this is it, to my mind.