Having no other leads Becca Merritt follows the directions on a note sent to her by her brother before he mysteriously disappeared and heads to Hard Ink Tattoo to seek help from a member of her father’s former special forces team. Nick Rixey is tall, dark, handsome as sin and wants nothing to do with her. So she leaves, not knowing where to go or how to find Charlie. But he’s the last living member of her family and she will do what ever it takes to find him.
In one traitorous moment Becca’s father ruined Nick’s military career. Now the only thing he has left are the scars on his body, broken relationships with the surviving members of his team and a deep regret that he didn’t see his ex-commander’s actions before it was too late. He’s come home to help his brother Jeremy run Hard Ink Tattoo and try to figure out what to do with his life. The last person he expects to walk in the front door asking for his help is Becca Merritt. His first inclination is to turn her away, but loyalty and the sense that she might be in danger lead him to check up on her to make sure she’s okay.
When it’s clear that Becca’s life is in danger and Charlie’s disappearance might have something to do with their father’s actions in Afghanistan, Nick’s protective instincts come roaring to the surface. The only safe place for her is behind the locked doors of Hard Ink and the only way to solve this mystery is to call on his ex-team members for help. Maybe there’s a way for them to reclaim their honor and good names along with aiding in Becca’s search. Neither Becca or Nick expect for their attraction to each other to be so intense and consuming. Now they have to not only solve a mystery that seems to be taking them in the direction of organized crime, but decide what they mean to each other.
I’m a picky romantic suspense reader. I have my must-read, go to authors that I trust to give me a nicely balanced action story along with a believable romance. This is not a genre I trust easily. But the blurb for Hard As It Gets had everything sure to catch my attention… ex-soldiers, tattoo shops and a man’s past coming back to haunt him. The only thing that could have made it better was if there were bikers involved. To my utter surprise and delight I thoroughly enjoyed this introduction into the Hard Ink world.
This being the first book in a series I understood going in that there would be a lot of set-up and that it might hinder my enjoyment of the story. That’s not a hit on this story, that’s just the way it is with the first book in any new series. Occasionally, the introduction of all the new characters, building of the story arc and back story become such a large info dump that it can become too much. I thought Ms. Kaye did a nice job of letting the story unfold smoothly. This romantic suspense hooked me from the moment I opened my kindle and started to read.
Right away I was taken with the heroine. Becca comes across as smart, capable and kind. When she goes to Nick for help she’s desperate to find her brother, having no idea that Nick regards her late father with anything but respect. She trusts him from the very beginning. The chemistry between them builds right along with the suspense. Their relationship worked for me because Becca doesn’t let Nick run all over her. She’s strong when she needs to be, knows when to step back so she’s not a hindrance to the team and didn’t take on the clichéd tough girl character.
I had a few issues with Nick and his insistence that he keep the truth of his relationship with her father from Becca, mostly due to a non-disclosure agreement he signed when he was released from the Army. In my mind he and his team were already operating outside the law, who cares at this point about a NDA. Especially when you are forming a new relationship and sleeping with someone who should have been on a need to know basis. As they grew closer and closer and started to fall in love I was waiting anxiously for Becca to find out truth. Knowing the shit was going to hit the fan when she did. Only, it didn’t. My only complaint is that I thought Becca should have held out for more than just a token “I’m sorry.”
I have a lot of love for the rest of Nick’s team and can’t wait to read their upcoming stories in this series. I’m desperately hoping that Jeremy gets his own book. Out of every new character introduced he was my very favorite. By the end I was already looking forward to book two. I would warn readers that the suspense plot doesn’t have a definite ending and looks like it will play out over the entire story arc. That should make readers either very, very happy or extremely frustrated. Final Grade-B
“Where’d you go?” he asked, kissing her neck.
“Nowhere, Nick. I’m right here with you. No matter what.”