Review: The Strongest Steel (Book #1: Second Circle Tattoos Series) by Scarlett Cole

The Strongest Steel - 2nd Circle #1
Title: The Strongest Steel Series: Book #1: Second Circle Tattoos Author: Scarlett Cole Format: Kindle Edition, 297 pages Published: July 7, 2015 by St. Martin’s Paperbacks ASIN: B00WE0OS4S


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. 

Source: Netgalley

My Rating: 4½/5 stars

My Review:

Trent Andrews is successful.  He is part owner of Second Circle Tattoos, his work is well-known, and he’s recently been tapped to work as a judge on a new tattoo challenge TV show.  Personally, he works with his best friend of nearly 30 years, he has a close-knit family, and all the female attention a guy could hope to have. Yeah, on the surface, Trent Andrews has it all.

When Harper Connelly showed up at Second Circle, Trent was in no mood for yet another client but the shrinking violet on his front doorstep in the middle of the night is in clear need.  Though it takes some real time, effort, and patience, Trent finally gets Harper to reveal what she needs tattooed.  Turns out, Harper isn’t so much a shrinking violet but a true survivor who is trying to make her way back to some semblance of a real life.  She knows Trent’s reputation and his ability to work with scar tissue so if she can get past her fear of people touching her, this thing may just work. 

Trent’s patience with Harper goes a very long way toward making her comfortable but when she sees the tattoo he has designed for her, she feels a sort of connection she never thought she would feel again.  But, Trent isn’t just a solo guy, he’s sort of a package deal and with more new people in her life, Harper begins to relax just a little bit.  She’s surrounded by good people and beginning to develop real relationships but her past isn’t finished with her yet.  Harper’s past isn’t just bad, it’s horrifying and was made worse by the fact she wasn’t just let down by the legal system but abused by it in the worst way possible.  Yeah, her trust issues are pretty significant.

As Harper’s relationship with Trent intensifies, she finds she is able to tell him more about her past and trust him not to reject her.  In fact, Trent isn’t rejecting her at all but wants to bring her more deeply into his world.  He wants to protect her even as the danger of her past becomes more serious.  The danger is no joke but with Trent’s help and support, Harper may be able to get to a happily ever after and right a terrible injustice from her past. 

The Bottom Line:  There is so much about this first in series read that I really enjoyed and appreciated.  Trent is such a strong character and I LOVED that he isn’t a twenty-something but a bit older and more settled that I expected to find.  Even with his own issues, Trent is a stabilizing force is Harper’s life and even when he gets things a bit wrong, its done with the very best of intentions and with Harper’s safety and security in mind.  As I mentioned, Trent is a package deal and it is among the package (so to speak J) that some of the best characters of the book can be found.  His best friend, Cujo is a dirty delight with designs on Harper’s best friend, Pixie is an adorable yet determined purple-haired office manager, and Lia is feisty tattoo artist who takes pin-up girl to a whole new level.  Trent’s world is a perfect place for Harper and with all the love and support she finds there, she’s able to flourish and face her demons head on.  I also very much enjoyed the fact that Second Circle is top-notch facility with the express purpose of putting out excellent work.  Each of the tattoo artists are dedicated, talented, and committed to their path in life.  Plus, the name of the shop isn’t just a dreamt up cool name but has significant meaning to Trent.  At the end of the day, this is an easy read in terms of writing style, pace, etc. but wonderfully dark in theme, plot, and some of the characters.  There are some really good naughty bits that appropriately break up the darker, more dramatic moments.  Overall, I pretty much devoured this book and dove right in to the second book in the series, The Fractured Heart.

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About the author and where to find her:

Scarlett ColeTwo-time RITA finalist, Scarlett Cole, is a contemporary romantic suspense / contemporary romance author (represented by Beth Phelan at The Bent Agency). Author of the Second Circle Tattoos Series. The Strongest Steel was a Best Debut Goodreads Author Finalist 2015, and Authors on the Air Global Radio Network #1 Contemporary Romance Pick for 2015.  When Scarlett isn’t writing, she spends her time reading, hoarding mason jars, and working out to off-set an epic sour candy habit.  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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One Comment on “Review: The Strongest Steel (Book #1: Second Circle Tattoos Series) by Scarlett Cole

  1. Pingback: Release Day Spotlight: Second Circle Tattoo Series Box Set by Scarlett Cole | rolopolobookblog

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