Tattoo artist Brody “Cujo” Matthews knows how to keep things simple. In life and in love. Abandoned as a child by a mother who refused to stick around to raise three boys she didn’t want, he’s intent on staying clear of complicated women. The only things complicated in Cujo’s life are the killer tattoos he designs and inks. That all changes when he’s asked to help organize his best friend Trent’s engagement party, which means working with Trent’s fiancée’s best friend, Drea, the definition of high maintenance and sizzling curves. And the one woman he doesn’t want to walk away from. Andrea “Drea” Caron is broke and tired. After years of caring for her ailing mom, she’s at the end of her rope trying to manage the piling medical bills, two jobs, and a life placed on hold. She certainly doesn’t need the added frustration of a sexy playboy tattoo artist messing up her best friend’s engagement party or her carefully balanced life. But when Drea witnesses the abduction of a woman from the café she works at, she can’t help but turn to Cujo who’s determined to prove to Drea that he’s someone she can count on forever…but as they attempt to bring the truth to light, someone is working to bring that forever to a sudden, deadly halt.
It’s been a week or so between finishing this read and writing this review. As soon as I pulled the book up on Goodreads, my mind immediately flashed to exactly the same things I liked and disliked at the moment I completed the read.
CUJO!!! Cujo was introduced in book one, The Strongest Steel and I am so glad Cole didn’t make me wait until the end of the series for his book. Cujo is outwardly all kinds of kid wrapped in a beautifully built man-sized body but inwardly, there is a lot going on. Though the reason is never quite specified, Cujo is just fine with the world believing him to be happy-go-lucky tattoo artist rather than part owner of Second Circle Tattoos. Oh, and he is also part owner of both his brother’s businesses but that’s just showing off J Lurking even further below the tough exterior is a lot of darkness that includes unresolved issues related to the disappearance of his mother and surviving a truly nasty illness. All of Cujo’s story – including how he got the nickname Cujo – comes out as he becomes more involved with Drea. With each revelation, I liked Cujo a little more and found my liking of him made it all the easier to forgive his dumbassery.
Cujo really is the heart of The Fractured Heart and while he sort of got saddled with a really wonky plot, Cujo was able to salvage the wonkiness and pull this one out of lower star rating. Cujo shows so much growth over the course of this read that he is virtually impossible to dislike. Even when Cujo screws up – and he does – he finds a way to make things right and makes sure it is clear, his intentions were good even if the execution sucked. So many times throughout this read, Cujo’s world is rocked and after a bit of rolling, he manages to come out on top as well as taking care of those he calls his own.
Drea’s plot line: This half of the plot line is just really, really wonky and I had a hard time buying into it from the beginning. I was totally OK with the portion of the plot that involves Drea’s mother; that part isn’t at all hard to buy and it is quite heartbreaking. The random woman who is kidnapped from Drea’s work place and then consumes her thoughts only to show back up in the most ridiculous of places and ridiculous of ways is the part that is hard to buy. Drea has enough to deal with without being nearly consumed by the identity of the kidnapped woman and her involvement with environmental issues. Connecting all of this to Drea’s “real” life with her mother and Cujo was just too much of a stretch for me.
Drea: Yeah, I sort of didn’t like Drea much either. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to like Drea simply because of her kindness towards Harper in The Strongest Steel but her actions in this read made her hard to like. Drea does everything within her power to help her wretched mother and I have respect for her there but when it comes to her relationship with Cujo and her actions with the kidnapped woman, she lost me completely. On several occasions, Drea plants her head firmly up her own ass and takes decisions away from others (Cujo!) or acts in a totally irrational manner simply because she thinks her way is the right way. In these instances, Drea comes off as selfish and inconsiderate which left me seriously disliking her. Even when she eventually pulled her head out, the damage had been done and I couldn’t ever get back on Team Drea.
The Bottom Line: With all that mess being said, how in the world can I possibly be at a four-star rating? One word, CUJO!!! Cujo is more than enough to carry to this story and balance out all the wonkiness and weirdness. In fact, after this read, Cujo is my favorite character in the Second Circle world and it is going to be damn hard for another character to bump him out of that spot. Cujo’s interactions with the other characters, in particular his nieces, Pixie, and Harper had me wrapped around his little finger. His back story is so sad but he hasn’t let it totally affect his present and the things that are lingering get dealt with in this read. At the end of it all, Cujo is such a strong (OK, domoinant!) character that I was able to overcome the other issues I had with the read and just soak up the Cujo awesomeness!! On to book three, The Purest Hook and if I’m really lucky, Cujo will be in that one too 🙂