Hard As It Gets

Laura Kaye
Hard As It Gets
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Avon Impulse
Release Date
November 2013
Book 1 of Hard Ink
Erotic Romance, Romantic Suspense/Mystery

Five dishonored soldiers.
Former Special Forces.
One last mission.
These are the men of Hard Ink.

Trouble just walked into Nicholas Rixey's tattoo parlor. Becca Merritt is warm, sexy, wholesome—pure temptation to a very jaded Nick. He's left his military life behind to become co-owner of Hard Ink Tattoo, but Becca is his ex-commander's daughter. Loyalty won't let him turn her away. Lust has plenty to do with it too.

With her brother presumed kidnapped, Becca needs Nick. She just wasn't expecting to want him so much. As their investigation turns into all-out war with an organized crime ring, only Nick can protect her. And only Becca can heal the scars no one else sees. Desire is the easy part. Love is as hard as it gets. Good thing Nick is always up for a challenge . . .

Book Review by Bridget (reviewer)
Nov 13, 2013   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
183 people found the following review helpful
Laura Kaye is rapidly becoming one of my favorite contemporary authors, and this opening of her Hard Ink series is only further proof that she is a rising star not to be missed. Intense, heartfelt, funny and packed with tension, this book was an immersive delight from beginning to end and I cannot wait for more.

Becca Merritt has lost most of the people she loves. Her brother died far too young, and her father was killed during a Special Forces assignment in the Middle East. Now, her younger brother has gone missing, leaving behind nothing more than a cryptic clue, and Becca is determined to save him at all costs. Following up on Charlie's final message, she tracks down Nick Rixey, one of the men on her father's Special Forces team, now co-owner of a tattoo parlor with his brother. But rather than the helping hand she was expecting, Becca finds Nick buttoned up, tough as nails, and utterly unwilling to have anything to do with Becca or her family's issues.

Nick has spent the months following his return from Afghanistan closing himself off from his remaining Team members and desperately trying to come to terms with the betrayal that ended his military career. When his commanding officer's daughter shows up in his tattoo parlor, looking as sweet and innocent as can be, his first instinct is to send her packing. But the more he thinks about Becca's brother—and Becca herself—the more he knows there is more going on than a simple missing persons case. Before either Nick or Becca realize it, they are in the middle of a war with an organized drug ring, and the only men that Nick will trust to aid them are the men of his team. The men he turned his back on so many months ago.

One of the most pleasant surprises of this book was the depth and complexity of the two main characters. Nick may have all the traits of a dyed-in-the-wool alpha male, but he is also sweet, deeply emotional and able to admit when he is out of his depth. The events surrounding the attack on his team is still shrouded in mystery, but the scars he bears, both physical and mental, are clear, present and clearly painful. As the daughter of his commanding officer, Becca's presence, at first, is a threat to every wall Nick has thrown up and every defense he constructed to forget his past. But as they work together, she becomes the key to his salvation, and it's marvelous to watch how much they both make each other grow, develop and change.

Becca may be powerless to help her brother without Nick's knowledge and support, but she is anything but a simpering damsel in distress. Her courage and resolve are remarkable, and her bravery in facing down Nick and all his demons made her an unforgettable heroine. She is fantastically smart as well, not only when it comes to fact and details, but in reading and understanding people. That insight enables her to clear some enormous hurtles throughout the book and I loved the determination with which she faced every challenge in this story.

Neither character is perfect, which is as it should be, but they tackle their mistakes head-on. Nick's refusal to speak with his team following their discharge is a huge breach of loyalty, while Becca's assumptions about her family lead to an enormous challenge, both to her happiness with Nick and to the mystery that is unfolding around them. But neither character hides from their flaws for long, and because of that, readers are treated to an honest relationship between two people that is free from lies or awkward misunderstandings. Their problems are real, but they have the courage to face them, which I truly appreciated. That honestly also makes the chemistry between them absolutely electric and so thoroughly compelling that I couldn't turn away.

The supporting cast that Laura Kaye has crafted, from the rest of Nick's team to Becca's adopted puppy, from Nick's brother Jeremy to his older P.I. buddy, is three-dimensional, sympathetic and completely engaging characters. I can't wait to meet the rest of the team in more detail, thanks to the tantalizing introductions to their personal stories we received in this book. Even the villains of the piece have an interesting story to tell and will no doubt keep the suspense high for the rest of this series.

Laura Kaye has created a steamy, surprising and totally engrossing romance, but she has also crafted an absorbing mystery, with plenty of suspense and intrigue. The two elements work extremely well together, without inhibiting the development of either. I cannot wait to watch the rest of this tough, sweet, tense and funny series unfold. If the debut is any indication, this is going to be a series to remember!
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Book Review by illhaveanotherbook (reviewer)
Nov 26, 2013   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
201 people found the following review helpful
HARD AS IT GETS is a good start to a new series.

Becca Merritt is currently searching for her missing brother Charlie. It has been several days since she last spoke with him and the only information she has is a note from him instructing her "to find Rixey, the Colonel's team, Hard Ink Tattoo". With not much else to go on, Becca hopes to find Rixey and enlist his help to find her brother. Becca wasn't anticipating meeting Nicholas or the feelings he sparks in her.

Once Nicholas reads the note from Charlie and realizes that Becca is his former Commander's daughter, he wants nothing to do with her. He sends her away, refusing to help. Guilt sits in pretty quickly so he decides to track her down and see about helping her. Nicholas soon realizes that Becca's brother Charlie is in a load of trouble. Charlie may have also stumbled onto information that can help Nicholas and his former teammates. Nicholas calls in his former Army teammates to investigate further and hopefully clear their names.

Nicholas has got the brooding, alpha male down pat. He is one HOT man. I was definitely drawn to him not only for his looks but because of what happened to him. Nicholas Rixey is a retired (not by choice) military who was discharged after an incident overseas. He was seriously injured and came back home to recuperate. He is currently a silent partner in his brother's tattoo shop called Hard Ink Tattoo and occasionally tattoos there. He also has a process service job (delivers papers) which is his steady job and provides him with a steady income. Both of these careers were not chosen by him and he is feeling restless. Ever since he had to leave the Army, he is struggling with what to do with his future.

Becca is a little sweet…and a lot tough. She refused to be left out of the search for her brother and so she takes an active role in it with Nicholas and his team. I felt for her because of everything she went through with her family; it seemed like one tragedy after another. Becca has to come to terms that her father is not the man she thought he was, but through it all she perseveres and doesn't give up. Together Becca and Nicholas make a great couple. They have some really serious chemistry and they definitely scorch the sheets.

I have been eagerly waiting for this book to come out. I was immediately snagged by its super-hot cover and the book blurb on the back. Having read the book, I am a tad disappointed because what I thought I was getting…a hot sexy tattoo artist…I didn't feel came through as much as I would have liked (remember this is what I feel). Don't get me wrong. I think it's a good story, just that in my opinion, I really didn't feel that Nicholas was a tattoo artist as much as he was a military man. He says it in the story at least twice that he does tattooes occasionally. Besides that, I really did like the story. There is a lot of action in the story and suspense as Nicholas, Becca and his team tries to find Charlie.

I found his brother Jeremy really funny (loved his shirts) and I hope he and the rest of the team get books of their own. And sweet Eileen the three legged dog was just adorable.

HARD AS IT GETS set things up nicely for the continuation of the Hard Ink Series as Nicholas and his team as they continue to investigate what happened in Afghanistan. I am looking forward to the next book.
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