The Strongest Steel

Scarlett Cole
The Strongest Steel
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St. Martin's Press
Release Date
June 2015
Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense/Mystery

"I know what you're up to," she said.

"And what would that be?" he asked with a devious smirk.

"You know."

"Is it working?"

She looked over her shoulder to where he was still reclining against the wall, watching her patiently. All the reasons she'd vowed to stay alone, to remain uninvolved, fled as he grinned at her. "Maybe."

Harper Connelly never expected to find herself outside of a tattoo parlor at one in the morning. The scars that decorate her back are just one more reminder of things she'd rather forget, the past she wants to leave far behind her, but before she can move on she needs him.

Trent Andrews has his own reasons for specializing in inking over scars. And there's no way in hell he's going to turn Harper away. Not when a swirling mix of tenderness and desire slams into him every time her sees her. Being with Harper is like going 10 rounds in the ring-exhilarating, powerful, and dangerous. She stirs feeling in him he thought were long gone... if he can only get past her carefully constructed defenses.

Running was the only thing that saved Harper last time, but each session at Second Circle Tattoos brings her closer and closer to Trent. His lingering touches seduce her, making her believe in a life without fear, where she can be happy, whole, in love. 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. She ran from her past once before, this time will she have the strength to fight back?

Book Review by Ashia (reviewer)
Jul 21, 2015   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
173 people found the following review helpful
"The strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire."

It's hard to articulate what I feel about THE STRONGEST STEEL. It affects me that much, especially after knowing what Harper went thorough, something that no woman should have gone through.

Harper Connelly started life over in Miami four years ago, yet in many ways, she was still living in the past. She made a conscious decision to move forward by having a tattoo done on her back to cover her scars, and that was where she met Trent. Even while she was attracted to him and he to her, she has some serious issues about being touched, and so Trent had to go slowly with her. But just when Harper might have a reason to stay forever in Miami, her ex (the one who gave her the scars and who would soon be out on parole) threatens her life. Would she run again?

Scarlett Cole truly knows how to get readers invested in her characters and in the story. From the first page, she drew us into the story and she made me feel for Harper. Pity, horror, then admiration for her courage and strength. How incredibly brave she is. This is one heroine I genuinely root for to have her HEA. It's easy to see why Trent would fall for her, aside from her being gorgeous, of course.

I have to say that starting the story off with Harper fearing for her life was a master stroke, because all throughout, we get the sinister overhanging feeling of Damocles' sword over Harper's head. Even while we enjoy her coming out of her shell, her decision to embrace life and a relationship with Trent, we knew that it wouldn't last. We knew that something would happen, that her ex would come after her as he'd promised, and we are kept on tenterhooks as we wait for that eventuality. Especially when those cryptic messages and other stuff come along.

Trent is a wonderful hero--patient and strong, since that's what Harper needs him to be. I like how he wasn't commitment-phobic, and how he was willing to wait for Harper and work with her through her issues.

Both characters show growth and development throughout the story, especially Harper. Their chemistry is off the charts as well, although hmm... I was a bit disturbed about that 3am scene, the reason why Trent called Harper. Why couldn't it be because he missed her? Why did it have to be because he wanted to get off? And 3am, seriously? Wasn't Harper asleep then? And to wake her up for that? By that time, Trent was having the feels for her, so why couldn't it be both physical and emotional? Or, is it because guys will be guys?

This story also made me look at tattoos differently. I have to admit I didn't quite understand why some people would want to have tattoos done on their bodies, but after knowing Harper's story and her need for one, I can see how tattoos could be part of the healing a person needs to do. And it makes me feel glad that there are tattoo artists out there who are performing this worthwhile service.

Scarlett Cole has written a strong story with captivating, unforgettable characters. Her writing is excellent, and I'd love to read more from her. I'm definitely waiting with bated breath for the next book in this series.
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