Ever since hard-bodied, drop-dead-charming Shane McCallan strolled into the dance club where Crystal Dean works, he’s shown a knack for getting beneath her defenses. For her little sister’s sake, Crystal can’t get too close. Until her job and Shane’s mission intersect, and he reveals talents that go deeper than she could have guessed.
Shane would never turn his back on a friend in need, especially a former Special Forces teammate running a dangerous, off-the-books operation. Nor can he walk away from Crystal. The gorgeous waitress is hiding secrets she doesn’t want him to uncover. Too bad. He’s exactly the man she needs to protect her sister, her life, and her heart. All he has to do is convince her that when something feels this good, you hold on as hard as you can—and never let go.
*Blurb from Goodreads*
From the moment I picked up the first Hard Ink book, I was hooked on the world that Kaye created. I couldn’t wait to find out more about Crystal and Dean, and I was not disappointed.
Crystal is stuck in a world that she hates, unable to get out of paying off her father’s debts. She is terrified for her little sister’s safety, and getting out is a risk she isn’t willing to take. If anyone at the strip club found out she had helped Shane, her life could go from bad to worse in seconds.
Shane was drawn to the waitress who helped him one night, and he can’t seem to shake the feeling that there was more to her story. When he and the Hard Ink team need more information about the organization Crystal is working for, he reaches out to her for help, and is sucked into her life in ways he never expected. But danger to both Crystal and the team lurks around every corner, and Shane will have to pull out every trick in the book to keep Crystal safe. And Shane wants to keep her, for longer than just the mission.
The ongoing plot arc in this series is so good, so extensive, and so mysterious that Kaye had me salivating for every little clue I could find. I love the idea of this rag-tag team of military brothers doing anything and everything they can to find out the details of their ruined careers. But for every question that Kaye answers in this book, another two pop up. For me, it’s both exciting and annoying all rolled up into one. I know this series has so much in store for it’s readers, but the instant gratification I crave is non-existent.
I adored everything about Crystal. This poor woman is stuck working in a job she hates, tied to a man she loathes, all because her father got involved with the wrong guys and then died before he could pay off his own debts. She went through hell and back to get into the position she had, and the risk she took with helping Shane was huge. I could practically feel her anxiety at every turn, and I desperately wanted to give her a hug throughout most of the book. Her strength was absolutely amazing. The way she was able to hide the hardships of her life from her sister, under the guise of providing the best life possible, blew me away. When she finally reached out to Shane and was able to accept his help, I wanted to throw up my arms and cheer her on.
After reading the first book, I couldn’t wait to find out more about Shane. There was so much backstory between his character and the hero of the first book, Nick. I love the bromance between all the guys in this series, but the relationship between Nick and Shane was extra special. They had some great moments together in this book, and I thought their friendship was so well done. There was one aspect of Shane’s character that I wish would have been explored more: his past regarding his sister. I felt like Kaye really set us up to get more resolution with that sub-plot but instead she left the ends dangling like so many other aspects of this book.
Their romance was really well done too. Carly had gone through a lot in her past, and although she is currently “dating” someone else (and I use that word lightly, because she is in the relationship solely out of fear), I never felt that impact on her relationship with Shane negatively. I’m not usually a fan of books where the main character is dating someone else in the beginning, but it kinda worked for me here. I loved the way Shane was so patient with Carly, developing a trust and friendship over time while still doing everything he could to protect her both physically and emotionally. Shane more than proved his devotion to her time and again, especially when it came to helping Carly’s sister.
Like the first book in this series, there was a lot going on. The action was intense, and at times pretty violent. This world that Kaye has created takes no prisoners, and it’s hard-hitting and not apologetic. The tone is dark and gritty, but the sweet romance does a wonderful job of balancing it all out. I was glad to see the overall plot advance a little, and while Shane and Crystal accomplish their main objective, I wanted so much more.
All in all, I thought the second installment of the Hard Ink series was great. The romance between Shane and Carly was a mix of both sweet and sexy and intense. The suspense plot focused on human trafficking in this book, and I thought Kaye did a wonderful job with it. While I wanted the overall plot arc to advance further than it did, Kaye left me jonesing for more and more!
I give Hard As You Can a B+