Hard to Come By (Hard Ink #3) by Laura Kaye
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Avon Impulse (HarperCollins)
Source: ARC for Tour
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Caught between desire and loyalty…
Derek DiMarzio would do anything for the members of his disgraced Special Forces team—sacrifice his body, help a former teammate with a covert operation to restore their honor, and even go behind enemy lines. He just never expected to want the beautiful woman he found there.
When a sexy stranger asks questions about her brother, Emilie Garza is torn between loyalty to the brother she once idolized and fear of the war-changed man he's become. Derek’s easy smile and quiet strength tempt Emilie to open up, igniting the desire between them and leading Derek to crave a woman he shouldn’t trust.
As the team’s investigation reveals how powerful their enemies are, Derek and Emilie must prove where their loyalties lie before hearts are broken and lives are lost. Because love is too hard to come by to let slip away…
Laura Kaye's Hard Ink series had been on my mental to-read list since before the first book actually released. Before I even started blogging, I read Kaye's Hearts in Darkness and Hero series and I couldn't help but fall in love with her ability to craft rich, absorbing characters, stories, and romance. So, when I came across Hard Ink, it seemed like a no-brainer—not only was it by an author that I already knew could hook me, but it also catered to my from-afar obsession with tattoos and bad-ass types (Jay Crownover's Marked Men, anyone?). But as any halfway-true bookworm knows, there is never enough time to read all of the book's I want to. Seriously—I could probably read all day, everyday until I die and still have a bloated to-read line up. This series just ended up a casualty of that fact, and I never made it around to actually reading it. which meant that when the opportunity to review Hard to Come By came about, I had to jump!
Derek and Emilie's story is the stuff romance fans dream of. He's a wounded ex-soldier, working with his former teammates to try and clear their names. She's a family-oriented psychologist struggling with her desire to help her troubled brother. The premise itself may not sound ground-breaking, but the way these characters come together—along with the cast of excellent secondaries—that's really something special. Derek Marz and his crew are a ragtag bunch of lovable badasses, and the ways in which they interact with each other pull you in from the start. This is the jokester's book with Marz at the helm, and it makes it all the more entertaining. But when he gets serious, your heart can't help but melt a little. Emili provides aspects of the every-woman with enough specificity to make her multi-dimensional.
Perhaps the most incredible aspect of the book is the intriguing, mystery-like back story. It started with the first book, so I had to play some catch up, but there was enough recap to get me up to speed. From there my curiosity was peeked and, without giving anything away, I definitely plan on continuing the series to find out what roles exactly the different players have. And, although I started from the third book, I definitely plan on making my way back to the beginning to fill in the gaps.
My one real disclaimer is that this is not a series to enter without just a little bit of suspension of disbelief. The spy vibe already sets you up for it, but there were parts of HTCB that needed an extra dose. For instance, rocket launchers—they're awesome. Buffy even used one once, and Buffy is basically gospel. I'm willing to accept them—and even enjoy their inclusion for sheer blow-'em-up entertainment potential—but I'm certainly not buying that using one in Baltimore's industrial district would go unacknowledged by neighbors and authorities. Did it make for a thrilling read? Sure. Did I roll my eyes a little at the casual use of rocket launcher? You betcha.
There were a couple of other aspects that were treated a little too blasé within the narrative. The inclusion of a motorcycle gang that really only seemed to provide extra muscle when needed. The depth of the conspiracy was also portrayed—at least to me—in an overly casual manner. The timeline of the romance is also incredibly condensed and had an instalove feel at times. But none of these details took away from the overall story and my ability to enjoy it. Which I most definitely did! In fact, I wonder if some of these details would have been less glaring if I'd read the rest of the series previously. While HTCB can definitely be read as a standalone, there were a lot of details I felt I would've benefited from having from the earlier books. If you're like me and haven't started the series but want to, I'd definitely encourage starting from the first book, Hard as It Gets.
If you're looking for a fun, quick-but-packed read that's got action, intrigue, and a healthy dose of romance, Hard Ink just may be the series for you. Hard to Come By is the kind of book that transcends the stigma of the genre—while it's a romance at its core, the rich, involved story can more than carry its own, and so can the characters behind it. With the holidays coming up (and hopefully some break time with them), it's a great time to get in on the ground floor of this series as it really starts to ramp up!
And don't miss the other books in the Hard Ink series:
Praise for Hard to Come By
~Publishers Weekly Starred Review
"TOP PICK! If you're looking for danger, gritty action, and sizzling passion, then Kaye has just the book and the series for you."
~RT Book Reviews Magazine
Excerpt from Hard to Come By
Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over twenty books in contemporary and paranormal romance and romantic suspense. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.