Hard As It Gets is book one in Laura Kaye’s Hard Ink series. This book was filled with suspense, intrigue and a whole lot of sexy ex-soldiers attempting to clear their names. Damn, I loved it! This author has done a wonderful job setting up this book and series. The group of ex-special forces soldiers band together to solve a mystery and cover up that may lead to having their names finally cleared. With so much at stake, can the band of soldiers tarnish their reputations or will they uncover demons that should have stayed in the closet?
Twenty-eight year old Becca Merritt has experienced much loss in her life, forced to endure the deaths of her mother, father and one brother. Now, the only family she has left, her brother Charlie, has gone missing and has left her with a perplexing message sending her to Hard Ink Tattoo Parlor in search of one of the members of her father’s special ops team. Desperate to find her brother Becca heads over to the tattoo shop; however, what she encounters when she arrives is an aloof man who sends her off quickly, rudely dismissing her request for his help.
Thirty-three year old Nick Rixey has been coasting through life ever since he was discharged from the Special Forces. Having lost half of his team and still dealing with his own injuries, Nick lives his days out with any purpose only occasionally doing some tattooing at the shop his brother runs and some process serving work. Nick carries overwhelming amounts of guilt as he never realized that their military commander was involved in some illicit and dangerous extra-curricular activities which lead to the destruction of his team. He walked away from the army with his reputation in shambles. He walked away from his team choosing to bear the burden of guilt on his own and ignoring their attempts to reach out to him. So when the daughter of his ex-commander shows up at the tattoo shop, Nick is sucked back into that place of anger and betrayal and sends her away.
Despite Nick’s issues he is unable to turn Becca completely away. His loyalty and integrity have not been completely obliterated. When he seeks Becca out and speaks with her a second time, Nick discovers that Becca and her brother are definitely in danger. As Becca and Nick work together to find Charlie, they come across so much more than they were expecting. Organized gangs and crime rings that somehow are connected to Becca’s father. Knowing this Nick calls upon the brother’s that he let down and essentially ignored ever since they were all discharged. Could this finally be a lead that could clear the names of Nick and his comrades and restore their honor or will it simply lead to an all-out war? Nick and his brother’s in arms reunite to uncover the truth and race against the clock to find Charlie who may or may not hold all the answers.
The connection that Becca and Nick feel is established immediately and only intensifies as they work together and spend more time with one another. Both are taken aback by the profound feelings they begin to develop quickly for one another. While there is an instantaneous spark between the pair, Nick and Becca take a little time to give into their base desires. Nick is drawn to the goodness and the light that Becca seems to exude while Becca sees a troubled man but also is aware of Nick’s strength and his protectiveness. The book equally focuses on the suspense and romance storylines and this author does a great job balancing both. This made me appreciate the quiet, steamy and sweet moments that Nick and Becca share even more as there was a lot going on as they all band together to find out where Charlie has been taken. I also appreciated that there was no unnecessary angsty bull-shit thrown in when it came to the developing relationship between Becca and Nick. Becca is a lovable heroine with a great head on her shoulders. She may be sweet and kind but she is also strong and resilient. There were no stupid and dangerous decisions made by her. If anything, she proved to be an asset to the team over and over again and earned the respect and admiration of all the men.
Becca’s dangerous situation is the motivation behind reuniting Nick and the remaining team members he served with. The fact that Nick essentially shunned them ever since the betrayal is cause for some intense moments between the men. Despite the fact that there is much to be fleshed out between them all, the guys all work together and slowly start to rebuild the fractures in their once steadfast and strong band of men. Laura Kaye has given us a group of very intriguing and drool-worthy men and she takes the time in this book to establish their characters as each of the men will be given a book in this series. The groundwork has been laid out for the reader and that was very well done by this author.
All in all, Hard As It Gets is a fun, well-paced and suspense-filled romance that had me enthralled. As the teams digs deeper and deeper in their quest for answers, the danger increases and matters get more complex. While Becca and Nick may have started a journey into a happy forever, the story is far from over. I am looking forward to what else Laura Kaye throws our way in the next installment. The next book is about Shane and I can’t wait to see him get his woman!