The Artists Trilogy, Book 1
Author: Karina Halle
Publisher: Metal Blonde Books
Publication Date: January 29, 2013
Source: e-galley for blog tour
Description from Goodreads:
Ellie Watt is used to starting over. The daughter of a grifting team, Ellie spent her childhood being used as a pawn in her parents' latest scam. Now she’s much older, wiser and ready to give her con artist life a rest. But returning to the dry desert town of Palm Valley, California means one more temptation than she bargained for – Camden McQueen. Once known as the high school weirdo, Camden is bigger and badder than the boy he used to be and a talented tattoo artist with his own thriving business. Ellie’s counting on Camden still being in love with her but what she’s not counting on is how easily unrequited love can turn into obsession over time. When Camden discovers Ellie’s plan to con him, he makes her a deal she doesn’t dare refuse, but her freedom comes with a price and it’s one that takes both Ellie and Camden down a dangerous road.
**The Artists Trilogy is a dark and sexy contemporary ride about three flawed individuals caught in a world where it's so easy to justify the bad things we do. This is a pure adult read (Not YA or NA).**
First Sentence: "This will be the last time."
Ellie Watt's parents were (probably still are, wherever they are) con artists, and they taught Ellie the lifestyle. Now in her twenties, she continues to make the bulk of her money this way, even though she keeps trying to go legit. Ellie makes a very compelling main character, deeply flawed and programmed into a number of very destructive behaviors. Even with new incentives to live an honest life, she finds the con hard to resist, because it's so much easier and it's what she's used to doing. I really love that Halle showed what a far-reaching, nigh inescapable impact has on Ellie.
Part of the way Halle cleverly establishes Ellie's character is through flashbacks. The flashbacks go back to high school, when Ellie first new Camden. In them and in Ellie's other references to her past, she refers to herself as "the girl," as though speaking of someone else. Ellie has lived under several identities in her life, and she feels a disconnection from her actual self; they allow her to escape and pretend to be someone new, someone over the past. In actuality, though, Ellie cannot truly escape the past until she faces it head-on and overcomes her fears and hang-ups.
Camden and Ellie's past puts a really interesting spin on what might otherwise be an overly stereotypical romance. Sexy, daring, damaged Ellie and gorgeous, guitar-playing, hot-bod-having Camden were best friends for a while; in fact, they had no other friends. Ellie, beautiful though she is, was teased mercilessly for her odd walk, a side effect of the devastating scars she always keeps hidden. Camden was a goth, wearing full makeup with long hair and a huge black jacket, and was called Camden the Queen, a cruel play on his last name McQueen. There's more to Camden and Ellie's past than that, but I'll leave it for you to find out for yourself. Suffice it to say that their past is complicated and adds complexities to their relationship, and also allows for a completely amazing thrift store date.
Much as I do like Camden and Ellie, and even like them together, I do feel that I could have bought into their relationship more strongly had they had a few more days together. The timeline moves very quickly, and I felt like they progressed a bit too quickly. The romance is good, but I think a slow burn would have had more impact, at least for me.
Now, I am not the kind of person who particularly cares for tattoos and piercings, largely because they both involve *gulps* needles *SHUDDERS*, but Halle does make them sound pretty damn sexy. I love the way Camden views the world and how he sees beauty, representing it in tattoos and other forms of art. Ellie's music note tattoo is also really cool, though her motivations for getting it are less so.
Oh, also, I love the pop culture references throughout. I am such a sucker for a good pop culture reference. The band Calexico comes up a lot, and I'm actually listening to them as I write this. From what I hear, Halle does this quite a bit in her other books as well, so I am excited about that.
Sins & Needles made for a lovely respite from all the YA I read. If you're looking for a sexy, darkly funny read, I highly recommend Halle's newest work. The humor and sexiness remind me of the the Stephanie Plum series, only with more serious issues and character development, which is my way of saying that I think that Sins & Needles has a huge potential fanbase. Personally, I know I'll be planning to read Shooting Scars, the next book in the trilogy, when it comes out, and perhaps some other Halle books in the meantime, schedule permitting.
"'So does that mean you're neat and tidy, since you're a woman?'
I scrunched up my face. 'Are you kidding? I used to buy paper plates just so I wouldn't have to do the dishes. My idea of vacuuming is borrowing someone's dog for the day and having them eat all the crap from the floor.'"