Hard as It Gets
The first of the Hard Ink series finds the adult daughter of a Special Forces colonel who led his men into an ambush pairing up with the men who survived the set-up in order to find her abducted brother in this repetitious thriller.
Baltimore nurse Becca Merritt is alarmed when her brother Charlie goes missing, and when she visits his apartment, she finds his place ransacked. Charlie has told her to get in touch with someone at the Hard Ink tattoo parlor should anything happen to him. There she meets tattoo artist Nick Rixey, who recently served under her father, and asks Nick to help her locate her brother. Although wounded veteran Nick despises Frank Merritt – who betrayed him and the rest of the men under his command – Nick grudgingly agrees to help Becca.
Things go from bad to worse as Becca’s house is also ransacked and they discover after she reports the break-ins to the police that all official record of her reports about her brother’s disappearance and the destruction of both their places has been erased. Then Becca is attacked at the hospital where she works and afterward Charlie’s little finger is sent to her. Knowing that he needs help in rescuing Charlie, Nick calls the other surviving members of her father’s team, and they work to unravel what Charlie knows and how to get him back.
Becca is an interesting combination of scared and brave, not really wanting to trust Nick and his wounded crew and not knowing that her father set them up. She’s the superwoman to Nick’s classic superman, the soldier who plans and fights extra competently on little sleep and even less food. It definitely helps that Becca is a nurse, especially when she needs to bandage up Nick and his crew or when Charlie’s finger is sent to her, which, while scaring her, also incites her. It’s also fortunate that she knows how to defend herself and use a gun. Even with all these attributes, however, she still needs Nick’s help because – just like Charlie hinted – there is a conspiracy surrounding them.
My only quibble with the book was the incessant repetition. Every time a new character was added to the plot – Charlie’s landlord, Charlie’s landlord’s son, a Baltimore detective, each of Nick’s former Special Forces team members – there’s a lengthy recap. By mid-book, I thought I could recite the salient facts in the case by heart. These constant repetitions slowed down the pace of the book and quickly became tedious.
As any astute reader knows, the more eligible bachelors, especially big, hunky former Special Forces soldiers who are added to the plot of a first book, the more books the series will have. Fortunately, this first book does solve the question of the missing Charlie even though it doesn’t get to the heart of the conspiracy.
The fact that the immediate mystery is solved is a plus to my mind since I’ve read so many in which the initial query was lost in the dust in successive books.
Kaye has a good handle on the action aspects of the story when she gives herself a chance to use them – which I hope she does a lot more in successive books. Until then, this is a good start to what should be an interesting romantic suspense series.