Hard As You Can (Hard Ink #2) by Laura Kaye
Genre: Romantic Suspense, Adult Fiction
Five dishonored soldiers.
Former Special Forces.
One last mission.
These are the men of Hard Ink.
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.
Laura Kaye has written another fantastic, thrilling installment in the Hard Ink series. If you enjoyed Hard As It Gets, then you do not want to miss Hard As You Can, which I enjoyed even more than the first book. To follow the series, you do need to start at the beginning since the plot is a continuation of the external conflicts already introduced. The Hard Ink team is back in action as they search for the truth behind a cover up that cost five dedicated Army special ops soldiers their military careers and the deaths of their teammates under the command of the now deceased, Colonel Frank Merritt. Full of tension and suspense, Hard As you Can is a tantalizing blend of danger and heart-fluttering romance.
Hard As You Can picks up immediately following the events in the first book to elaborate on an unresolved subplot that emerged when the Hard Ink team rescues Charlie Merritt from the basement of a strip club run by notorious crime boss, Jimmy Church and his gang of “apostles” who are heavily involved in drug and human trafficking. During the climatic rescue, Shane McCallan meets Crystal, a server at the club who plays a role in facilitating the team’s escape. Afterwards, Shane cannot stop thinking of Crystal and worrying that she’s in trouble and needs his help. Shane’s attraction to Crystal pulls him further into her dark world of abuse and torture.
Crystal is an amazing heroine; she’s a fighter, a protector, and a survivor. Because of her father’s association to the Church gang, she is forced to work for Church and endure the physical and emotional abuse that Bruno, one of the gang’s enforcers, doles out. She’ll do whatever it takes to keep her younger sister, Jenna, innocent and safe from the seedy underbelly of Church’s organization. Driven by shame and fear, Crystal bides her time until she and Jenna can make their escape. The horrendous abuse Crystal has already suffered isn’t graphically described, but over the course of the story, enough details are revealed for me to imagine the severity of her experience and understand the pervasive fear that dictates her life. I can’t help but admire her courage and her unwillingness to be broken despite her circumstances.
Crystal doesn’t trust easily, especially since the men in her life who are supposed to protect her have done just the opposite. So, when Shane barges into her life asking for help and offering protection, her reluctance to accept his help is understandable. Pretty boy Shane is a hero that will absolutely sweep you off your feet. Crystal is shocked and awed by Shane’s gentleness and genuine concern for her. The hope he arouses in her is both frightening and thrilling. There are quite a few tender moments between them that tugged at my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Shane’s desire to rescue Crystal is fueled in part by guilt from his childhood but is mostly driven by the irresistible chemistry between them, and their emotion-packed romance is one I greatly enjoyed.
The awesome cast of main characters from the first book continue to play significant roles in this story, including Jeremy with his quirky tee-shirt quotes and the adorable German Shepherd puppy, Eileen. Furthermore, the Hard Ink’s unexpected alliance with a motorcycle club also adds an element of intrigue to an already gripping story. Although the team is making progress in their mission to clear their names, there are still plenty of unanswered questions to keep readers waiting for the next book in this engaging romantic suspense series.
Source: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher for an honest review.
Read an Extended Excerpt of Book 1, Hard As It Gets
Purchase from Amazon: Hard As You Can: A Hard Ink Novel
Laura Kaye is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of contemporary and paranormal romance. Laura’s hot, heartfelt stories are all about the universal desire for a place to belong. Laura grew up amidst family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses, cementing her life-long fascination with storytelling and the supernatural. Laura lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.
HARD AS YOU CAN is your second book in the “Hard Ink” series (after USA Today bestseller, HARD AS IT GETS). What can readers look forward to?
Readers can look forward to tons of sexy alpha male goodness, awesome bromance between the Hard Ink men, more antics from the Hard Ink puppy, and another great love story between Shane and Crystal. But readers should also be ready for a book that is darker, more intense, and more emotional. This book pushed me to emotional places that were tough as a writer, and might be tough for readers, too. But I think that just makes the payoff at the end so much sweeter!
Describe Shane and Crystal. What are their best traits? What are their weaknesses?
Shane and Crystal are such an amazing couple to me. They’re each exactly what the other needs. Shane’s best traits are his protectiveness, his fundamental kindness, and his soul-deep loyalty (his southern accent and humor are also right up there!). His biggest weakness for sure is a tragedy from the past for which he blames himself—and it’s something that continues to motivate him in Hard As You Can. Crystal’s best traits are her courage, protectiveness, and selflessness—she’s willing to do anything to keep her younger sister safe. Her biggest weakness is also that selflessness, because the sacrifices she’s required to make are getting bigger and bigger and bigger.
If you could describe your book in a 140 character tweet, what would it be?
When a woman in trouble assists an ex-soldier’s covert mission to regain his team’s stolen honor, he finds a new mission to save her, too
What are you most excited about with this second book release?
I’m really excited to take readers deeper into these awesome characters and into the mystery behind the Hard Ink team’s ambush and discharge!
What books are you reading right now?
I’m almost done with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander (yes, I’m very late to the party but OMG JAMIE FRASER!!!). And I’ve recently devoured and loved Juliana Stone’s Offsides and Shelly Thacker’s time-travel historical romance, Forever His.
What can fans of your “Hard Ink” series look forward to next?
There will be two more Hard Ink books in 2014!
Hard to Hold on To – August 2014
Hard to Come By – November 2014
Laura will also be hosting a Facebook party for HARD AS YOU CAN on 2/25 from 12-9pm EST, so stop by and celebrate with her at https://www.facebook.com/events/416084181828110