Synopsis: 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.
Review: When it comes to books I rarely venture into contemporary territory, but after enjoying Karina Halle’s Experiment in Terror series, I decided to give her new Artist Trilogy a chance. The gritty and offbeat theme seemed particularly enticing, and after diving into the unpredictable and tumultuous world, you don’t really want to come out.
Ellie is definitely one of the darker protagonists, but it makes her decisions all the more interesting. Though she does bad things, she is sympathetic character. Though you can’t excuse some of her actions, she never really had a chance and just survives as best she can with the cards she’s been dealt. After such a tragic childhood, she could easily be worse.
Camden is even more intriguing. Since the book is not from his POV his decisions and reactions can be harder to gauge. Based on the synopsis he definitely has a dark streak and you never really know what will set him off. That said, as I read the actual book he wasn’t as dark as I thought he’d be based on the synopsis. It was more about what was going on around him as opposed to the character himself. I didn’t come into this expecting to like Camden but you can’t help but fall for him over time.
There’s a lot of chemistry between Camden and Ellie and the flashbacks to their past were a good device to cement the relationship and allow the reader to become invested in where things can go from here. In the life of crime, there are forces bigger than the both of them that can change everything, but their moments are far from cliche and corny. That’s one of Karina Halle’s best qualities as an author. Her main characters and their relationships are rarely cookie-cutter, conventional, or contrived.
Based on the subject matter and the main characters with questionable morals, I am not sure if this book is for everyone. It might be too dark and times are rarely happy, but I enjoyed it a great deal. It is one of my favorite contemporary series now and I am thrilled that she writes fast enough so that the second book isn’t too far behind.
*ARC provided by the author.