All things, when placed under pressure, eventually break or leave a mark.
Tattoo artist Brody “Cujo” Matthews knows how to keep things simple. In life and in love. Abandoned as a child by a mother who refused to stick around to raise three boys she didn’t want, he’s intent on staying clear of complicated women. The only things complicated in Cujo’s life are the killer tattoos he designs and inks. That all changes when he’s asked to help organize his best friend Trent’s engagement party, which means working with Trent’s fiancée’s best friend, Drea, the definition of high maintenance and sizzling curves. And the one woman he doesn’t want to walk away from.
Andrea “Drea” Caron is broke and tired. After years of caring for her ailing mom, she’s at the end of her rope trying to manage the piling medical bills, two jobs, and a life placed on hold. She certainly doesn’t need the added frustration of a sexy playboy tattoo artist messing up her best friend’s engagement party or her carefully balanced life. But when Drea witnesses the abduction of a woman from the café she works at, she can’t help but turn to Cujo who’s determined to prove to Drea that he’s someone she can count on forever…but as they attempt to bring the truth to light, someone is working to bring that forever to a sudden, deadly halt.
This book was awesome! Well, once I got past wanting to strangle Drea’s mother, that is. Cole did such a good job of creating a character who was so ungrateful and miserable that I had a very difficult time feeling any sympathy for her health issues, and to be entirely truthful, I’m not sure I ever did. All of my sympathies were directed to Drea for spending the past ten years of her life being the sole caregiver and supporter of her ailing mother – since the time she was seventeen. Seriously, Drea gave up her life before it even began to take care of her mother and her mother didn’t utter one nice thing to her until right before she died. But Drea’s mother was only one of the many, many problems she encountered over the course of The Fractured Heart.
If you read The Strongest Steel (which you don’t have to do, but I do recommend because it was an equally good read), then you’ve already met Drea as she is Harper’s best friend. But having met her in the previous book does not prepare you for how hard her life is because Drea excels at putting up a good front. But agreeing to plan and host an engagement party for Harper and Trent and doing it with Trent’s best friend Brody, aka Cujo, does not bode well for her carefully constructed facade. She and Brody push one another’s buttons magnificently – their banter was a major source of amusement for me. Because they each harbor an attraction for the other with no intention of acting upon it, the sexual tension gets pretty thick at times. Drea’s reasons for not pursuing a relationship with Brody are obvious as the woman has no time for it. But Brody’s reasons are not at all obvious, and when it’s finally revealed why he’s avoided a long-term relationship with anyone, it hurt my heart. Both of them were dealt an unfair blow in life at an early age and it went a long way in shaping who they are now. However, spending more and more time together causes them each to realize that they might want more than they have.
Like book one, The Fractured Heart has a major romantic suspense element to it. With all that is going on in Drea’s life between work, her mother, planning the engagement party, and the romance with Brody, you might think that adding an additional element to the story would seem to be pushing it. Yet the way Cole introduces it and weaves it into the storyline, it feels right rather than forced. Having Brody face his past, literally face-to-face, and him having to deal with the emotional wounds from childhood worked well too. The angst surrounding their relationship toward the end of the book actually made sense because it’s hard to imagine Drea being able to be part of an “us” when she didn’t know who she was as an individual. I loved how the author dealt with the suspense elements and was quite surprised with how that played out. And the exchanging of Christmas presents in the Epilogue was fabulous – I nearly cried. The Fractured Heart was a great addition to the Second Circle Tattoos series and I’m already looking forward to book three so I can catch up with Harper & Trent and Drea & Brody – and to find out how Dred plans to handle Pixie. That should be fun!