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).
This is the 1st book in the trilogy. It is followed by the novella On Every Street (released in March 2013) and the sequel Shooting Scars (released in May 2013). The third and final book in the series will also be released in 2013.***
My review is full of spoilers so beware.
It starts 6 years after On Every Street took place. Ellie has been on the run pulling one con job after another, all over the country. Finally tired of the close calls and danger, she decides to go straight, and returns to the only home she’s ever really had-her uncle's date farm in the California desert. Ellie, however is not very welcome and finds her uncle on hard times.
After striking out at her first attempt of landing a job, she meets a gorgeous tattooed man, who turns out to be her former best friend turned high school enemy, Camden. Long gone are the days of Camden’s gothic look when he wore trench coats, and black lipstick, and was rumored to be gay. He is now sex on two legs and carries a long burning torch for Ellie.
After going out on a date with Camden, Ellie discovers that he has done pretty well for himself, and she soon abandons her attempt at going straight. She decides that Camden will be her next mark, she will rob him and skip town to start a new life for good. Her plan goes awry when he catches on to her intentions and sets her up to be caught with her hand in the cookie jar.
In order to buy her innocence, Camden strikes a deal with Ellie. She must help him to disappear and start a new life as a new man, or else he turns her in. Both Ellie and Camden’s pasts come crashing back down on them, when out of the blue Javier, Ellie’s Mexican Cartel ex boyfriend, shows up in search of her and is offering up a pretty hefty reward for her capture. Camden also reveals that his ex wive's Italian mafia family has blackmailed him into running a money laundering business through his tattoo shop, and this is the reason for his wanted escape.
Camden and Ellie steal the mafias money and go on the run together, desperate to get away from Javier who seems to be showing up everywhere in his attempts to hunt her down. Javier detains Camden’s ex wife and son, and Ellie agrees to turn herself over to him if he releases them. So book one ends with Camden heart broken that Ellie has made this swap and that he is losing her, and Ellie, terrified and unsure as to what Javier has in store for her.
Camden brings Ellie alive. He makes her feel safe and hopeful for the first time in her life. Ellie begins to see that there are options for her outside of multiple aliases, and the life of a migrant-thieving gypsy. Ellie is one tough cookie, with a lifetime of distrust and paranoia ingrained in her. She has been through hell both physically and emotionally and has the scars to prove it.
Through her journey with Camden she is able to see that not all people are bad, and that she can trust Camden, she can rely on him, and that she can let him love her…the real her. In this book, you can see the changes that Ellie begins to make, you can see her feelings, thoughts, and intentions begin to shift away from the mind set of a heartless con artist, to that of a woman falling in love with hope for a better future.
Camden is a fantastic and dynamic character. He is easy on the eyes with GQ looks, and a muscular tattooed body. Camden’s personality and the battle that roars within him is what drew me to him. He comes across as a normal guy, he walks a straight line, and believes in doing the right thing regardless of the crappy hand he’s been dealt. He has suffered a terrible upbringing, followed by an equally terrible marriage, and has taken one hit after another. Hes down on life, and has a damaged heart, until Ellie walks back into his life and sucks him into her dark world.
When Camden discovers Ellie trying to steal from him, despite his love for her, he unleashes his pain on her, never sparing her feelings. Despite what Ellie has done to him, he is in love with her, and no amount of betrayal undoes it. He has faith in her that she can be better, and that she can change, and he forgives her for trying to steal from him. That faith is what propels both of them through the series. Under the muscles and tattoos, Camden McQueen is a passionate die-hard romantic with a sensitive side. I love Camden McQueen.
Javier…what to say about this guy. He is so evil! He pops back up after 6 years and for some reason is hell bent on getting Ellie, even if he has to bribe everyone in her life to get to her. He has lost any shred of the charming man that Ellie fell in love with years ago; he has been hardened by life, and now portrays a destructive, untouchable, and sinister quality.
There were only a few things about this book that I didn’t like. The author writes the flashback scenes in the 3rd person, which I do not like. It created a choppy flow to the book and didn’t mesh well. Every time it began, I felt like I was standing outside of the story having it dictated to me, and it created a detachment for me. I also would have liked to see more of a build up to Ellie falling in love with Camden. She went from robbing him blind to being in love with him in two weeks.
This is all just my personal opinion however, and the few issues that I did have, will in NO way stop me from reading on. I am about to dive head first into Shooting Scars, and I cant wait to see where it goes. I highly recommend this trilogy, it is exciting, and will take you for a walk on the dark side.
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