I’m always impressed when an author takes two characters who have gone through really trying times and still writes a rather light and fluffy story. Fluffy doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful, by the way, but rather that it’s heartwarming without being depressing. That’s what we get here with Inked with a Kiss.
Both Jamie and Sierra managed to rise above tough childhood and become kind and selfless adults. At thirty-seven, Jamie is a respected tattoo artist. She’s on pretty good terms with her ex-wife and her teenage daughter, not so much her brother and alcoholic parents. Her parents are functioning alcoholics, have been throughout Jamie’s childhood. It’s all she’s ever known, and while her brother has decided to stop helping them since they’re not willing to help themselves, she has a very hard time letting go. She’s aware she’s enabling them to some extent, but she needs that feeling of helping, of saving.
Sierra is a twenty-something social worker whose job is threatened by budget cuts. She’s full of energy and ideas. Her latest endeavour is a fundraiser to get disadvantaged kids access to art supplies. When she asks Jamie – who does all her tattoos – for her help, she’s also hoping the attraction she’s feeling for the artist will flourish and lead to something real. She’s down for a fling, Jamie isn’t. Neither does relationships, for reasons linked to their past. Sierra lost her mother at a young age and was rejected by her grandmother until her outcast gay uncle took her in. Jamie doesn’t want to impose her complicated life (the complicated part being mostly due to her parents) to anyone.
Life, however, has a way of not caring about self-imposed boundaries.
There’s nothing intense about this novel, nothing depressing, but it doesn’t shy from sensitive and painful issues (I’m not talking tattoos, though they play a big part in the story). It’s a good example of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The Carina Press HEA/HFN promise guaranteed that Jamie and Sierra would find a way to be together, but it never felt artificially straightforward. They both had to work on themselves and on the relationship, accept that not everything would be perfect every day. They’re both relatable and complex characters, with very different personalities. The secondary characters were layered too, from Jordan, the young adult working with Sierra to Jamie’s brother Ryan or her daughter Riley.
There were also characters from the first book in the series, New Ink on Life, namely Jamie’s coworkers. I haven’t read this one yet (Inked with a Kiss can be read as a standalone) but it’s going on my list right now.