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Shooting Scars

Shooting Scars - Karina Halle Check out my other reviews at Reading Books Like a Boss

Read an excerpt from Shooting Scars filled with Javi goodness HERE!

In On Every Street we met Javier Bernal, a dark and sexy drug cartel leader, and a very young and impressionable con artist named Ellie Watt. (Or should I say Eden White?) Javier and Ellie loved fast and loved hard. Their two-year relationship was, to say the least, very intense. But it ended in betrayal and heartbreak.

Fast-forward six years later and Ellie is a different person, or at least she is trying to be. In Sins & Needles, we met the gorgeous, tattooed god, Camden McQueen, Ellie’s best friend from high school. Ellie’s decision to make Camden her last con clashed with their budding relationship. My heart was broken along with Ellie’s at the end of Sins & Needles.

Sins & Needles left the reader with so many questions. Will Ellie choose to live in the past or move forward? Who truly loves her – Camden or Javier? Or both? And who’s just using her? Most importantly, will Ellie be strong enough to make the right choice? Will she be able to see through lies?

Shooting Scars gives us some of those answers while adding some more.

Karina Halle proves once again that she is a master at meshing together action-packed scenes and tension-filled sexiness. As I’ve said before, all of Halle’s characters are one-of-a-kind, flawed, and incredibly complex. It’s her characters and unpredictable plot lines that put her in a class all her own. The Artists Trilogy is no exception. Told in both Camden and Ellie’s points-of-view, Shooting Scars is a story about love and lust, truth and lies, and the ability to tell the difference. It left me emotionally exhausted, at a loss for words, and so incredibly heartbroken.

Ellie Watt is one of the saddest characters I have ever read. She truly believes she is bad to the core, yet she desperately wants to be good. She wants to be good for Camden. Her lack of faith in Camden’s declarations highlight just how broken she is. Her self-doubt is on full display in Shooting Scars. All I wanted to do was give her a hug and then tell her to “SNAP OUT OF IT.” In Shooting Scars, she takes a journey to the past with Javier.
“There was no use dwelling on it. He wanted me to swim in this past, that’s why I was here. He wanted the past to drown me.”

When Javier said he was taking her to the past, he meant it. If you’ve read it, you know what I mean when I scream, “CURTAINS!!!”
“It was the soft, baby-new glow of morning being scattered by an azure blue curtain that waved back and forth by an open window.”

Ellie allows Javier to manipulate her and mess with her mind. And this puts her in a rather sticky situation.
“I didn’t like the way things were going. Well, that was an understatement. But for maybe the first time ever, I was in a bad situation and I didn’t have a plan to get out of it. I didn’t even have a plan to deal with it.”

Oh Javier. Javier will always be a character that I love to hate. His quest to get what he wants knows no bounds. He will stop at nothing, I mean nothing to achieve his goals – whether it be killing, lying or hurting those he “cares” about. Although, my allegiance to Camden McQueen did waiver in this one. Slightly. Okay, I had a complete lapse in judgment. I sipped on the Javi-ade for a small amount of time. I couldn’t help it, I was transfixed and spellbound by his Mexican prowess. I am so ashamed. I’m still Team Camden all the way! Underneath all of Javier’s cold and calculating ways is a very desperate man. He is desperate for power and control. And I find that existence to be incredibly sad. Okay enough pity party for Javi. Ain’t nobody got time for dat. Case in point:
“We can hope for the best.”

If there was one character who I felt the worst for, it was Camden McQueen. I loved and hated being inside his head. On one hand, it was beautiful to see his devotion and love for Ellie pour out through his internal monologue and actions. But on the other hand, it broke my heart to see him struggle to get to her. The word “struggle” is the understatement of the century. Camden fought hard. He went through so much in this book, I can’t even tell you. At every corner he was met with some sort of obstacle or barrier to Ellie. In addition to external forces, Camden fought his inner demons as he tried to keep a hold of himself. It was gut-wrenching. Watching him suffer was almost too much for my precarious mental state.
“I would still be there for her when she fell. When she wanted to run. And when she wanted to come home.”

I would be remiss not to mention my Gus, the former LAPD cop turned con artist consultant extraordinaire. He plays a greater role in Shooting Scars as Camden’s partner in crime and confidant. I have some major Gus love going here. Why do I love him? I love him because he chose to help Camden find Ellie even when he didn’t really know Camden or have a reason to trust him. Second, I love him because he is a BADASS. Gus may be past his prime but the man is good. I think we need to find a fictional lady friend for Gus. Thoughts?

Part of Halle’s magic is her ability to take a character that I truly despise and make me want more of him. Yes, I am disgusted to admit that to you all. When I read this, I remember wanting more Javier scenes. What? Seriously? I am Team Camden through and through. But the chemistry and emotional charge between Javier and Ellie is undeniably special and unique. One of my favorite scenes in the series thus far was the first breakfast scene between Ellie and Javier. Reading this scene gave me the chills and was a preview of just how amazingly creepy Javier is. His attempt at complete nonchalance was Oscar worthy and it only pissed Ellie off more.
“Sunlight dazzled the kitchen, streaming in through the large windows that overlooked the dune grass, sand and ocean. Javier was sitting at the table, drinking orange juice and flipping through the Los Angeles Times, eyes darting from page to page.

It could have been a Norman Rockwell painting. I was about to throw red paint on it.”

I was so frustrated with Ellie throughout this book. I screamed at my Kindle multiple times. The choices she made were not the best choices that she could have made had she been in the right frame of mind. But that’s just it – she was out of her mind with grief, heartbreak, and self-doubt. I had to remind myself that Ellie is broken and the decisions she made are the product of her circumstances.

I love it when a book makes my heart race to the point where I’m on the edge of my seat. Shooting Scars made me feel like that. The story builds and builds to the breaking point. During the last 20% I could not sit still. I felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest. It was wonderful.

At the heart of The Artists Trilogy is an epic love story. It’s the story of one man willing to do whatever it takes to get the woman he loves. Karina Halle just mixes it up with sleazy drug cartels, shifty grifters, and damaged tattoo artists. This series is a must read for anyone looking a sexy, steamy and action-packed romance with a punch.

4.5 stars

** I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


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