In this follow-up to Clipped Wings, the emotional love story continues between Hayden and Tenley; two young people who desperately want to love and be loved but are afraid to completely let go of their pasts.
In the wake of losing Tenley Page, tattooist Hayden Stryker’s tumultuous past is haunting him. Plagued by nightmares about the murder of his parents, Hayden reaches out again to Tenley. Having run from the man she doesn’t believe she deserves, Tenley finally lays her guilt to rest. Despite their intense physical attraction, Hayden and Tenley struggle to repair their fragile emotional connection. As Hayden gets closer to the truth, he must find a way to reconcile his guilt over his parents’ death in order to keep the woman who finally cracked his armor, and found her way into his heart.
So far I’ve read about 50 books this year. A lot of them have been excellent, and many will make my best of 2014 list. If I were to choose my number one book at this point it would have to be Inked Armor by Helena Hunting. I don’t say that lightly or casually. I say it because the writing is so exceptional it makes me want to cry happy tears. I say it because the characters have gotten under my skin in a way that sets them apart from others. I say it because Inked Armor is a story with such emotional depth that I felt all of the feelings right along with Hayden and Tenley.
This is a book that I feel so fiercely passionate about that it’s actually difficult for me to write a review that can do justice to it, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway.
The story begins with Tenley still in Arden Hills and Hayden going crazy back in Chicago. Although I desperately wanted to skim ahead to their reunion to know how that was going to play out…I didn’t. I appreciated that it didn’t take too long to happen, but boy oh boy. Of all the scenarios I had imagined? The scene that took place was a definite surprise.
The aftermath of Tenley leaving the way she did had huge consequences for Hayden. To say he was hurt and broken by it is an understatement, and with the hurt comes understandable anger and fear. My emotions were all the over the place while I was reading and praying that these two would be able to find a way to get past it and reconnect. I think one of my favorite lines comes when Tenley tries to explain herself so that Hayden will understand that it wasn’t about leaving him because he wasn’t enough for her.
“I never stopped wanting you while I was gone. I just didn’t think I deserved you.”
I appreciated that everything wasn’t immediately fixed between them even though it was sometimes difficult to read. It not only adds another layer of richness but believability too. Sometimes I like to just get swept up in the fairytale of a romance, but in this case, with these particular characters, I think I would’ve felt cheated. Their reconnection wasn’t too fast or too painfully slow. It was two-sided. It was giving and taking. It was honest.
I think one of the hardest things to take emotionally was witnessing Hayden’s past trauma resurfacing. Tenley finally faced her ghosts and demons to a large extent, and in Inked Armor, Hayden does the same. He does it kicking and screaming, unwillingly at first, but gradually he comes to a place of understanding that it’s necessary for himself as well as for his relationship with Tenley.
There are many “big” moments in this book, and there’s one that happens near the end, involving that dick of a cop- Officer Cross, Damen, and Sienna that gives resolution where it was sorely needed. My only regret is a personal one when Hayden removes something out of necessity, but like Tenley I love him just as much with or without.
As for the ending itself…I loved it pure and simple. That being said tho… I wouldn’t be opposed to more of this couple… I would welcome more. In fact, I would encourage more. Hmmm…maybe I could start some kind of petition, or beg…I’m not above doing that…
I mentioned the fabulousness of the writing before, and I want to add to that by saying that it isn’t just the way this beautiful story is woven together. It’s all the pieces that fit so flawlessly together that grabbed me and held onto me tightly. It’s the dialogue between the characters. It’s the thoughts in their head. It’s the absolute hilarity and sarcasm and self-deprecating moments in Hayden’s head that I especially love. It’s the secondary characters who we get to know so much better in this book. Lisa, Jamie, Chris, Cassie, Nate, and Sarah are important. They have an impact in so many ways, and this book is made better by their parts in it. As far as the heat factor in this story goes? Helena writes it better than most. It’s raw passion at it’s very best, incendiary…it’s just totally fucking HOT!
I’ve spent some time contemplating what it is about Hayden Stryker that I find so compelling and almost mesmerizing really. The funny thing is though it isn’t just one thing that I can definitively point to and say…that’s it…that’s why. Sometimes we just connect with a character on a different level. Sometimes they just stay with us in a special way that is really only understandable to those that feel the same way. Hayden is one of those for me. A forever favorite.
“I liked having our things mixed together, neatly. In ordered piles.”
I’m giving this story the very highest recommendation I can possibly give. It’s one of the very best romance stories I’ve ever read, but it’s just so much more than that. It’s a story of such hope. Of learning to live with past mistakes and perceived guilt instead of trying to bury them all away. It’s letting down emotional barriers erected to keep people out, and discovering instead that loving and being loved is worth the risks to the heart…it’s worth everything.
“I just want to love you.”
“In this, we were marked by one another. It went far beyond ink on skin. It went right down to the soul.”
I also have to give a big thank you to Helena for something that was missing. She could’ve gone for an easy plot device when Hayden was suffering after Tenley left, or when he was struggling with all the emotions brought up when his parents murder came to the forefront again. I’m talking about a relapse. I am beyond grateful that Helena didn’t take that route.
My rating for Inked Armor by Helena Hunting:
5+ …I will love this one forever… hearts
**I received a copy of this story in exchange for an honest review, and I honestly loved it**
Helena Hunting lives on the outskirts of Toronto with her incredibly tolerant family and two moderately intolerant cats. She’s putting her English degree to good use by writing popular fiction. She is the author of Clipped Wings, her debut novel, and Inked Armor.