Rating: 4.25 stars
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After yelling at a meter maid who placed a curse on him, Jem Mitchell’s life is full of one disaster after another. A house collapsed on him, his cat ran away, and he can’t keep a relationship going no matter what. Jem lives in Hollywood and one day spots a hunky police officer working a movie set. Detective Nick Davies is gorgeous and dreamy, and when he comes into the gourmet grocery store where Jem works, Jem can’t believe his luck.
After Nick has made a few visits to the store, Jem is thrilled when Nick asks him out. Things are going great until the men realize that they have met in the past, and in a pretty awful way, derailing things before they even really begin. At 27, Jem has gotten his life together now, but his teens and early 20s were filled with partying, drugs, endless random hookups, and even some hustling. He now has his act together, and lives a low key (but apparently cursed) life, yet his past behavior still haunts him and throws a wrench in things with him and Nick.
And the incident between them is not all that gets dredged up from years ago. When incriminating pictures from Jem’s past are left at his door, his first thought is they are from his old boyfriend and partner in crime, Riley. But as the case heats up, it is clear that there is a lot more going on than originally thought and Jem might be in a lot more danger than he and Nick first suspected. Nick is doing all he can to protect Jem, but someone is out to get him and they have to figure out who before it is too late.
I am a huge fan of Lou Harper’s writing and Secrets and Ink combines so many things I like about her books. Here we get quirky characters, a sly humor, and a great mystery combined into a fun and exciting book.
Jem is our POV character and I really loved him. On one hand, he is positive he has been cursed and has a list of disasters a mile long to illustrate that. But at the same time, he is never beleaguered or weary. He looks at life in such a positive way, despite the setbacks, always acknowledging that despite his own hardships, other people have it far worse. I loved his attitude and the fact that nothing gets him down.
Some of that clearly comes from his past and the way he turned his life around. Jem was a wild kid, looking for some sort of identity that came from adopting this alternate persona of someone who did whatever he wanted with no care for consequences. Drugs, stealing, hustling, all kinds of bad behavior. Yet when he almost loses his life in the house collapse, Jem realizes who the people are who really care about him. Not his wild friends, but his family. And from then on he is determined to be a person worthy of them, and stop worrying them all the time with his behavior.
But the best part for me is that despite the newly straight and narrow and positive life outlook, Jem is still totally quirky and crazy. He made me laugh and I loved the way he plays off the much more straight laced Nick. Nick is constantly exasperated by Jem’s crazy, but he adores it just the same. Things move slowly for these guys, and they spend a lot of time in the book as friends (though not without lots of carnal thoughts and lingering glances). But you can really feel the affection and connection between them.
I also enjoyed the mystery component here and how Jem’s past rolls out into this crisis in his present. I didn’t guess the identity of the “bad guy” and the story took a different direction that I anticipated, which I liked. I think in the end things wrapped up a little neatly (and I didn’t fully understand all the motivation for the crimes). This isn’t a full scale thriller story, but it had enough suspense to help fuel the plot and keep my interest.
The only other area I thought could have used more development was in the issues of Jem’s health. We learn about his injuries and how he was really in recovery for almost a year. And that he had to relearn speech and this gives him some outbursts at times. But I feel like this all could have been fleshed out more and better integrated into the story, because at times it felt sprinkled in but not really connecting completely with the rest of the book. It was similar with the curse. Jem rolls out this list of bad things that have happened to him, but we never see them play out in the present. And so this sort of is tossed out there as well, but not really developed in the story.
Overall this was another great story from Harper. I loved Jem and Nick, enjoyed the unusual twist of Jem’s complex backstory, and found the suspense part entertaining. This was fun and lively and very enjoyable.
Cover review: I love the cover. Really attractive and it highlights Jem’s tattoo which plays a key role in the book.