Rating: 3.75 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
The Guilty Canvas is the second installment of the Taste of Ink series. The series was originally published as a set of seven books and is now being re-released and repackaged into three long books. The series is made up of one continuous story and therefore must be read in order, starting with The Taste of Ink. This review will reveal plot points from the first book in the series.
With Zee out of town, Trinket and Mini are spending time alone in Trinket’s apartment. It is a chance for the men to be together uninterrupted for days at a time, and they take advantage of it to explore things further between them. Mini introduces Trinket to more intense kink, helping him learn more about what he enjoys. Being together for multiple days also brings the men a sense of domesticity, giving a new dynamic to their relationship.
While things are developing further with Trinket and Mini, Trinket still is in love with Zee as well. Zee left town before proposing, but Trinket knows it is coming. And he also knows that he wants to be with Zee forever. But when some secrets come to light, it complicates the relationship between Trinket and Zee.
The Guilty Canvas picks up just where The Taste of Ink leaves off, with Zee away for work and Trinket and Mini heading into Mini’s apartment. This time alone really develops Mini and Trinket’s relationship in some interesting ways, as the domesticity of being alone together for days in Mini’s apartment is so different from their usual quick hookups. There is still that intensity to their dynamic, the hard sex that gets both of them off. And Mini still can be distant and hard to read. But there is also a softer side that comes through as the men spend more casual time together. It particularly shows when Mini is introducing Trinket to more intense BDSM. We see how careful he is with Trinket, monitoring how he is doing, explaining safe wording, making sure he isn’t pushing him too hard. So I think this story brings things with Trinket and Mini to a new dimension that I enjoyed. There is more of a boyfriend vibe to it all that shows some growth between them, though these guys do not really share their feelings with each other or have much openness with their emotions.
The vast majority of the book is spent exploring this dynamic with Trinket and Mini alone, and Zee is barely on page for any of that time. We get a few mentions of him here or there and an occasional call or text, but this book is almost exclusively spent with Mini and Trinket together having sex. And while I enjoy their heat together, as well as find their relationship an interesting one, that is a lot of pages of predominantly watching these guys have sex. The book appears to be about 350 pages by my count and I found it got to be too much repetition after a while, even as someone who enjoys high heat stories (particularly when added on top of all the time we see them having sex in the first book). There is just not a lot else that happens with the plot, even as we are about 700 pages into the overall story. I think that this likely harkens back to when this was a seven-installment story, so there was more of a break between shorter books. But here it is just pages and pages (and pages) of sex, with not much going on in between.
I also missed mixing Zee into the dynamic. The first book was so much about these two relationships in parallel and seeing how as things escalated with one partnership, it fueled the second. But here the relationship between Trinket and Zee is mostly sidelined for much the story. I also feel like we are getting a lot less chance to get to know Zee, given that he is barely on page here, as well as the fact that he is the one partner in the dark about everything. So the balance is starting to feel uneven, as Zee is seeming more on the fringe of the overall story. As a reader, I don’t feel like I know or understand him the same way as the other two men. For example, he makes a really surprising decision here and I couldn’t tell if it is because he just wants to make Trinket happy, if he is just a super nice guy, or if there is some other motive, and I don’t know enough about his character to figure it out.
The title to this installment in interesting, as it suggests Trinket feeling guilty (he is the tattoo canvas), but he continues to really not seem to think or care much about his actions. There is a moment or two where we see Trinket sort of feel some glimmer of something that suggests remorse, but it is pretty fleeting. For the most part, Trinket continues to do what he wants without much, if any, thought for how it affects his partners. The first book sort of romanticizes this idea of Trinket spreading his wings, reaching for things he has always be afraid to ask for and finding himself though this complicated situation (or perhaps I romanticized it as a reader). But here we do see a harder side to Trinket that I find less palatable. He is angry and clearly punishing Zee at points and it is clear Trinket has a lot of unresolved issues that are fueling his behavior in unhealthy ways. Each time I feel like maybe we are getting a breakthrough for him, his actions once again turn inwardly focused and he shows he doesn’t have much concern or empathy for others. Mini (somewhat fondly) calls him a sociopath and it feels true. On one hand, Trinket clearly loves Zee (or thinks he does), but he also shows no remorse for the cheating or concern for how Zee will feel about it all. He is excising his demons, but in a way that is hurting others.
The story takes a really interesting turn at the end, setting things up for the next book. I definitely didn’t see it coming and I am so curious to see how it all plays out in the final installment.