by Karina Halle
Ellie Watt is used to starting over. The daughter of a grifting team, Ellie spent her childhood being used as a pawn in her parents’ latest scam. Now she’s much older, wiser and ready to give her con artist life a rest. But returning to the dry desert town of Palm Valley, California means one more temptation than she bargained for – Camden McQueen. Once known as the high school weirdo, Camden is bigger and badder than the boy he used to be and a talented tattoo artist with his own thriving business. Ellie’s counting on Camden still being in love with her but what she’s not counting on is how easily unrequited love can turn into obsession over time. When Camden discovers Ellie’s plan to con him, he makes her a deal she doesn’t dare refuse, but her freedom comes with a price and it’s one that takes both Ellie and Camden down a dangerous road.
Let me first say that giving this book 3 stars does not mean that I didn’t like it. I managed to finish it in less than 2 days so there’s definitely something there. I just didn’t love it as much as I was hoping to. With a tattooed hunk, a fierce female lead, and a title like Sins & Needles, this should have been a slam dunk for me. Unfortunately I had some issues with the characters and plausibility with parts of the plot in general.
I knew from the get-go that Ellie wasn’t going to be an easy character to like. Conning her way through life, she’s used to thinking of herself first and others later. While I felt for her and her tragic past, I found her actions to be generally selfish, leaving a path of victims in its wake. Cameron is one of those victims, both in the past and present. Her actions towards him as a teen were truly terrible. I think Cameron was right when he said that Ellie defined “justification.” She used her past and her scars to justify her her life. The world owed Ellie and she was constantly trying to collect. Despite my frustrations with Ellie, I didn’t find her to be totally irredeemable. There were moments when I thought she felt true remorse for some of the things she did and her affection for her uncle was sweet. She also redeemed herself a little at the end of the book, so she is not without hope.
Now we get to Camden. I was pre-disposed to like Camden from the beginning. I mean he’s a smart, sexy tattoo artist who wears glasses. What girl wouldn’t fall for him? But Cameron isn’t without his issues. He’s had a troubled past as well and has made a lot of mistakes in life. He has some anger issues. But despite all this, I can’t help feeling for Camden. He’s always been true to himself and has come a long way since high school.
Together, Ellie and Camden are a volatile mix. Each is holding on to old resentments and insecurities that are keeping them from moving on with their lives. Their relationship isn’t easy but I do think there is something there. Even though they show it poorly sometimes, they do care about each other. I also liked the fact that they knew each others’ darkest secrets and accepted them.
**This bit might be somewhat spoiler-y so skip if you haven’t read the book yet**
I also had some issue with the fact that, for a con artist who is supposed to be adept at disappearing, Ellie does such a poor job of it when it counts. Once Javier finds out her real name and she goes on the run, I really cannot understand why she books a hotel in her name and later uses a credit card under the same. And they’re so surprised when Javier manages to find them. Not to mention that she keeps driving around a stolen and extremely recognizable car.
All this said, I did enjoy this book. There is something compelling about these two characters and I want to know how their story ends. Even though I wanted to smack Ellie more than once, I can’t help feeling that there is good in her (reinforced by what happens at the end of the book). This is a very unconventional and original romance. It’s well written with a lot of unexpected twists and it definitely leaves you wanting more. So while I had my issues with it, I am coming back for book 2. I am hoping that Ellie and Camden continue evolving and can find happiness.
Side note that reading this book really makes me want to get a tattoo. :)