Merry Inkmas by Talia Hibbert. Nixon House. 2017.
I loved so many things about this book: The chemistry between the characters, the slow burn, the tattoo shop workplace setting and the secondary characters who worked there, the way we slowly got to know them better as people as the romance developed, the drawn out dance of emotional intimacy they built.
There is so much that’s lovely and wonderful in this book, so much of the Christmas romance stuff I adore. It’s not a light and fluffy Christmas romance but it felt hopeful alongside the angst. I especially liked the stuff around decorating the shop, the semi-fake relationship that was real underneath, the sitting round the table moments visiting his family.
I really enjoyed how geeky the heroine was, and liked witnessing her armor, too. Her arc is lovely; I especially enjoyed the details around the Disney princesses.
The tattoo shop is a wonderful setting for a romance, and this is one of my favorites. I love the way his artistic process is depicted in the story, how seriously it is taken, how much its part of who he is and how he is revealed as a character.
The sexual chemistry and slow burn is ruthless in this book. So much UST. And the sex scenes are very hot. This is one of the hottest Christmas romances I read this year.
I adored the incidental fat representation in this book. I especially appreciated the way we really got a sense of both the MC’s bodies, how they moved, what each found hot about the other, how they felt in their bodies. I loved that she was pear shaped, that representation is so rare in romance, and it was lovely to see it here. I really liked how into her thighs he was and how he was undone by the idea of giving her a tattoo there. His desire for her was beautiful to witness.
I have mixed feelings about the trauma representation, for the hero in particular. There are many things that were spot on and really resonated for me as a trauma survivor reader: the impact on education, the family dynamics, the intrusive thoughts, the emotional armor. But the core premise was that the hero had decided he could never have a relationship because of the trauma and his fear of himself, and he gets over that almost instantly, once it is out in the open.
After so much of a book that resonated for me as a trauma survivor reader, the way that switch happens on a dime…it really didn’t work for me. It was more than a pacing issue (though it was that, for sure), it felt so not real, which was even more in contrast with the ways it had felt real before. And a bit of a slap in the face to trauma survivors who can’t just decide to get over their relationship issues like that.
I also struggled with the way his family decided to tell the detailed story of the trauma history to her. I don’t think this level of disclosure is needed, and I found it difficult as a reader, but I also felt like the hero got robbed of telling her what he wanted her to know. I get that family sometimes does make those kinds of choices, so its not unrealistic, but I wanted to see him decide to trust her, and have him frame what he told her.
I wasn’t happy with her looking at his sketchbook after she decided it was like reading someone’s diary. That comparison was apt, and it bugged me that she thought that and kept going anyway. I really felt the loss of him deciding to trust her here as well, and show her the drawings himself, trace their history together. I would have loved a scene like that, as part of showing their intimacy and his trust.
There is a secondary character who is coded autistic, and who seemed to mostly be there to nudge along the romance arc for the allistic MCs; I liked him as a character but was troubled by his role in the story.
There were many things I really loved about this story, and a few trouble spots especially at the end. I definitely fell for this new to me author’s writing style and will be checking out her backlist!
- Fat Black heroine with PTSD
- Hero with PTSD
- Black queer woman author
Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)
Detailed descriptions of intimate partner violence, stalking, child abuse, children witnessing intimate partner violence, attempted murder in the past. Detailed descriptions of child neglect. Detailed descriptions of intrusive thoughts. A trauma survivor hero with substantial self loathing and fear that he might do harm to loved ones because of his trauma history. Queer homeless secondary character who experiences prejudice because of his homelessness and who is rescued from his homelessness by the MCs. On the page sex.
- Source of the book: I bought this book myself.
- I have had brief contact with the author on Twitter.
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