In this review, I will be discussing the three main books in the Artists Trilogy by Karina Halle.
1) Sins and Needles ~ ❥❥❥❥
2) Shooting Scars ~ ❥❥❥❥
3) Bold Tricks ~ ❥❥❥❥❥
Let me start by saying that this romance series is unlike any set of romance novels I’ve ever read. Oh, it is sexy and hot and steamy in so many places, but it is also intensely plot-driven with an intricate story that is built up painstakingly throughout the three books. I’ve said this before, but I always hate it when a literary or cinematographic series is a series simply for the sake of it; when an idea or storyline is bled and drawn out in a way that is self-indulgent and that adds nothing new or exciting to the audiences’ experience or understanding. The Artists Trilogy is not that sort of series, though – each and every novel is necessary because the plot is moved forward and the characters are pushed to become different, to change and re-evaluate themselves as they are faced with fresh obstacles.
Halle can write a gripping, intense and suspenseful story, that is for sure. Without giving too much away, the three novels in the Artists Trilogy not only feature heart-stopping and breathtaking romantic scenes, they also feature moments of deception, terror and turmoil. The three main characters, Ellie Watt, Camden McQueen and Javier Bernal, are so bound up in illegal activity, conning, grifting and drug cartels that they are never truly safe, that they are constantly on the run, and the reader is taken on that journey in a way that is exhilarating and never exhausting. Halle’s pacing is excellent and she really knows when to use cliffhangers and when to make big reveals in ways that are subtle and realistic. Her story is exciting but never too improbable or unbelievable and the reader is easily swept up for the ride.
And that is what I loved best about this series: that Halle creates an actual story, a set of issues and challenging circumstances that call her characters to actually be human. All too often in romance novels, nothing much really happens – the love interests find each other and fall in love, and then into bed, and then they spend the rest of their time sleeping together, getting married and living happily ever after. They don’t do much of anything other than be in love, and so they become stereotypes, clichés that eventually grate on the readers’ nerves. But none of that happens in the Artists Trilogy. Because Ellie, Camden and Javier are thrust into desperate circumstances, they are forced to reveal and grapple with their pasts and come to terms with and sort out their many flaws. They do things, they are propelled forward by intense action, and they are constantly forced to make decisions and interrogate who they truly are. This is the most successful aspect of the trilogy because the characters feel real, tangible, complicated and complex.
The shining star of the Artists Trilogy is main character, Ellie Watt. She is the badass female character we all needed in our lives. She is a formidable narrator with a distinct tone and voice (that often includes adult language…and I must shamefully admit that I’m a fan of swearing myself, to punctuate tricky situations and emphasize emotion!). Ellie is the driving force of the novels, and I actually enjoyed the second novel in the trilogy the least, mainly because Camden narrates half of it. Ellie’s voice and internal monologue is too intriguing to be replaced, and the third and final novel is full of so much of her reflection that I easily sped through it in only one day. Ellie is also so much more than just a narrator – she is a troubled, damaged character with a dark past and sad childhood, and she is so real in that she fucks up (A LOT!), is often hypocritical and misguided, and is on a journey of self-discovery that is moving and difficult. Ellie is also no nonsense, and she never shies away from doing the tough things – she’s not a woman who sits back, even in moments of grave danger, and she easily goes toe-to-toe with the most sadistic and terrifying men. The shy, innocent, virginal female lead is NOWHERE to be found in the Artists Trilogy and that is (sadly, since it should be an established literary fact by now) groundbreaking.
Having said all of this, the Artist Trilogy is also very romantic in parts, with scenes that will make even the most collected reader hot and bothered, and it is well-written with witty points of dialogue. A few of my favourite quotes are below…
Sins and Needles
“‘Fuck that, give me the corn nuts.’ … Who the hell eats a banana when they’re on the run?”
“That angel had died on broken wings and with a broken heart.”
“Tattoos were self-expression in its rawest and most permanent form.” = And, sidenote, this series made me REALLY want a tattoo, sooo badly! Too bad I’m a chicken!
“Boom. There went my heart.”
“That was the thing about this that they don’t show you in the movies – everyone has to pee at some point, no matter how inconvenient the circumstances.” = Halle story is realistic and her characters are human.
“‘I love you,’ he whispered in my ear. ‘Every minute that goes by, you will my heart.’” ~ Camden to Ellie
All in all, I highly recommend this series to romance lovers who are sick of the same old tropes and archetypes and who crave some adventure and hard-hitting excitement amid their romance plotlines. The Artists Trilogy is unique and fast-paced, and I can see it making a great film adaptation that would appeal to both men and women equally, with its combination of romance and suspense.
Also, I’ve never done this before, but amidst my reading, I happened to go for a run and three songs came on my iPod that I feel would accurately represent the three main characters and their intricate personalities and histories. I’ve listed them below. While I would not call this a love triangle by any means, as there are some clearly serious issues with one party, I think Halle subverts and plays with the love triangle trope so expertly and in a way that many modern readers will appreciate.
Happy reading and listening!
~ Ellie ~
“Ghost” by Ella Henderson
“And at most, I’m sleeping all these demons away…”
~ Javier ~
“Surrender” by Billy Talent
“This flower don’t belong to me.”
~ Camden ~
“Break Even” by The Script
“While I’m wide awake, she has no trouble sleeping…”
Girl with a Green Heart