Thursday, March 7, 2013

Early Review - On Every Street (The Artist's Trilogy #0.5) - by Karina Halle

When young con artist Ellie Watt decides to call herself Eden White and go after the drug lord who ruined her as a child, she never expects to fall for one of his henchmen. But Javier Bernal is no ordinary man. Subtly dangerous and overwhelmingly seductive, Eden finds herself passionately in love with Javier, the very person she's set-up to betray. With her body and heart in a heated battle against her deep need for revenge, no one will walk away from this con a winner.  This 50K word (100+ pages) novella takes place six years before Sins & Needles. It can be read before or after Sins & Needles and may also be read as a standalone.

Release Date: March 12, 1013
Publisher:  Self Published
Pages:  110
Genre:  Adult Contemporary, Contemporary Romance

"I am the ink in your blood."

Be forewarned - this novella will chew you up and spit you out.  Karina Halle is a genius.  No, really.  She is.  This novella gives us the story of Ellie/Eden and Javier, before things went bad between them.  This is a dark and twisted love story - and I couldn't put it down!  I was a fan of Javier from the moment I heard his name in Sins & Needles.  This story makes me love him even more, even with what we learn about his bad ass self.

Although this is part of The Artists Trilogy, On Every Street can be read as a stand alone novella.  There is a definite beginning and end.  This is a character-driven story about Ellie Watt/Eden White and the glorious and screwed up Javier Bernal.  Karina Halle gives us a glimpse into the beginning of their much maligned relationship and sets the reader up for Sins & Needles.  

Ellie is a con artist.  She was disfigured when she was a child by a man named Travis - all because her parents are selfish, awful people.  For a majority of Ellie's life, she planned to seek revenge on Travis for what she feels was her loss of innocence and the defining event of her life.  Ellie transforms herself into Eden White to hide her true identity.  She carefully plans and plots to hurt him as badly as he's hurt her, but she needs a way to get close to him.   

"You want revenge.  You want vindication.  And I hope you get those things.  But the relief will be fleeting.  Because you can never right the external wrongs until you fix what's inside of you."

In walks Javier, the dashing, charming and sexy-as-sin Mexican gangster.  He is high up in Travis' organization and is a part of a Mexican drug cartel.  After a not-so-chance meeting in a coffee shop, Javier becomes enamored with Eden.  Their relationship begins fast and become furious.  I can't gush enough about Javier.  And this is what kills me about Karina Halle and her writing.  I'm not supposed to like Javier.  He's one bad mofo.  He is involved in illegal dealings, including murder.  And, my God, is he sexy!  But I can't walk away from him.  Javier, oh, Javier.  I can't quit you even if I tried. 

"I have to make you surrender to me, to everything, in every way possible.  I want your heart, your soul, and your body.  I want the you that you're hiding deep inside.  I must have her."

As Eden's and Javier's relationship progresses, Halle weaves two major themes into their story.  The first deals with the characters letting go of their pasts and their needs for vengeance.  The past has a stranglehold on both Javier and Eden.  Both characters are faced with a decision - what is more important?  Love or vengeance.  It is interesting to see the two characters deal with this plot point, as well as how they both strive for redemption.  Javier goes as far as to make a full confession of what he considers his sins to Eden, holding onto her as if she is his salvation.

"Why am I good to you?" he repeated, his lips brushing against mine as he spoke.  "Because I can see you are broken.  And I want nothing more than to put you back together."  

The second major theme, in my opinion, is this idea that Javier and Eden are both hiding their true selves.  Whether it's because of shame or revenge, both characters are pretending to be something that they are not.  Both Eden and Javier have tried to circumnavigate the truth about themselves.  When the reality of their worlds clashes, it is keenly interesting to see how each character handles one another.  It even becomes clearer towards the end when Ellie reappears and sends Eden packing.  

This book is emotional.  There's no other way around it.  I found myself rooting for the evil guy and the sweet, but misguided girl.  No matter what Javier does or says, I believe that he truly loves Eden, but that he doesn't even have a clue that Ellie exists.  When Eden sees Javier for what he really is, she brushes it under the carpet because she loves him.  It isn't  until another event happens that she runs for the hills.  And let me tell you - heart breaking doesn't even begin to describe how I felt at the end of this novella.  And I'm still left with some questions of the "why" variety.  There is a series of events that lead up to the angsty ending, but I still don't quite understand the motivations, and I sure as hell can't wait to read Shooting Scars, set to release in May, to possibly get answers to some of these questions.  

"Please, angel.  Make me your home."

Sometimes, you read a story that demands that you pay attention to it.  That demands that you think about and analyze it until you can't think anymore.  That demands that you immediately run to the nearest computer and write a review because if you don't, your head might explode.  That is what this novella is to me.  So, bravo to Ms. Halle.  She has written a dark story with complex characters and twisting plot lines that will stick with me for a very long time.  I urge you all to read this story - reading Sins & Needles first is NOT necessary.  Enjoy this dark and complex world that Karina Halle has created!

"You know," he began, voice low and full, "if you ever leave me, I'd come looking for you, on every street."

P.S.  I loved the Kenny Rogers lyrics at the beginning of this book ;-)


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