Before I say anything else I would just like to point out that this book is an indie-published contemporary romance. Not exactly the usual qualities I’m looking for in a book; in fact, just the opposite, and yet there was no mistaking the high ratings and positive feedbacks that Sins & Needles have been receiving from book bloggers and casual reviewers alike in and out of Goodreads. I wanted to know what this was all about. What’s so special about this book by Karina Halle that makes it stand out among other contemporary romance novels out there that’s gained over the top popularity even with its mediocre plot and clichéd characters? And I know you know which ones I’m talking about, so I guess you can’t fault me for being careful.
But hey, I’m just very glad to say that this book does not belong on the list of those infamously bad contemporary romances. I would even go as far as saying that Sins & Needles might just be the saving grace of the aforementioned notoriously avoided genre. It’s different, it’s well-written, it’s deliciously sexy, and the characters in it are devastatingly hot, not to mention multi-dimensional. Karina Halle has succeeded in luring me into a world of grifting and revenge, of love and hate and pain. Of cons and marks and pasts that catch up with you, no matter where you go or what name you take. More importantly, Karina Halle has proved to me that contemporary romance can work without having to make your male character an abusive, control-freak, pretty-faced psycho.
Camden and Ellie are our main characters. They are not perfect and they know it. They are bad people, and they know that, too. For the first time since I can remember, I am able to read about characters that are on equal footing on the negative side of the moral scale. Most of the time we see a bad boy and a good girl and the bad boy trying to make the good girl bad, or the good girl trying to make the bad boy good. It’s refreshing to see Halle change the trends a bit by giving us bad boy and bad girl and telling us their story. Almost no one has the guts to go against the standard and overused tropes anymore, but Miss Halle is gutsy enough to give us something new, something different, and what’s more impressive is how she managed to make it work.
Ellie is a character not everyone will like, but I’m happy to say that I did. She’s fierce and strong-willed and she puts survival first before anything, thus she is willing to screw anyone over if that means it’ll buy her one more day. ‘Spiteful’ is the adjective that both her current and past lover had described her as. Not the ideal role model, yes, but intriguing all the same. Camden, at first glance, would probably look like your ideal hottie: he’s insanely gorgeous, he seems to be doing well with his life, and he’s got ink. But don’t mistake this fraudulent façade for the real picture. Camden is a tortured soul, a brimming reservoir of hatred and vengeance and regret. There is a darkness inside him, probably a shade or two richer than the darkness inside Ellie, and it’s fascinating to watch it all unravel, to see how who he is is affected by who he was. All in all, he is the perfect bad boy – and not in the way that Christian Grey of Fifty Shades fame or Travis Maddox of Beautiful Disaster was – but in a better, more believable way that’s entirely his own. I guess what I’m trying to say is that he’s angy, scarily so at times, but he doesn’t use his issues to justify manipulative, controlling, or psychotic behaviour.
I also liked that Camden and Ellie has a foundation, a back story that binds them together, something that validates his anger and explains her frustrations. We see first class character and relationship development, courtesy of the author’s meticulous writing style. We see vivid imagery, clearly described settings, thoroughly expressed emotions, and maybe I’m praising this book a bit too much but I can’t help it. I loved it a lot and really, there’s just something about the way Karina Halle paints her pictures with her thousand words that astounds me so. She gives her characters flaws, dimensions, motivations and appropriate reactions; exceptionally enough that they jump out on you from the very pages and make you remember them. And oh, before I forget to tell you (like I’m actually capable of forgetting), sexual tension is this book’s middle name. It’s everywhere and I honestly cannot complain. The series of events that eventually lead to the actual sex scenes are almost as good as the sex itself. Almost. And the sex is satisfyingly glorious and those are the only words I have to describe it.
I love this book and I can’t wait to see what the sequel has in store for me. I want more of the anger, the spite, and the desperation to keep the past at bay and run towards the promise of escape. I need more of Camden, who despite his rage and his desire for vendetta, has never controlled, manipulated, forced, or abused Ellie. And I can't wait to know more about our heroine, Ellie, who was able to make decisions that stood because she is capable and because Camden respected her enough not to underestimate her. We need more books like this; we need more contemporary romances that uplift the genre instead of painting it the bland, ugly color of stereotype (no thanks to you, E.L. James and Jamie Maguire).
I’m giving this book 4.5 stars because it ended on such a relevant note and I’m pretty upset that I don’t have the sequel yet and have no way of knowing what happens next. But needless to say, I am one happy camper because of Sins & Needles, and I cannot wait to get my hands on Shooting Scars which is book 2, and the short prequel entitled On Ever Street. And you, too, should be excited! I would highly recommend this book to those who are in for a good and healthy mix of angst, drama, action, and romance, and if you plan on picking this up after you read this review, I suggest you brace yourself for a fun, sexy, dark, and thrilling ride into Ellie and Camden's world, where we get to see the bad people in action and witness their story as the layers of deceit fall off and we are left with nothing but their truths for us to judge.