Ending a series is hard. There's so much riding on the last book in an established series, and you have to make sure that you deliver a full and developed story that is cohesive on its own while also supplying a conclusive and satisfying ending to the series overall. In short, if done well, the last book in a series needs to be greater than the sum of its parts, while making sure those parts are great, too.
BOLD TRICKS...did not do this.
I was worried going in because when I was looking at my friends' reviews for this book, a lot of them couldn't finish it, and many of the ones who did expressed varying degrees of disappointment over how Halle chose to end The Artists series. And yeah, she's the author, creative control, yadda, yadda, I get that. But at the same time, if a significant number of fans are telling you that you did your story dirty then it's possible that maybe you did.
The Artists starts out with SINS & NEEDLES, a story of a young scammer named Ellie returning to her hometown, ostensibly to get clean but in actuality it's to scam. And who does she choose to scam but her ex-friend and fellow loser, Camden, only he's hot now. So she dicks around with him with one eye on his pecs and the other on his safe, only it turns out that Camden knows a thing or two about scamming too, now.
SHOOTING SCARS begins where SINS & NEEDLES ends: with Javier, Ellie's ex-love-of-her-life taking away Ellie to help him in a Huge Scam, at the cost of Camden's life. Camden returns to his ex-wife and their child, ostensibly to start where they left off, only it turns out that his ex-wife knows a thing or two about scamming too, now, and has sold Camden out to her mafia brothers. Meanwhile, Javier is offering Ellie revenge on a silver platter lined with drug money: the chance to kill the man who scarred her leg while also getting revenge on her neglectful and idiotic scammer parents.
SINS & NEEDLES is a cheesy book but in a way that makes it too fun to put down. SHOOTING SCARS is a much better book, addictive, fast-paced, and developed and thoughtful in a way that SINS really wasn't. BOLD TRICKS undoes all of that hard work. Halle tears apart Javier's character arc, turning him into your typical laughing, perverted villain and also kind of a coward, whereas in the previous books he seemed much more complex and brave. Halle also seems to be doing her damnedest to ignore all of the shady things that Camden did in SHOOTING SCARS, which admittedly made him less appealing as a love interest but more appealing as a character. In BOLD, he becomes sappy and ridiculous, and Ellie won't shut up about his glasses, his tats, his height, or his cock. It's like she thinks they'll disappear if she doesn't sing their accolades enough, or something.
And let's talk about Ellie. I didn't like her, and never did, but at least in the previous two books you could kind of understand where she was coming from. SINS & NEEDLES was about her adolescent pain and SHOOTING SCARS was about Javier's betrayal, but in BOLD TRICKS she just becomes a raging, leg-humping psycho with no moral compass at all, who makes the most idiotic decisions, like having sex in the middle of the big bad's compound while they're looking for her.
The story was also ridiculous, with Halle flinging plot device after plot device into the mix, hoping something would stick. I thought the reveal about Ellie's parents was lame. I thought that sex scene where they decide unprotected is OK because they want children - a decision they make, and proceed to enact, while in the middle of mortal danger - and then calling it "baby-making" and saying "I want to put a baby in you" in the middle of sex was really gross. The sex scenes in this book in general are really gross, with some truly bizarre lines like "cock as hard as cement" and "wetter than water." The sex scenes in the first two books were great! What happened? Was the author asleep?
I was hoping for a high octane conclusion, but the fanficcy ending and the dialed-in way that this whole story was written just totally killed any enthusiasm I had about the story. Please, please, please tell me that the Dirty Angels series treats Javier right and takes some of the tarnish off this embarrassment, because I am so done with the cringe that is Ellie and Camden.
2 out of 5 stars