The permanency of tattoos forms the basis of the obstacle which Indelible (Bold Strokes Books) places between the main character, the all-American girl-next-door Angie Dressen, and her love interest, Luna Rinaldi, an untamed and leather-loving tattoo artist.
Rinaldi epitomizes Dressen’s fears and woes in regards to romantic relationships, as Rinaldi has quite the track record amongst the lesbian scene in Portland, Oregon, although it remains unseen and only spoken of in passing by the characters at the novel’s start. There is a recognizable “opposites attract” theme in play as the main source of tension, with Dressen struggling throughout the book with her own bias against the stereotypical promiscuous woman and her undeniable attraction to Rinaldi.
The tension, mostly sexual throughout, is one of the strongest points of the narrative, with descriptive and candid language that I consider appropriate for its modern setting. It can be very tempting to ramp up the purple prose during the more sexual moments for the sake of immersion, but in this case, any sort of heavy-handed language would have taken away from the tension and taken the reader out of the moment of these two characters’ passion for one another.
That said, the glaring issue this book has, in terms of narrative and character development, comes down to this: The book is too short.
For a book that barely scrapes over 200 pages, most of the character development and backstory is rushed or outright ignored. That, as a reader, does not sit well with me because there were so many avenues for development that could not be properly explored.
For example, Dressen’s anxieties over entering a relationship with Rinaldi came from her family: Her father is a skirt wearing, leather chasing man who brought home woman after woman, which left Dressen highly resentful of her perceived abandonment by him; adding on to this is her 10-year-old son, conceived on an ill-fated prom night, which leaves Dressen overly judgmental of others who may have even the slightest negative influence on him.
As a result, much of the romantic tension feels rather stressed, as Rinaldi is forced to prove over and over again that she can be a viable partner to Dressen, which becomes exasperating. It is one thing to build tension; it is something else to bludgeon the tension away when the characters simply refuse to acknowledge what is obvious. Perhaps had this book had twice the amount of pages, the tension could have been weaved in a more organic manner and not feel so strained and artificially placed.
Speaking of Dressen’s family, much of the secondary cast end up feeling more like plot contrivances, as though their existence amounts to nothing more than pushing Dressen and Rinaldi together. These characters have names and occupations, but they are given only the bare necessities to exist.
Finally, the theme of tattoos, like everything else, felt rushed; the actual use of tattoos as a way to bring Rinaldi and Dressen together does not show up until the final three chapters, leaving me to wonder why the allusion to tattoos in the title was even used in the first place. Outside of Rinaldi being a tattoo artist, the tattoos were only used to represent Dressen’s stereotypical beliefs about a certain brand of woman: promiscuous, wild and ultimately uncaring.
Ultimately, Indelible presents its modern romance as just that: Two women of divergent personality and social circles who find each other with an undeniably and magnetic attraction. Where it delivers on sexual tension between the two main characters, it could have been so much more fulfilling had the book been given more space to explore and expand upon the entire setting and characters without having to force feed the bare essentials of the narrative.
by Jove Belle Bold Strokes Books
Paperback, $14.95, 208pp.