4 Star book review for The Mad Tatter, a contemporary romance novel by J.M. Darhower, now available in bookstores and retailers.
[Some Spoilers; Mature Audiences]
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
It’s absolutely no secret that I adore J.M. Darhower’s work. I think she’s a masterful storyteller, and I’ll give anything she writes a try. When I read the summary for The Mad Tatter, I was instantly intrigued.
First, tatted up male lead? Sign me up.
Second, a good girl trying to figure out what she wants for her future and not what her parents want? I’m right there with you, J.M.
Reece Hatfield is tired. He’s working as a tattoo artist and is struggling to co-parent his five-year-old daughter with his nightmare of an ex. Their relationship is definitely not on the best of terms, and the bright part of his life is when he gets his girl, Lexie, for the weekend. On top of that, Reece is trying to figure out how to get out of the bad neighborhood he lives in before Lexie realizes how what a loser her dad is. This hasn’t always been Reece’s life. He used to live and breathe art, but after a series of somewhat criminal events, that fountain of inspiration dried up. His life is in a holding pattern. Not all bad, but not all good. Then he meets Avery Moore.
Avery is a ballerina and in her last year at Juilliard. She comes from a family of ballet dancers, and that’s all she’s really known her entire life. She lives and breathes her art, much like Reece used to do with his own. She’s a breath of fresh air to him, but secretly, she’s struggling with a future that’s not so sure anymore. Ballet isn’t what Avery wants to pursue, but can she go against what her parents want and have trained her for? Can she dive into a relationship with Reece who has otherwise stated, relationships aren’t his thing? She’s right at the edge of graduating college and starting her own life, but she’s not sure she has the courage to take those first steps without a little push.
This book had me sold from the first chapter. I love Reece’s voice and how he’s very sure of himself, but at the same time, there are moments of weakness. He’s trying to find his footing but only seems to be treading water. He adores his daughter but is worried he’s not enough for her. He loves his job, but the pieces aren’t his original work.
As the story progresses, the reader gets looks into Reece’s past and hints about who he used to be and how he can’t quite mesh that with who he is now:
Rhys the Fourth was destined to be a great painter, like da Vinci or Michelangelo. But Reece?” I laugh dryly. “He’s what my mother calls a coloring book crook…meaning my art looks like I ripped off a five year old.”
Her brow furrows a bit. “Your mother said that?”
It’s about balance for Reece’s character and his inability to truly find that after he has closed himself off from everything he used to be. He can be a bit of an asshole at times, and he’s flawed, but at the end of the day, he wants to be better.
Avery is a brilliant girl and an amazing dancer. She’s been trained since she was practically a baby to be a ballerina by her parents who used to dance themselves and then opened a dance studio after they had her. While Reece is trying to balance his past and present, Avery is trying to balance her present and future.
She wants to dance, but she doesn’t want to continue with ballet. She loves modern dance and creating her own story through her own movements. Avery looks around at all her classmates who are moving forward with their senior projects, and she’s stuck because she doesn’t want to disappoint her parents.
These two compliment each other so well and provide the balance and push that the other is looking for. It’s truly a book about growing up and coming into your own as a person, but also realizing that it’s okay to lean on people and be vulnerable.
Their relationship was so well paced. It’s not a story where they jump into bed with each other right off the bat, but they spend time getting to know each other. My favorite parts of the book are when they’re meeting each other after Reece gets off work at the bar across the street and drinking and talking:
She never goes home with me, never hangs around long enough for it to get even remotely intimate, but I look forward to the moments. The easiness, the strange familiarity that surrounds us, does just as much to break the monotony in my life as the mindless flings used to do.
The best thing about this story, for me, is that it’s told solely from Reece’s point-of-view. I love that we get one side of the story and watch as he evolves over the course of it. I think that the readers still get a good idea about who Avery is as a character because Reece is so good at reading her, but also, Avery wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s open and honest because she’s never had any reason to think she shouldn’t be anything but those things.
This book is a solid 4 stars. The characters are engaging, the side stories only further your understanding of Reece’s motivations, and the smut, heaven help me, the smut. If I could just leave you with a taste…
It won’t take long. I know it. I can feel it, building inside of me. I force it down, not wanting her to stop, too captivated with watching the way she moves her hips, rolling them, shifting them, like we’re dancing to music nobody can hear, but the pressure eventually mounts to the point where I can’t control it anymore. I grab her hips, closing my eyes and gritting my teeth. I hold her in spot, just off the bed, and thrust hard up into her a few times. I come, losing myself in the sensation, vaguely hearing her cry out as my thrusts drive her over the brink.
And that doesn’t even have dirty talk in it…just think of what’s left in the book!