Top Off Tuesday: Review, Excerpt and Giveaway of HARD AS YOU CAN by Laura Kaye

Posted 25 February, 2014 | Mary @ TheBookSwarm | Giveaway | 28 Comments

Started by FeliciaChristi and Amanda, Top Off Tuesday is where a bunch of us share hot-hot-hot book covers (some we’ve read, some we’ve just drooled on). Head over to Felicia’s blog to share your ToT link and see what everyone else is swooning over.

Lots going on below the blurb — if you can tear your eyes away from Shane’s muscle-y back! (And, boy howdy, doesn’t that girl look like she’s enjoying herself.)

HARD AS YOU CAN (Hard Ink #2) by Laura Kaye
Romantic Suspense
384 pages, paperback
Available TODAY (February 25, 2014)
Publisher: Avon/William Morrow
Review copy provided by publisher for honest review

Five dishonored soldiers.
Former Special Forces.
One last mission.
These are the men of Hard Ink.

Ever since hard-bodied, drop-dead-charming Shane McCallan strolled into the dance club where Crystal Dean works, he’s shown a knack for getting beneath her defenses. For her little sister’s sake, Crystal can’t get too close. Until her job and Shane’s mission intersect, and he reveals talents that go deeper than she could have guessed.

Shane would never turn his back on a friend in need, especially a former Special Forces teammate running a dangerous, off-the-books operation. Nor can he walk away from Crystal. The gorgeous waitress is hiding secrets she doesn’t want him to uncover. Too bad. He’s exactly the man she needs to protect her sister, her life, and her heart. All he has to do is convince her that when something feels this good, you hold on as hard as you can—and never let go.

Just a quick review, since I have an excerpt and a little author interview also (it’s a busy day). I know I fussed about the continuing main story arc in the first Hard Ink novel but I just couldn’t resist when this one crossed my field of vision. The writing’s hot, the story’s interesting and–yay–the books are coming out at a rather rapid pace, which means we don’t have to wait super-long between novels.

Everyone in this series is a bit emotionally damaged, with difficult stories, but Crystal’s may be the worst. Stuck dancing at a crappy strip club and “dating” an abusive man so she can afford to take care of her sick sister, Crystal gets the prize. But Shane is the perfect foil for her. An alpha male through and through, he just wants to take care of her and protect her…and kick some arse. Crystal’s a bit of a damsel in distress but she does have a core of steel as well, doing what she has to do to survive. I love their interactions and how they kind of dance around one another.

The story arc continues, too, as the team recovers Becca’s brother and learns more about the man who betrayed them and left them dishonored. But, as with the first book, we’re left with more questions than answers.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes and Noble


It’s release day! And I’m so excited to share Hard As You Can, the second book in the Hard Ink series, with all of you here today! Hard As You Can follows the surviving members of a disgraced Army Special Forces team as they fight to regain their stolen honor, and finds their investigation crossing paths with a waitress willing to do whatever it takes to stay alive and protect her younger sister. For Shane McCallan, saving Crystal Dean is a mission he refuses to turn down.

Today, I’ve got a scene filled with lots of sexual tension and emotion to share with you, one that I absolutely adored writing! I hope you enjoy this look into the growing attraction between Shane and Crystal from Hard As You Can:

“I didn’t mean to criticize you, Crystal. I just cannot abide violence against women. Period. Especially not someone I know.” A long pause. “And definitely not someone I like.” After everything that had happened to her, the words were a balm for her psyche.

Footsteps came up behind her, slowly, cautiously, like she was a wild animal who would bolt in an instant. And she supposed there was some truth to that analogy.

Torn between returning to the danger she knew or staying with the one she didn’t, Crystal debated. Her heart told her Shane might well be the most dangerous man she’d ever met because he made her want, wish, maybe even dream.

Not at all sure it was a good idea, Crystal slowly turned.

Shane was right in front of her. A rock in the middle of a raging sea, a refuge she might claim if she had the strength and the will and the nerve to fight for it. To believe she deserved it. She hugged herself.

“Hey,” he said, cupping her face in his big hands. His fingers slid behind her neck and gently massaged. 

She shook her head and glanced toward the treetops in an effort to pinch off the sting building behind her eyes. Why did she have to meet him now? She’d had a plan, and all she’d needed to do was follow it for a few more months. “You don’t even know me.”

“No. Not everything. But I know more than a little. And that much I like enough to want to know more.” His fingers rubbed her neck, gently, soothingly.

And his words, well, his words were perfect. Maybe even too much so. Too good to be true, she thought. “I already told you I’d share what I’d learned. You don’t have to play me.” 

His eyes narrowed, and he frowned. “You listen hard and you listen good, sweetness,” he said,  the words firm but the tone urgent, almost desperate, and laced with his southern accent. “I’m not perfect, and God knows I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. But I would never play with a woman’s emotions to get information out of her. That kind of manipulation doesn’t hold with me. Ever.”

Sweetness. She’d heard everything he’d said. The passion with which he’d said it. The sincerity that burned from his gaze as the words had poured from his lips. But it was the term of endearment that reached into her chest and gripped her heart. For a long moment, they stood there, bodies touching, faces inches apart, his hands holding her in that firm-but-gentle way he had.

Thunder rumbled again, closer this time, and her heart was a drum beat double-timing inside her chest. If his hands didn’t feel it racing, he’d have to hear it, because the sound was a loud rush rush in her ears. Beneath the sports bra and tank, her nipples went hard. If his gaze dropped, she knew he’d see, but she couldn’t bring herself to feel self-conscious about it. Not when he was looking at her like he wanted to devour her.

His gaze dropped to her lips.

She shuddered, everything inside her but the smallest voice of reason crying out for him to do it. 
Just once.

“Tell me not to,” he said, his voice a raw scrape.

So that’s Shane and Crystal for you! Did you have a favorite line? Thanks for reading!


HARD AS YOU CAN is your second book in the “Hard Ink” series (after USA Today bestseller, HARD AS IT GETS). What can readers look forward to? 
Readers can look forward to tons of sexy alpha male goodness, awesome bromance between the Hard Ink men, more antics from the Hard Ink puppy, and another great love story between Shane and Crystal. But readers should also be ready for a book that is darker, more intense, and more emotional. This book pushed me to emotional places that were tough as a writer, and might be tough for readers, too. But I think that just makes the payoff at the end so much sweeter!

Describe Shane and Crystal. What are their best traits? What are their weaknesses?
Shane and Crystal are such an amazing couple to me. They’re each exactly what the other needs. Shane’s best traits are his protectiveness, his fundamental kindness, and his soul-deep loyalty (his southern accent and humor are also right up there!). His biggest weakness for sure is a tragedy from the past for which he blames himself—and it’s something that continues to motivate him in Hard As You Can. Crystal’s best traits are her courage, protectiveness, and selflessness—she’s willing to do anything to keep her younger sister safe. Her biggest weakness is also that selflessness, because the sacrifices she’s required to make are getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

If you could describe your book in a 140-character tweet, what would it be?
When a woman in trouble assists an ex-soldier’s covert mission to regain his team’s stolen honor, he 

What are you most excited about with this second book release?
I’m really excited to take readers deeper into these awesome characters and into the mystery behind the Hard Ink team’s ambush and discharge!

What books are you reading right now?
I’m almost done with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander (yes, I’m very late to the party but OMG JAMIE FRASER!!!). And I’ve recently devoured and loved Juliana Stone’s Offsides and Shelly Thacker’s time-travel historical romance, Forever His.

What can fans of your “Hard Ink” series look forward to next?
There will be two more Hard Ink books in 2014!
Hard to Hold on To – August 2014
Hard to Come By – November 2014

About Laura Kaye:

Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over a dozen books in contemporary and paranormal romance. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Hard Ink Puppy FB | Twitter | Newsletter SignUp

Laura will also be hosting a Facebook party for HARD AS YOU CAN on 2/25 from 12-9pm EST.
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28 Responses to “Top Off Tuesday: Review, Excerpt and Giveaway of HARD AS YOU CAN by Laura Kaye”

  1. I just read Kim’s review of this one too Mary, and I think this would definitely be a series I enjoyed! You know I love me an alpha male with a protective streak. Oh! And tattoos of course. Big ones 😉 Yes and please. I’m in the mood to read a sexy, fun book rather than a review book, so I think maybe this one needs to find its way onto my kindle:)

  2. gah I so want to read this series. My library has it, its just about making time and now after reading the excerpt I want more Shane! The writing is amazing.

  3. I just read another review of this one. I like that it has a continuing story arc through the series, but each novel is also it’s own. This one sounds like it might be a touch emotional as well!

  4. Ooh I do love sexy alpha male goodness, and that cover is hot! I am getting this one on audio, but now you’re reminding me that it might be a good idea for me to read book one first since there is a big series story going on. Thanks for sharing, love the excerpt! 🙂

  5. I’ve definitely heard of this author, though I can’t recall if I’ve read her or not (probably not…), but you’ve got me curious about her work so I’ll have to check this out for sure. Thanks for sharing, Mary! 🙂

  6. I always think tattoos that are on parts of the body that is more bone than fat or muscle would be really painful. Of course, I faint at the sight of a needle so I could get painful tattoos since I’d be unconscious.