Review: High Contrast (Evolution Ink #1) by Tess Bowery

The deepest scars aren’t the ones that show.

Jacob Shain is your average member of Generation Screwed. He has a boring internship, no cash flow, and a tiny NYC apartment he has to share with Ethan, his much-cooler, tattoo-artist twin brother. Not to mention his love life is DOA. At least, until his brother’s shop hires on a new piercer, and Jacob’s humdrum life takes a turn for the weird.

Cody Turner is gorgeous, funny and kind—everything Jacob wants in a boyfriend. Except for the way he refuses to talk about his past, or where he lives, or anything about his personal life.

When Ethan is arrested while on a mission of mercy, the reason Cody is so tight lipped comes to light. And while Jacob and Cody fight to understand the depth of their feelings for one another, the police dogs catch their scent. So does the local mob.

Now Jacob has to make the hardest choice of his life: stay safe like a good boy, or dive headfirst into a world he barely understands…and hope Cody is there to break his fall.

Warning: Contains a good boy who wants to be bad, a bad boy who longs to be good, bodies that are canvases for living art and high-speed chases with police dogs.

If you love wisecracks, an ensemble supporting cast that read like an alternative Scooby gang and piercings...a lot of piercings with a slow burn romance between comic lovers mixed in...let me introduce you to Tess Bowery's High Contrast (Evolution Ink #1), her first published contemporary.

Jacob Shain is the less cooler twin. He's an unpaid marketing intern to his older twin's tattoo artist. Jacob is used to his role in life, he's fine with it. Until he lays his eyes on his brother's new piercer, Cody Turner. He's larger, blonde, tattooed and pierced. Basically, he's me and Jacob's walking dream (oh boy was he...*hint* piercings upstairs matches downstairs.

Whoops...getting ahead of myself. Pierced fans...gather closer. Seriously.

Jacob is flusters in major geekery for Cody. But Cody is damaged soul, has baggage and bad experiences under his belt that puts Jacob securely in the friend zone. This lasts for a long time. Cody has secrets, no one wouldn't understand, yadda yadda cry me a river. Jacob wants to be Cody's everything and befriends the guy. They share so many interests, but don't say much to take their friendship to the next level.

While the romance slowly burned at the lowest heat in the first half, Jacob's brother and his tattoo shop friends are a crew of sorts. It's stated that Jacob couldn't make other friends than these Evolution Ink shop workers but he didn't read resigned to have them as his friends. In fact, the group read very close like a family, like a team. Any thing that happens to one, seemed to involve them all.

Possible Triggers: Drug Use, Past Abuse (vaguely mentioned & off page, some violence)

The team mentality lends itself into the other major arc of the story since the gang has to solve who is behind ratting to the cops, saving a damaged team member, etc. I felt like I was possibly about the alt Scooby gang rather than the couple in the first half.

The last 40% or so? Made up for the slight. The build was worth it.

Knowing that High Contrast has fan fiction roots made a major difference for me while reading. (This isn't a secret.) It helped put some of the parts where reality needed to be suspended into perspective. I rated this a little higher after learning about its roots like why the slow burn was so slow. It was due to what I dub fan fic drag - the writer drags out the inevitable for chapters upon chapter, for numerous weeks for maximum readership.

Such was the case in here. All systems were go, words were exchanged, just about everyone comments on Jacob and Cody's non-movement to the next phase. A warning for those not too keen on supporting characters lending their two cents.

There were issues for me even though I enjoyed the couple.

The suspense/ They aren't super heroes, so I'm not sold on every day new adults jumping into the fray against mobs and drug lords. Or breaking and entering because the cops aren't to be trusted etc. I was on board up until the arrest aftermath...after that, things got a little pear shaped in the believability spectrum. For the fandom? Totally works and it's clever how their characteristics are tied into "every day" folks.

The mannerisms...sometimes the inner voices and facial expressions were read too eerily for contemp. You can totally read expressions off of someone's face but sometimes the inner dialogue read like the characters were mind readers

The last 10-15% - it read like a comic book. (The entire story did TBH) But the showdown, the double identities, the 'violence', dealing with a work bully, reality suspension rubber snapped here and there. Pair that with the NYC setting, something was off kilter for me here. It didn't seem as...contemporary. More like AU.

Cody...on the surface, he's the total package. And I wouldn't categorize him as a "bad boy". He's had a crap life and only shitty options available. Something that read a little off for me was the past relationship and the way the abuse (off page) didn't seem to affect as much as he tried to portray. The author does a decent enough of laying the groundwork as to why Cody is tight lipped...but somewhere in the last third of the was more like lip service than characteristics. I still like him though. (Even if there weren't any piercings)

But...the sweet romance between two good, geeky guys? The hot sex? THE PIERCINGS?! *coughs* Frenum ladder (swoon), Prince Albert (swoon^2), hip, lip, tongue and ear piercings on top of the tatts and scars?  (There was scarification and a mention or two of suspension)

Totally worth the read.

I think the romance part was stronger than the crime/suspense. The wisecracks were a little too thick for me. I think snark loving readers should totally check this out. For me the funny can be laid on too thick and I don't mind if the dialogue didn't read like smart alecky bumper stickers. But my humor needs might be as simpatico as potential readers. Take the humor gripe with a grain of salt.

I'm definitely checking out the next book in the series. I'm hoping it might be starring a hothead and a lawyer.

The writing was engaging, even if sometime it went over my head. I liked the characters.

I recommend this to fan fic readers, especially comic fandoms, new adult readers who prefer their main characters to really get to know one another before being intimate and Prince Albert fans.

Because royalty and all that jazz. ;P

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  1. I ended up really liking this one a lot! I loved Jacob and all their dorky moments together

    1. Jacob was super cute! I love geeks in love. ;D