title: merry inkmas
author: talia hibbert
genre: romance, contemporary
content warnings: sex, homelessness, mentions of past abuse and stalking, mentions of past cancer and death
my rating: highly recommended

for most of my reading life i’ve read exclusively ya, and mostly fantasy, but i was inspired by some amazing romance readers i follow on twitter and i’ve been interested in branching out for a while now. it’s pretty overwhelming tho, trying to get into romance. there’s so much out there, and i didn’t want to accidentally get started with something… not great. someone literally every romance reader i know of has been giving the highest praise is talia hibbert, so when i found out she had a christmas romance between a fat black woman and a bad boy tattoo artist i decided i had to go for it during the holidays.

merry inkmas is set in the uk during december. our heroine is bailey cooper, an undergrad in her mid twenties who gets hired as a tattoo parlour receptionist by cash evans, the love interest.

i didn’t really know what to expect going into merry inkmas, being completely new to the genre, but it did not disappoint. i read it in two days, which is really really fast for me, because i just couldn’t put it down. i adored the characters, from the heroine and hero, to their friends and other side characters. my favourite, aside from bailey and cash, is gem, who’s an apprentice at the tattoo parlour. she is so full of life and sunshine, and really took bailey in at her new job. and while her gender identity is never explicitly stated, we do get a description of a tattoo she has which is the transgender symbol. i haven’t wanted a side character to get their own spin-off this bad in a while, but i’d love to read more about her.

of course i loved bailey and cash as well. bailey is so warm and lovely and is genuinely such a good person. the reason she needs a new job to begin with is that she quit her job as a barista to stand up to her terrible bigot of a boss. she grew up with her mother, moving from place to place as her mom fell in love with new men who never gave her the same in return. when her mom got sick and later passed, bailey was the only one there. she loves her mom with her whole heart, but this put her off love and romance and she has closed herself off to those kinds of feelings. i love her to bits and want her to have the world.

cash is also careful with letting people in, because of his father, who was abusive to him and his mother during his childhood. he has a bad boy exterior and reputation, but loves fiercely and would swim over oceans for those he holds close. it’s also extremely endearing that he, despite his carefully crafted image, is always betrayed by his ginger-ness when he is embarrassed and blushes a lot.

i really enjoyed the relationship between bailey and cash, and only had a few problems. they come from very different backgrounds but both struggle with letting people in and leaning on anyone other than themselves. their banter is great and their cute flirty moments had me almost squealing on public transport. the one thing that bothered is that cash could often be an asshole, especially to begin with, and while it was very understandable after i got to know him and i still loved him as a book character, i couldn’t help but think that if he were a real person i’d personally have a really hard time putting up with him a lot of the time.

all in all i enjoyed merry inkmas immensely and i’d highly recommend you pick it up. it was a great introduction to romance and i’m definitely going to work my way through the rest of talia hibbert’s backlog of books as well as trying out some more authors. this was the last book i read in 2018, but it was definitely one of my favourite ones.

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