Elle Reads

Elle Reads (1/23/21)

I’ve been in a huge funk since the holidays ended. Like, I’m past hanging in there. I’m a pinched nerve. And this week the heavy weariness of everything culminated into me happening upon some dark romance/erotica: a two-part-so-far novella series and a yaoi comic.

Stigma by Marloong – available on TappyToon

Stigma is the story of Sehyun and his chance encounter with Boris, a young man with a troubled past who lives with his older sister Elena and her daughter, Anya. Boris rescues Sehyun from a group of assailants in a dive bar bathroom, and the story progresses as their lives continue to overlap.

I don’t want to give too heavy of a synopsis because a LOT happens in this series. I realized after reading this I might have a thing for sad, broken boys finding happiness with each other, so this hit a lot of my interests. There’s a fantastic found family with diverse characters, and the way the story gets into each of the main characters’ pasts was a welcome distraction from the darker overtones. The dialogue is spot on and rarely cringeworthy (which in my experience is typical for yaoi titles).

And then there’s the art – it’s absolutely breathtaking and stylish, with a raw edge that lends to each character’s personality. There are several moments of quiet scene-building that never feel forced or tiresome, creating an intense atmosphere around the action.

You can read the first few chapters for free on TappyToon, or the entire scan on Mangago, though I strongly suggest supporting the artist if you are able. Major trigger warnings, too, so please be mindful!

A Taste of Ink (and its sequel, Lost in the Linework) is available on Amazon, B&N, and Apple Books.

A Taste of Ink follows Trinket, who lives with his architect boyfriend, Zee. Trinket makes a last minute decision to get a tattoo to commemorate his and Zee’s 2-year anniversary. At the tattoo shop, Trinket meets Mini, an irresistibly brash tattoo artist, whose salacious small talk gets under Trinket’s skin as easily as his needle and ink.

I basically mainlined this story and its sequel, Lost in the Linework, over the course of a day. This is the sort of storytelling (and heat) that rewrites my coding and typically requires me to sit and ruminate for a few days. But I’m not, because if I don’t get this review out, I may combust.

I have a skimming problem when I read. My eyes dart down the page to catch a line up ahead, and I have to force myself back, often re-reading paragraphs. I get lost. Half impatience, half short attention span. But for this book, I hung on every fucking word. Every sentence pushes this story forward, charged with tension or sex or well-narrated exposition that gets in, does its job, and gets you moving again. There’s few words out of place, if any. The prose carries you, effortless. The details are exquisite – the poetry Trinket gets tattooed on his body (which I also want to read now), the concepts of possession and permanence, feeling trapped and provided for all at once. A single sentence starts poetic and ends in shivers.

Wouldn’t have thought I was interested in anything with cheating–it’s always been something I skip when I go on TBR adding sprees–but now I’ve seen the light. And the light is really fucking beautiful and forbidden and hot. The dirty talk in this story has flavors — Mini’s is raunchier, pushing the envelope, while there’s a sweet, yearning intensity to the exchanges between Trinket and Zee.

I don’t think I’m supposed to be rooting for Trinket to make a choice one way or the other, and that’s fine. I’m perfectly content to sit back and watch as opposite edges of Trinket’s life escalate, curving toward one another, like waiting for a comet to strike the earth. If you’re at all interested in dark romance/erotica/kink, please give this a purchase!

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