A New Ink on Life Cover
Synopsis from the Creator:

Quiet does not equal weak…

Leaving a dependable job to apprentice as a tattoo artist was a drastic step after surviving breast cancer, but Cassie Whiteaker is nearly five years cancer-free. Nearly. She’s not ready to go out on her own until she clears that all-important hurdle. Also off-limits are relationships and sex—something Cassie is sure she’ll never want again.

Struggling tattoo shop owner MJ Flores doesn’t give a damn what people think, but losing Thorn & Thistle would mean losing everything. When her former mentor’s protégé arrives at her door, MJ hires her out of obligation…at first. Cross-stitching goody-goodies are not her type, but Cassie’s business background might just get the shop back on solid footing. They strike a bargain: Cassie will enact new marketing plans and MJ will teach her to find her inner bitch.

Only when clients request to see Cassie—having learned of the beautiful, compassionate tattoos she creates for survivors and their families—does MJ realize all Cassie has endured. And as Cassie’s fears fade, she finds it harder to keep her admiration for her bad-girl boss from reawakening all she’d feared was lost.

Review: New Ink on Life, by Jennie Davids

[fa icon="calendar"] Aug 1, 2019 9:45:00 AM / by Suzanne

New Ink on Life is an f/f romance that manages to be both sweet and gritty, harrowing and hopeful. Before we go further, please note that if reading about characters in cancer remission will be difficult for you, you may not want to continue with this review (or the book, naturally).

Cassie shows up at MJ's queer tattoo shop one day looking for a place to finish her apprenticeship and they immediately butt heads. MJ is a surly butch woman who has recently been screwed over by her former romantic and business partner. Cassie is more femme and has spent her life being polite and sweet and not standing out. When she finished her breast cancer treatment and went into remission, she decided to follow her passion instead of doing everything she thought she should. (She has an excellent mom who is totally behind this.) Cassie apprentices with the same woman that MJ learned from and when that woman passed away, also from breast cancer, she went to find MJ. Cassie has had a double mastectomy and a hysterectomy and has put her life in something of a holding pattern as she waits for her five-year scan.

The two of them come together when they strike a deal - MJ will teach Cassie to care less about what other people think of her and Cassie will teach MJ to be a better businesswoman. Part of that is what you read in the blurb - marketing and planning - but a lot of it is how to curb her temper and not lash out when she's frustrated. Both women are fully drawn, no caricatures or stereotypes. I was worried about a big family blow-up in a scene where MJ goes home because her father (whom she does not speak to because their relationship soured when she came out) is hurt on site at his construction business, but Davids does something I didn't expect and that made me cry on a public bus headed for NYC.

If you are able to read a book in which cancer plays a pretty heavy role, this is an angsty and sweet (I don't know, go with it) f/f romance that I would happily recommend.


Content Warnings: Cancer, grief, queer-hostile family, friends who died of cancer

Suzanne received an advance review copy from the publisher, then procrastinated and read it on audio.

Topics: review