Black Hawk Tattoo

Black Hawk Tattoo

Aundrea Singer

Toronto tattoo artist Gabriel Navarro is smitten when American war veteran Jake MacLean comes into the shop inquiring about a special inking. Jake’s got a hand-drawn sketch, and Gabe, who has no tattoos on his body but is an artist working on his Master’s degree, realizes the picture’s potential.

Jake wants his medevac Black Hawk helicopter crashing at sunset in the Iraqi desert framed with flames, which Gabe envisions as an arresting image. What Gabe is concerned about, however, is that Jake wants the words “God Will Judge Me” encircling the top of the tattoo.

That Jake is a tortured survivor of the crash is evident from his unstable temperament and his ravaged body. Despite that he and Gabe immediately form a bond, taking long walks together, sharing meals and sometimes kisses.

As Gabe prepares to ink Jake, Jake’s sister Alice becomes more worried about him since he often spends the night at Gabe’s apartment without telling her. Since she’s the one who sprung him from a D. C. veteran’s hospital and brought him to Toronto to live with her, she thinks he owes her a little courtesy and should at least call to tell her where he is.

Although Gabe is a settling element for Jake, the veteran can’t hide that he’s getting more and more self-destructive, blaming himself for the crash that wasn’t his fault, the crash that nearly killed him when it wiped out the rest of the crew.

Gabe is a wonderful boyfriend for the troubled Jake, calming him when he needs it and generally trying to help Jake get over his post-traumatic stress disorder. But Gabe is also a realist and knows that he is only a tattoo artist and student, not a professional who should be helping Jake.

While Jake receives some relief from Gabe, the veteran is struggling to climb back in control and be on top of his life again. He relies on Gabe, fourteen-year-old Hype, and laconic Rob at the tattoo parlor to help him regain that control, telling himself he doesn’t need therapy or outside help.

Singer’s story is a grueling one, but not unrealistic. Clearly she knows that Jake’s only hope isn’t with well-meaning Gabe but in the mass of therapists and programs Jake’s sister Alice has collected. Getting Jake to the place where he agrees with this is the point of the book.

I particularly appreciated this because so often in romances it seems that love will cure just about anything and everything, no matter how severe or how traumatic it is.

What I didn’t like as a reader was how little there is about Gabe, who’s gay and of Indian background. True, the story is really Jake’s, but still it would be nice to have a little more about what made Gabe the wonderful person he is. Still, Singer’s portrayal of Gabe was enough that he wasn’t a cypher, but as real as the anguished Jake.

Through this haunting book, I’m adding Singer to my must-read list. Her sensitive handling of a volatile topic makes her an author worth reading.