Tattoos can be very sexy, so it's no surprise many romance heroes sport them, and in a variety of intriguing bodily venues. They can also demonstrate something about the hero's personality, whether it's the rebellious mark of a contemporary bad boy, or a symbol of the suffering endured by a historical hero.
When I was compiling some of my recent favorites, however, I realized a tattoo was often a symbol of the couple's relationship status, and/or a springboard to a new level of emotional intimacy. With that in mind, here are some of the best fictional ink:
The Chief by Monica McCarty—This is the first in the series of “special ops with kilts”, an elite team of Highlanders with specialized fighting skills. Each man wears the same dangerous symbol, a lion rampant tattoo, which identifies them as rebels trying to aid Robert the Bruce in reclaiming the Scottish throne. The hero, Tor, is also a twin, and has a more interesting tattoo, which his wife Christina discovers during what could be considered a “trust building” moment:
“What's that mark?”
Because he didn't usually have anyone studying his backside, he'd forgotten about it. “A tattoo from blue woad. I was given it at birth.”
She nodded. “I've heard of them before, but never seen one. Is it a tradition among your clan?”
An intriguing idea, he thought. “Nay, it was to identify me as the eldest. It cannot be removed.” He grinned. “I guess they figured I wasn't as likely to have my arse cut off as I might an arm or a leg.”
She made a face. “Can I see it?”
He moved closer, his muscles jumping when he felt the soft pad of her finger tracing the design. “Mor,” she said, then translated, “great or big.” A naughty smile played upon her lips. “It certainly fits.”
“Wicked lass,” he chided. She knew full well “Mor” was an epithet commonly used to signify the elder—as “Og” was used for the younger.
Not Another Bad Date by Rachel Gibson—Adele, the heroine encounters Zach, her first love, a decade after he took on a responsibility that ended up breaking her heart. He has a newer tattoo, but it's the older one she's having difficulty ignoring, “. . .the double-z tattoo circling his upper arm. The last time she'd seen it, they'd been naked, and she'd been running her hands and mouth all over his hard body.” It's a good reminder of why she should stay away, but it's not just his tattoo that tempts her to get her heart involved once more.
Kiss of Crimson by Lara Adrian—Dante is a member of a vampire special ops crew known as the Breed, and he is covered front and back with dermaglyphs, tattoos that the heroine, Tess, describes as “mesmerizing, a flourish of geometric symbols and swirling arcs rendered in a range of hues from deep russet to gold and green to peacock blue.” She doesn't know his secret, or that she's moments away from a enjoyable life-changing moment. She asks if the tattoos are tribal-inspired, and he answers, vaguely:
“More of a family tradition. My father was similarly marked; so was his father before him, and all the other males of our line.”
Wow. If the men of Dante's family looked anything like him, they must have wreaked holy havoc on the hearts of women everywhere. Recalling just how far down the tattoos went below the hem of the towel on Dante's hips made Tess's face flush with heat.
He merely smiled, a knowing curve of his lips.
Flat Out Sexy by Erin McCarthy—Rookie race car driver Elec Monroe has a tattoo on the inside of his wrist, and it's 56, the number of his car. The heroine Tamara learns more about it when he meets her kids for the first time, a very big step in the progression of their romance:
Her daughter pouted, but got distracted by the tattoo she found on Elec's inner wrist. She traced the numbers of his car over and over with her finger, and he let her, clearly amused. “What if you change cars?” Hunter asked. “Then this is stuck here.”
“Doesn't matter. Fifty-six will always be my first cup car, so it's special.”
And what Tamara was learning was that so was Elec. He was thoughtful, sentimental, loyal. She appreciated all those things about him, even at the same time it scared the hell out of her.
Ain't Too Proud to Beg by Susan Donovan—The hero, Rick, has a tattoo that is downright scary, covering his torso from groin to collarbone, and comprised of two winged serpents with dripping fangs. He dreads the moment he takes off his shirt, because he knows the heroine, Josie, will most likely be horrified by it. At the same time it's important for him to reveal it, seeking her acceptance, since it symbolizes his wild, misspent youth and a tragedy he caused, as well as his attempts to atone for his selfish mistakes. He explains:
“The thing is, I wouldn't want to get rid of it now even if I could,” he said. “It's a reminder of lessons learned, I guess. And I've done a lot of research on the symbols over the years, and I realize it's like a road map of my life. I think those tattoo artists knew more about my destiny than I did.”
So there you have it, tattoos that help nannies keep track of twins, serve as a reminder of a lost love, and act as a stepping stone to trust and intimacy. What are some of your favorite tattoos?