Every tattoo tells a story.

This week we are celebrating the release-aversary of kINKED. A year ago the anthology came into the world.

We are marking the occasion by shining the spotlight on INKarnate Mara Malin. This will also give you a sneak peek at her upcoming INKomplete series.


When Emily begins an apprenticeship at the renowned tattoo studio Inkomplete, she didn’t realize she was stepping into a world very different from her middle-class upbringing. But not everybody is happy about her dipping her toe into new waters. Famous tattoo artist, Matt Jones, knows she doesn’t belong.

To kick things off, Mara takes a closer look at the romance genre.



The Definition of Romance

By Mara Malins


I’m a sucker for definitions.

If I stumble across a new word, either in conversation or in fiction, I invariably get out my well-thumbed dictionary and seek the true meaning. If I don’t have my trusty dictionary to hand, then I pull up Google. The good thing about technology is that we’re never too far away from knowledge. In fact, the old joke about having someone on hand to clear your browser history if the worst should ever happen is definitely applicable to me, only instead of porn, my history is full of searches like “define anthropomorphism” or “define malapropism.” Hashtag writer’s life.

When I started dabbling in writing steamy romances, my first port of call was to get the true definition of “romance.” I knew what romance was, of course; everybody over the age of ten does. But maybe there was another aspect I was missing. Google proved me right. The Oxford dictionary defines romance as “a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.”

That definition doesn’t sit right with me. At all. Not only is it seriously lacking in…well, romance, but mystery? Really?

Now, I’m one of those lucky people who found true love at a young age. I was sixteen when I first met my long-term partner and almost sixteen years later we’re still together and still very much in love. After all this time, I think it’s safe to say that there’s very little mystery left surrounding the wonderful man I live with. I probably know more about him than his own mother does, but does that necessarily mean there can be no romance for me?

Absolutely not.

Let me tell you, we’re a romantic pair. It’s true that our romance is closer to running each other baths after a long day, or relinquishing a piece of treasured cheese on toast to the other instead of the more clichéd dozen long-stemmed red roses, but does that mean it’s any less romantic? Nuh-uh. Not in my eyes.

So, when I started to write INKarnate—and the series of short stories set in that world (coming out later this year!)—I knew it had to be my kind of romance and not the kind that dominates the bestsellers. My world wouldn’t have the controlling billionaire or the uber-interested (but sometimes stalker-ish) love interest to sweep my hero/heroine off his/her feet. That was the stuff of fantasies.

I wanted truth.

I wanted relatability.

I wanted real aspirational partnerships with everyday problems.

I wanted to explore romance at every stage of life and how it changes as we mature.


With that in mind, I started from the beginning and wrote INKarnate. The obstacle standing between my two protagonists, Matt and Emily, was the rather mundane issue around communication; neither communicates their feelings—or even admits them—in an honest way. I felt this was a good place to start in my exploration of “true” romance.

After that, I wanted to tackle the next stage of life; parenthood. INKapable came next. Joe and Nathan’s obstacle was a little weightier—how do you build a trusting relationship when you’ve been hurt badly before? How do you let your guard down when you have children relying on you?

Then I wanted to write about something that’s in the post for all of us; the deterioration of health. In INKurable, the third story of the INKomplete series, Phee has cancer. It was a toughie to write, but I feel the relationship between Phee and her surgeon, Pete, comes together naturally. They struggle as a team.

Finally, I rounded off the series exploring the theme of grief; Blakey is a widow and his story in INKonsolable deals with him overcoming his guilt in moving on and initiating a mature, late-blossoming romance.

Each of these stories, I feel, is relatable, truthful, and—perhaps most importantly—full of romance. Not the glamorous kind, or even the “mysterious” kind, but the kind of romance that leaves you feeling hopeful. Not everybody needs, or even wants, a billionaire or a man so overwhelmed with love that he stops being his own person.

Sometimes, you just want to read about something real.




Mara Malins writes romantic fiction using words that your grandmother doesn’t know. An avid gamer, she battles spreadsheets by day and fiction by night. She lives in Manchester, England with her menagerie of three cats, two turtles, a social media loving partner, and a disobedient garden. If you want to know when her next fiction is released, or see thousands of pictures of her cats sleeping in a variety of different poses, find her on Twitter or Goodreads.







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