Watermelon Tattoo cover

Watermelon Tattoo

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Tony Burnett
Psychological Thriller / Suspense
Publisher: Watertower Press
Date of Publication: February 14, 2023
Number of Pages: 300 pages
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Watermelon Tattoo cover.

Naïve but charismatic farm girl, Jacquelyn Benderman, has her life perfectly planned until her town blames her for the accidental death of the local high school’s star running back. Feeling like a pariah, she flees to Austin, Texas where her luck seems to change. Her rapid rise to stardom as a blues diva is derailed when an anonymous stalker begins systematically murdering her associates, leaving the police to suspect her.

As Y2K approaches, she wrestles with the guilt of falling for her roommate, a Romanian folk singer who survives as a call-girl, while the show band she sings with rehearses for a national tour.

Can she protect her new lover from danger? Will the world end at midnight? Is there no hiding place when everyone knows who you are?

There's no hiding place when everyone knows who you are. Watermelon Tater by Tony Burnett.


“Burnett has created an unconventional and magnetic character who makes a memorable first impression.”
Kirkus Reviews
“Bodies, wrecked and loved, Wiccan handfasting, sex work, guns, watermelons, and music—lots of music—light up this thrilling nail-biter.”
Lesley Bannatyne, author of Unaccustomed
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Clueless Gent’s Rating for Watermelon Tattoo

4 star rating

Watermelon Tattoo is a love story, a thriller and a suspense novel, all rolled into one. It’s also an LGBTQ+ novel. Watermelon Tattoo is also one of the most original stories I’ve read in quite some time. I was completely hooked.

The story follows the plight of Jaqui Benderman as she graduates from high school and embarks on an adventure that ultimately reveals who she really is. Set in the Texas Hill Country, Jaqui leaves her life on the country farm where her dad raised her and travels to Austin in hopes of igniting a singing career.

Over the following months a number of varied characters fall in and out of her life. One special character, Katrine Boneta, a petite Romanian musician, becomes much more than just a friend, as Jaqui discovers something new about herself. Jaqui makes the right contacts and it seems her career is about to take off, but then her friends start being murdered. Her new world begins to spiral out of control, and Jaqui tries to hang on and keep everything going in the right direction.

I suppose most people would consider this a dark novel, but I just can’t. Sure, it has severe alcohol and drug abuse. Okay, it has an LGBTQ+ relationship, but it was handled in a very natural way. And then there are the grisly murders. I think Jaqui’s character pulled it out of the darkness for me. She’s pretty resilient. Further, the musical backdrop helps to keep the storyline above the waterline.

Watermelon Tattoo also includes maybe a handful of sex scenes. I didn’t think the sex was gratuitous, but the author didn’t hold anything back, either. I won’t say that these scenes were my favorite parts of the story, but I got through them okay.

“The fact is, some kids grow like weeds; left alone, they make it, but don’t amount to much. Some kids grow like orchids; beautiful and talented, but require a lot of care and maintenance. Then there’s the wild roses, the ones that grow up beautiful, fragrant, and hardy, pretty much on their own. Jaqui was a wild rose.”

I thought the characters—particularly Jaqui—were well-developed. Her character arc was somewhat unusual in my view, but I wouldn’t consider it bad or anything. It does swing a number of ways, though.

I think the one area where this novel rises above the competition is in originality. It contains such a variety of circumstances that it has something for everyone. Adults only, please.

This could have been a five star review, but the SPAG (spelling, punctuation and grammar) errors were numerous. I don’t know if formatting falls under SPAG, but I’m lumping it all together. I don’t normally mention SPAG errors, but considering that the copy I read is the same one for sale on Amazon, I have to mention it. It’s truly a shame when multiple SPAG errors detract from a brilliant storyline.

Despite the errors, I enjoyed the story. It was well constructed, well paced, and had a wonderful ending. I encourage you to give it a go, regardless of your preferred genre. (Adults only, please.)

I received a free copy of Watermelon Tattoo from Lone Star Book Blog Tours in exchange for my honest review. Opinions expressed are my own.

the Author

Author Tony Burnett Photo

Award-winning poet and songwriter Tony Burnett is the Executive Director of Kallisto Gaia Press. He served as President of the Writers’ League of Texas from 2013 to 2017. His poetry, short fiction, and environmentally focused nonfiction appear in over 70 publications. His previous books include the story collection, Southern Gentlemen and a full-length poetry collection, The Reckless Hope of Scoundrels. He resides in rural central Texas with his trophy wife and several rescue dogs who pay him no mind unless hungry. His hobbies include poking wasp nests with short sticks and wandering aimlessly about. He hopes you enjoy meeting his imaginary friends.


Winner of the 2022 Watertower Press Novel Prize - Watermelon Tattoo - Available everywhere books are sold.

Signed copy of Watermelon Tattoo
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 6/9/23)

Watermelon Tattoo tour giveaway graphic. Prizes to be awarded precede this image in the post text.

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