Paperback: 320 pages
January 4th 2011, Berkley Sensation
Romantic Suspense (Paranormal)
Question: Where do I sign up for a man with an innate love for animals and for pleasing women?
Answer: Skin Heat, the third installment of the Skin series by Ava Gray.
Zeke Noble has returned to his farm in Harper Creek after being kidnapped, mentally tortured and experimented on like a lab rat for six months. He doesn’t know why he was abducted, but the experiments have had a permanent effect on his physical senses as well as his mind. Never the less, he’s determined to establish a normal life which isn’t easy now that he suffers from weight loss and has an extreme sensitivity to smell, light, and noise, but no sensitivity to heat and cold. In fear of loosing his sanity, Zeke takes things one step at a time. And with no food or power at his farm, his first challenge is to get a job. However, given his stoic and ‘man of few words’ demeanor, none of the town businesses are willing to take a chance on hiring Zeke…until he meets the local veterinarian Geneva “Neva” Harper. Zeke has known Neva since he was a boy mowing her parent’s yard, dreaming of a girl who is out of his league.
Neva, determined to live her life outside of the influence of her wealthy parents, started her vet clinic on her own and works around the clock to see that it stays open. She immediately observes Zeke’s kindness and innate connection with animals and decides to hire him part time at the clinic. For workaholic Neva, Zeke’s presence opens the door to forming a relationship beyond her feline patients. Neva’s parents are extremely uneasy not only with the fact that she wants to succeed on her own, but also because their son Luke mysteriously disappeared six months ago and is now presumed dead. Naturally, they want to keep their last child close, particularly since there is a serial killer on the loose targeting women who resemble Neva.
First and foremost, Ava Gray can write sex and steam like nobody’s business. Like Larissa Ione, who praises Gray’s style as “edgy, unapologetic, and take-no-prisoners bold,” Ms. Gray delivers love scenes that make you feel as if you are witnessing every touch, every shiver, every kiss with your own eyes and with flushed cheeks. Neva is playful yet sensual in their intimate moments and Zeke is quite resourceful, making good use of his extremities to pleasure her to ecstasy. However, it is not all sex. The character development is always stellar and you desperately want her characters to overcome their emotional baggage and all the obstacles that always come their way. Ms. Gray is a master at developing “tough as nails” heroes with a tenderness and vulnerability that renders them more powerful than weak. Her heroes have a desire for love that they believe they are unworthy of which proves highly attractive and extremely intense. In all regards, Zeke is no exception. My primary reservation with the story was that the serial killer plot never seemed to fully integrate with the main characters until the very end. I didn’t really get a feel for or have a fear of the killer at all. Why he singled out his victims wasn’t even revealed until he was caught. This caused the story not to flow as well as the prior two books and weakened the overall suspense and intensity I have come to love in the Skin series. Also, elements and characters that connected Skin Game and Skin Tight were noticeably missing in the third installment. This created a disconnect with the rest of the series, but makes Skin Heat a good stand-alone read.
With Skin Heat, Ms. Gray continues to deliver strong and passionate characters that keep me craving more of her sexy heroes and captivating romances.
“Neva paused, glancing at him over her shoulder, and found him breathlessly close. His hands settled on her hips and he kissed the side of her neck as he worked her skirt up. Each movement constituted a caress, and despite the fact that she was ready to step out the door, a whisper of arousal flickered through her. Other men wouldn’t even think of this; they had plans, someplace to be. But he wanted her too much to consider anything else. And what a turn on…….”