Tuesday, February 14, 2017

ARC Review: Under Her Skin by Adriana Anders

Series:     Blank Canvas #1
Pub. Date:Feb. 7, 2017
Publisher:Sourcebooks Casa.
Length:352 pages

I am impressed by this first work from debut author, Adriana Anders. I was drawn in by the cover and the synopsis at a time when I was looking for an emotional book, and I think Under Her Skin fit that bill pretty well.

Uma Clark is a tortured heroine on the run from an abusive and somewhat powerful ex. She has suffered mental/emotional and physical abuse that has long-term and possibly lasting effects. She was an utterly sympathetic heroine... after reading what she endured from the legally and politically connected Joseph "Joey" Chisholm, my heart hurt for her. Now Uma has arrived in Blackwood, Virginia for a specific reason (which should be left to the reader to discover)... but the small town is a little too close to her ex for comfort. This means Uma feels she is living on borrowed time and she is terrified. As a result of the terror, Uma is jumping at noises, seeing her ex in every male face, and having panic attacks... so it's no wonder that its obvious to everyone she encounters that she is in hiding and needs help.  Well, its obvious to seemingly everyone except for her new employer, the curmudgeonly Ms. Lloyd - an abusive old coot with eccentricities of her own.
Ivan is a big burly lumberjack type who lives and works on the property adjacent to Ms. Floyd. As an ex-con who battles his rage, Ivan is surprisingly gentle with the wounded and strays that who flock to him. I particularly liked that Ivan was a blacksmith, bending iron to his will in the forge on his property. This is such an unusual occupation for heroes this days, and I thought the detail provided gave a unique air to this character and his livelihood.  And hey - I live in New Orleans where we have wrought iron everything so I could totally envision these aspects of the story. From the moment that Ivan meets Uma, he feels the need to add her to his collection of stray and wounded. While she may not be an animal in need of rescuing, he can tell that she definitely needs help.

The relationship between Ivan and Uma progressed solely by necessity... but the story wasn't all build up. I enjoyed watching Uma come out her shell and take her power back through interactions with Ivan and a few progressive sexual encounters. Despite our characters' pasts, the romance really had a "sweet" feel owed mainly to the gentle and accommodating nature of Ivan. He reminded me of a gentle grizzly - fiercely protective of those he cared about and gentle as a lamb when they needed him. His relinquishment of power to Uma created an interesting dynamic - one that I don't normally go for, but it fit this story perfectly. 

If there was anything that I was missing - it was a desire for more action, danger and suspense. I felt like the conflict with Uma's ex was resolved a little too easily. I think the fear and anticipation could have been ramped up a little more as the story and romance was progressing. I also would like to know why Ms. Lloyd never left her house. We got a peek into Ms. Lloyd's past, but that didn't quite translate to her being afraid to leave the house or open the door after dark.

If you like for your contemporary romance to evoke emotion and stories with sympathetic characters, then I recommend this book. I think it would also be enjoyed by fans of dark romance and romantic suspense. I voluntarily reviewed an advanced copy of this book that I received from the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca.