Sunday, October 10, 2010

Skintight by Susan Andersen *****

Audio booked it! Got it from the library and finished it up this morning - still a 5 star story!


Another winner from Ms Andersen! This is my 6th book of Andersen's, and so far I'm having a blast. Her writing is witty, interesting, hot - plotlines work for me - characters fully developed (if a little zany) - I'm enjoying them all immensely!

Skintight takes place in Las Vegas where heroine Treena is a dancer in a show. A Show Girl from a steel mill town in the east, where she grew up in a big, happy-enough family, feeling like the outsider because she had bigger dreams than marrying out of high school and staying there. She worked her way up in the world, paid for her own dance classes and made it big. As part of her backstory, she marries a much older man who, as it turns out, was dying from cancer. He was rich - but lost it all to the costs of health care - and died within months of their marriage.

His son, Jackson "Jax Gallagher" McCall is out to steal back what should have been his: a priceless autographed baseball now in Treena's possession. As it turns out, although it was not left to Jax in his father's will, Treena always intended to find him and give it back because she knew that's what his dad wanted. But Jax wasn't around - he wasn't there when his dad was dying, he didn't attend the funeral, and she's never met him - so she's in no hurry.

Jax comes to LV as a professional poker player in a tournament and has a plan: he'll introduce himself to his dad's widow with his professional name (Gallagher), seduce her so he can gain access to her house, find the ball after he's boffed her senseless, and skeedaddle. His backstory is that his mother died when he was young, and his dad raised him - poorly. He was a geek - a big, tall, brainy, scrawny geek - and his dad seemed to want an athlete. He skipped 3 grades in school, went to MIT at 14, but always felt like the outsider (see a pattern here??) and never felt he lived up to his dad's expectations.

Now he's a big, tall, brainy, built professional poker player with plenty of money. Unfortunately, under the influence of alcohol, he bet the baseball in a poker game to a fellow who is determined to get it by force if necessary. Hence the plan - he figures his dad's widow is a money-grubbing gold digger bimbo, and that his plan will work when he wows her with his money. In his mind, there's no point in just asking for it because she would never give it away. But he miscalculated - a big problem for a mathematical genius poker player!

There's a fun secondary romance that is almost unnecessary, but fills in the "built family" aspect - 2 middle-aged single neighbors who finally give in to their attraction for each other. They act as mother and father in her "built family" of neighbors who drop in and give advice and get in the way. The whole "built family" aspect is important to Jax in making him feel home for the first time in his life, contributing to his feeling of well-being with Treena. For me, this part makes the characterization of their relationship whole - it isn't just a lust attraction, but the whole package, and they develop a friendship outside the bedroom that is very realistic.

Of course, Andersen writes bacon-sizzling hot love scenes too, which doesn't hurt. I got a kick out of the obligatory "sex against the door" scene when he realizes he was rushing her, and tries another tactic. While she appreciates that, she decides she still wants the door aspect and manages to finagle it later.

And there's the other neighbor, another dancer, leading her way into her own story - Just for Kicks, next on my TBR list.

I enjoyed the hell out of this book - 5 stars and a keeper for sure. I re-read the AAR review for it - I like to see how other people characterize the books I read. Sometimes I feel they put what I felt into words better than I can, but in the case of this review, we diverged. That reviewer felt the whole identity deception on Jax's part messed up the story for her - it was out of character, and she didn't like waiting for the Big Reveal. I felt like Andersen made the slip-up of betting the ball very believable - no matter how one feels about one's parents, the death of a parent does affect most people, and Jax was affected and reacted. I felt waiting for the Big Reveal was part of the suspense of the novel (what will happen next?) and I also felt the way Treena discovers his identity was very realistic.

There ya go, different strokes for different folks. After all - if he could have just ASKED for the ball, there would be no story and we would have been short-changed.

Audio notes: the narrator is Johanna Parker, who reads the Sookie Stackhouse series. She's good - not grrrreat (Barbara Rosenblatt, Davina Porter, Anna Fields), but really good. I thought she did a fine reading on this book, giving each character his or her own, consistent voice. 5 stars.

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