Jenre's Reviews > Skin Deep

Skin Deep by S.W. Vaughn
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's review
Feb 03, 10

bookshelves: m-m, paranormal, romance, urban-fantasy
Read on January 31, 2010

I picked up this book because I fancied something other than a contemporary romance and the UF elements in the book caught my attention - as did the extract. It's always a good sign if the extract gets you interested enough to read on and the combination of radio talk show hero mixed with banished fae other hero seemed refreshingly different from the sort of books I've been reading recently.

The story begins with Will, who hosts a radio talk show where gay men phone in with either a question or a confession. One of the callers that night is a mysterious man who confesses that he pays for sex because all the men he gets close to get hurt. The caller turns out to be Cobalt who runs a club/tattoo parlour called The Grotto. Cobalt is a banished fae whose previous human lovers have all either gone mad or killed themselves once they discover his true identity. Cobalt is also being stalked by another fae, Eoghann, who was responsible for Cobalt's original banishment and now wants Cobalt to return and be his lover once more. Will and Cobalt meet when Will's producer takes him out for a night of drinking and they end up at The Grotto. There's an instant attraction between them and when Will's abusive lover takes things too far, Will finds himself asking Cobalt for help.

The first two thirds of this book were pretty gripping. Partner abuse amongst the gay community is not a theme I've come across much in m/m books (in fact I can only think of one other story I've read with it in) and the way that Will is portrayed seemed exactly right. Will is essentially a mentally strong man who is attracted to physically strong men. These men have tried to dominate Will and when he has refused to submit to them then they have used their physical prowess to force that domination. Will blames himself and makes excuses time after time, and so the cycle of abuse continues. I found this aspect of the book quite difficult to read at times and, be warned, there are a couple of horrific physical abuse scenes in the book. I had a great deal of sympathy for Will but also a certain amount of exasperation over his self-blame. When Will meets Cobalt and sees that his past relationships have all been about power struggles, it was heartening to see him begin to believe that he can find someone who is willing to be an equal partner in a relationship.

Compared to the complexity of Will, Cobalt is rather more simplistic. His relationship within the fae community is explored and I liked that he had a kindly nature and that he too is a victim of circumstance - something he is trying to change during his banishment to the human world. I was rather frustrated by his constant self-flagellation about his past lovers and how that impacted on his treatment of Will. As a result of this he blew hot and cold as he veered from falling in love with Will to pushing him away 'for his own good'. These types of characters always annoy me a bit as I just get irritated that they can't make their mind up.

After such a great set up with the characters and the fae world building, I was rather disappointed when things made a turn for the worst in the last third of the book. There were a couple of incidents which just didn't sit right with me. One of those is that Will gets arrested and the cops take him to a interview room and beat him up. Really? Will is a minor celebrity in town and a well known gay man and the cops beat him up. That just didn't ring true for me at all. Then, instead of protesting and calling for his lawyer, Will just sits there and does nothing. Will then makes a couple of decisions which veered very close to TSTL and I began to wonder what had happened to the intelligent man who I'd gotten to know for the first part of the book.

Having said that, Skin Deep is still worth reading. I got a great deal of enjoyment reading about these characters and their journey towards love. The world building is secure and interesting; the secondary characters are extremely well drawn, especially Will's friend Tess and the slightly creepy unseelie, Uriskel; and I found the pages turning at a great pace as I eagerly read on towards the end. If you're looking for a UF which successfully integrates both human and paranormal aspects then this would be a great book to try.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Ravyn TSTL?

Jenre Too stupid to live.

It's a phrase often found in relation to m/f heroines! Sorry for not explaining it in the review.

Ravyn Good phrase. Definitely describes some of the goings-on in this book.

Jenre I'm glad we agree, Ravyn :).

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