As a fan of bad boys I found myself drawn to Second Skin by Jesse Pearle and the dark twists and turns of its characters. Keep reading to get a glimpse of this compelling read through my review and by visiting the other blogs hosting this tour as well as hearing what Ms. Pearl has to say about making her bad girls likable. Make sure to fill out the form below for the chance to win 1 of 2 $25 Amazon GCs too!
There’s no denying that Motorcycle Club romance is a hot commodity lately, due to the popularity of the show Sons of Anarchy. The themes deal with independence, tragedy, intrigue, betrayal. All the good gritty elements involved with lawless bad boys. The men involved are rough, leather-clad anti-heroes. They’ve bucked the establishment, choosing to live on the edge, follow their own rules. The best ones will still follow a strict code that appeals to fans in the way the vigilante justice of a character like Batman appeals to us. They are rough and deadly and you probably wouldn’t want to meet them in a dark alley, but the most lovable characters are, above all, not without honor.
So, you’re probably wondering, “wait, why does this blog title say bad girl not bad boy?”
Because bad girls need love, too. I love a good bad-ass heroine as much as or even more than a good bad-boy hero. You have to admit, Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman) is hot, a little bit tragic, and gets shit done (even if it’s not necessarily the most legal shit she’s doing). It is ultimately incredibly tricky to write a heroine like that and not have half your readers crying out that she’s a bitch, a whore, has a chip on her shoulders, or worse. It is an unfortunate double standard when our favorite bad boys can get away with being insensitive jerks who can’t get over their emotional baggage and use sex as an escape. We love them because we fancy ourselves their saviors (and no doubt we secretly want to share our beds with them).
So how to make a biker bad girl with similar qualities a likable character? Perhaps it’s an insurmountable task when trying to combine not only the bad-ass, heroic, altruistic qualities of a character like Katniss with the slightly more chaotic persona of a character like Catwoman. I honestly love a character who is a little bit of a bitch, who is perhaps somewhat difficult for a more level-headed hero to get through to. Mostly I love the juxtaposition between a hard-to-love woman and the sexy, steadfast man who’s fallen for her. She can be just as dangerous and tragic than that biker bad boy, but she needs to have perhaps an even stronger ethic and sense of honor than the bad boy. We can forgive the biker bad boy for slipping once in awhile, simply because he’s hot, and he might be conflicted due to his sense of honor.
His female counterpart will likely be held to a much higher standard. To make her a sympathetic character, readers should want to slip into her shoes, identify with her trials in some fashion, and gain a sense of justice through her efforts. Her sacrifices need to be meaningful because she doesn’t have the abs to entice us into forgetting she was a jerk, which is something that the Motorcycle Club heroes so popular lately seem to get away with.
“Bad boy” doesn’t have to mean “a-hole”, but often the biker heroes will come off that way at first. Why do we still love them? My guess is it’s because they always seem to have a good excuse for it, not to mention a man gets a pass for being insensitive far more easily than a woman does. Women are expected to be more nurturing and caring.
The guy should still have a solid reason readers can empathize with, so we understand why he’s retreated into his cave and is ignoring the love interest, or acting out in a perhaps destructive/self-destructive way.
I don’t think it’s any different for the bad girl. An effective and strongly written bad girl, by necessity has to have some unlikable elements the same as the bad boy—these are the qualities that define her. She’s perhaps a little too rigid in her beliefs, a little too prickly to be around due to past betrayals, as a result she finds it difficult to trust and therefore open up. Her soft, vulnerable core is closely guarded but it still exists and it’s up to the steadfast hero to uncover it.
This will be his personal challenge and the more he uncovers as he peels away her layers, the more he falls for her, and through his gradual discovery, the readers will fall for her as well. If done right, you’ll feel like you were cutting onions by the end of the story because you realize she isn’t just a bitch with a chip on her shoulders, but a multi-faceted character every bit as deserving of love and happiness as the more sensitive man who drew her out of her shell.
Obsession is never just skin deep.
Sam Blanco’s greatest desire is to escape his abusive father and violent neighborhood the only way he can—by earning money as a tattoo artist for a street gang. He’s befriended their leader, the deadly Leo Reyes, and gained a measure of safety under their protection. But just when things are going right for the first time in Sam’s life, Leo’s girlfriend, Pilar Flores, walks in and requests a tattoo in an unusual location. Sam obliges, but the experience leaves them both reeling. Unable to focus for days, Sam finds himself craving Pilar’s touch, but she’s exactly the kind of trouble he doesn’t need.
Pilar Flores is her father’s daughter. Being the daughter of a drug lord is not an easy role to fill, but she aspires to live up to the title and make her father proud. But her father has no plans to allow her into the business, and Pilar hates being sidelined. She hates that Leo is away for days on end, and she especially hates being treated like an incompetent female by every man she sees. Except for Sam. She decides to take control of her life the only way she knows how—through seduction. But she’s not prepared for how eager and passionate a lover Sam is, or how deeply she’s drawn to him. Even though she knows their ill-fated affair can’t possibly end well…
The small plane touched down on the runway of the airfield outside Los Angeles. After taxiing to the hangar, Leo powered down the engines and pulled off his headset. He felt like a weight had been lifted, but anxiety twisted in his gut as he worked through his explanation to the old man.
Gustavo had needed to be taken care of, that fact had been clear to him for months. The only reason he hadn’t gone to Arturo Flores about Gustavo’s consistent series of fuckups was because of his promise to Pilar to leave her father out of it.
The deed was done, the memory of the corpse he’d left behind in the little shack in the Sonoran desert still left him ice cold to his core. He’d had to ignore the spark of memory of another pair of eyes whose light the same gun had extinguished two years earlier. Two years to the day, he thought.
Leo no longer regretted any of those bullets, starting with the very first one from his brother’s gun that had pierced his own chest. Each had brought him closer to her. Now all he had to do was claim what was his.
The phone at his hip buzzed as he made his way across the tarmac to the parking lot. He settled in his car and started the engine, turning the AC on full blast while he checked his messages.
911! Call me when you land!
It was from Pilar. Goosebumps rose up on his arms in spite of the hot August air that baked the interior of his car.
BUY LINKS: AMAZON | BN | ARe
MY IMPRESSIONS OF THIS BOOK:
Those looking for an intense read with soap opera elements will find just that with this first installment in the Second Skin series that takes us into an imperfect world where there's oppression and very few ways to make your life better. This leads many to join gangs or gain strength to keep out of the gangs. When worlds collide, people don't always make the best choices, which leads to a story full of danger, angst, and LOTS of steamy sexual interludes.
As the daughter of a drug lord Pilar is used to danger and power and hopes to take over the business one day. She's young but strong-willed and by watching and learning she starts to manipulate events to get what she wants. At first it's the business, then the sexy Leo who's an underling in the business catches her eye and a romance that starts off sweet quickly becomes combustible with growing BDSM elements. Pilar wants to see him climb the ladder quickly so her father sees him as a worthy match for her and uses herself as enticement. These events unsettled me and showed a shrewd woman wise beyond her years willing to do anything to get her way as underneath it all she's a spoiled and pouty girl. They say absolute power corrupts absolutely and that describes Pilar to a tee as she morphs from a seemingly sweet-natured and obedient girl to a manipulative sexually aggressive woman willing to rise to the top using any means necessary. While I admired her in some ways I also found her immensely disagreeable, especially after witnessing her cheating in her relationship because she felt lonely and angered at not being told everything going on in the business.
Leo had a hand in his brother's death after he decided to take over the business and it haunts him throughout the story and is the catalyst to catching Pilar's eye. While convalescing at her family's home from the gunfight that took his brother's life you can see Pilar gaining confidence in seducing him and pushing him to become her father's right hand man. He's smart, assertive, loyal, and deeply attracted to Pilar and soon rises through the ranks which takes him away from home on business more often and requires more secrets between them considering the business he deals in which leads to problems with their relationship and him willing to do anything to keep her...even kill. I liked Leo and saw a truly kind hearted person who wanted to make something of himself, wanted to give comfort to the woman who raised him, and who's obsessed with a woman willing to subtly use him for her own gains. I believe he truly loves Pilar but I don't feel she loves him the same way.
Sam is also a part of this world, though more on the fringes as he doesn't want to join a gang. He comes from a home where he has to walk on eggshells whenever his abusive father is home on leave. He's a kind soul though who hates to fight, as he's seen the results, and loves drawing and longs to be a tattoo artist. He loves his mother and sister and their interactions are realistic, cute, and heartwarming. He's always tried to keep to himself at home and school until the day he stands up to one of the gang members and becomes a part of that world. He's always had an attraction to Pilar and as the story progresses he finally gets to make his dreams come true but reality is never as good as dreams as their connection adds to the story's angst and disillusionment. Sam ultimately becomes another casualty of Pilar's entitlement as she's gotten used to getting what she wants. His dreams are secondary to her desires. By the end of the story he's where I never thought he'd be and as his story feels unfinished I hope we see him again as he deserves a HEA of his own choosing.
This is a dark story at times full of twists and turns. Secrets abound and there are many people who are not as they first appear. At times this story felt like a telenovela and it was definitely never boring. Both the main characters and the secondary ones are larger than life and easily keep you immersed in the story. I might not have liked each and every character but I certainly can't forget them even now. True love didn't seem possible in this world full of secrets and manipulations but there's plenty of scorching sexual interludes with BDSM elements. With Pilar's questionable antics some readers might be turned off but they'd be missing out on an engaging read with compelling characters and with an ending that was a bit rushed, and with many threads left hanging, I'm hoping Ms. Pearle returns to this dark and gritty world soon.
My rating for this is a B.
*I got this book from the author for review in exchange for my honest opinion.
Jesse Pearle grew up in the mountains of Western North Carolina in a place where there was no danger in dancing naked in the moonlight at the top of a mountain. Always possessed of a creative mind, but never quite the right amount of focus, she wandered for decades. She received a degree in fine art which she put to poor use working an uneventful desk job for an engineering company when she started writing her first really ambitious piece of fiction. She lives in sunny Southern California with her ever supportive husband and four attention-whoring cats.
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