Sunday, February 12, 2017

Book Spotlight on Under Her Skin by Adriana Anders (Review & GIVEAWAY)

As a reader drawn to emotionally intense romances I found myself quickly consumed by this tale of an abused woman trying to leave her past behind and the gentle giant who's trying to overcome his own past.  Keep reading to get a tempting taste of Under Her Skin by Adriana Anders, along with my impressions of it, then add it to your bookshelf.  In honor of this first installment in the Blank Canvas series make sure to fill out the form below for the chance to win 1 of 5 copies of this book too!

Battered by a life determined to tear him down
This quiet ex-con’s scarred hands may be the gentlest touch she’ll ever know.
…if only life were a fairy tale where Beauty was allowed to keep her Beast
Ivan thought the world was through giving him second chances. Who’d want a rough ex-con with a savior complex and a bad habit of bringing home helpless strays? Everyone in Blackwood, Virginia knew he wasn’t good enough for the fine things in life; they knew he was too damaged to save. He just needed to keep his head down, work himself to the bone, and pretend he was content with the lot he was given.
Until she came into his life. Until she changed everything.
Until he realized he would do anything, fight anyone, tear the world apart if it meant saving her.


“No. You’re not beating anyone up for me.” She softened the words with a smile and met his eyes, where bloodlust still shone, perhaps even reflected in hers. “But thank you."
It took all the courage Uma had to reach out then and place her clammy hand over his warm one.
It was her undoing, that contact. Or maybe it had been his tirade—the idea that this man who hardly knew her, this stranger, was willing to defend her. Or perhaps the sight of his heartbreakingly beautiful face, lovely and bare. Either way, Uma crossed a line with that touch. Like in a movie, when the shot pans around the room, flip-flopping the perspective, she’d changed the rules, broken the barrier, dragging them into unknown territory.
They both stared at her hand for a beat or two before their heads lifted and their eyes met.
He moved first, flipping his hand so their palms came together. That touch was so much more intimate than it should have been, like lying belly to belly, naked. Their skin rasped gently as his thumb rode the bumps of Uma’s knuckles.
Ivan’s lids looked heavy, and when she glanced at his mouth, it was no longer stern but lush and ripe and hungry. Her eyes fled the invitation there and skittered back to the safety of their hands, but that was ten times worse. Because watching that rough, callused thumb—capable of so much violence—barely skate across the surface of her hand, more gently than she’d ever been touched in her life… That was too much. Like hand porn.
Which obviously wasn’t a thing.
Although, maybe it was a thing, and if it wasn’t, damn it, it should have been. She could imagine the Tumblr feeds, ogled by closeted pervs like herself. She pictured herself hunting down shots of scarred, manly, thick-knuckled hands toying with pathetic, unsuspecting, small ones.
But then, in a moment of clarity, she knew, without fully understanding it, that what really turned her crank here wasn’t him dominating her. Oh no. It was the other way around. Her own tiny hand lording it over his big one. She had the power here—or at least the illusion of it. And it was heady.
C’m’ere.” He sounded gruff when he tugged Uma toward him. She resisted briefly, but not out of worry or fear. No, she resisted for the stupid regular reasons: Would she make a fool out of herself? Did her breath stink?
She gave in and allowed him to pull her closer, to the edge of the armchair, and met him halfway.
Their noses were first to meet, hesitant and intimate. Brushing lightly.
“Can I get a kiss?” His hot breath shuddered the question against her, and she could feel his anticipation, nearly as strong as her own.
Without letting herself think too much about it, she did as he asked. It was so easy to brush her mouth to his. A dry touch, with none of the messiness his lush lower lip promised, but enough spark to make her want more.
The second was a real kiss, the kind that makes a noise, lips pursed. Another like that, chaste and neat, but ridiculously exciting in its simplicity. They tilted their heads in easy, mirrored unison, lined up for a deeper one.
And then his tongue, the tip against her lip, sweet and soft, requesting permission. Permission was granted, and he slipped in, sipped at her. Not a perfect kiss, because there were still teeth in the way and noses and such, but with such synchronicity and heat that it was by far the best she’d ever had. Massive hands stroked her cheeks, her ears, her shoulders, making her feel tiny and cherished. Fragile, in a good way, but still whole.
It was so right, and he was so patient, that something pushed her to ramp it up a notch, bite his bottom lip—probably a little harder than she should have—pull it taut, then dive back in. He made a little noise when she did that, a sort of surprised grunt, which made the whole thing even hotter. Uma grabbed hold of his hair and positioned his head right where she wanted it, then wiggled against her seat.
That’s when he started to lose it.



When it comes to romantic tales I find the most satisfying ones put readers through the emotional wringer.  It's not a truly Happily Ever After unless the journey to get there was a hard-fought one.  From start to finish this book held my emotions captive as two bruised souls fought to rise above their pasts in a tale that beautifully blended a charming and heartwarming romance with steamy interludes that ultimately empowered and healed the heroine's battered body and soul.  This romance hurt my heart at times but ultimately had me cheering as an eclectic group of people bonded together to form an unlikely family.

Uma's life was once all about color and light as a photographer, but the moment she met Joey her life suddenly took a dark and sinister turn.  He took over her life, trapping her in a nightmare of doubts and eroding her self-confidence, until one night when the nightmare turned to hell.  With her body permanently marked and her soul bruised she ran until she found an unlikely haven with a bitter old woman and a gentle, yet gruff, giant.  These two individuals become her saviors, giving her the strength to find herself once again.  Being with Ms. Lloyd gives her her first taste of standing up for herself as well as a confidant who understands her fears.  Being with Ivan shows her that strong men don't need to be cruel.  He makes her feel desirable despite the marks on her body though it was a slow journey towards acceptance for her.  When Uma first came to town she was scared of her own shadow.  Her transformation out of her shell was full of baby steps that had me cheering her on as each step saw a palpable weight lifting off her.  Everything Uma went through was vividly depicted which drew me to her as each of her aches became mine.  By the end of the story I felt a bond with her and was happy for the new life she made for herself.

Ivan's lived in Blackwood all his life.  His childhood was tough as his family was poor and his mother walked out after the birth of his sister.  This and an undiagnosed learning disability led to lots of anger issues that ultimately landed him in prison for almost killing the man who abused his sister.  Since getting out he's worked on his rage issues, become caretaker to every stray in town, and tries to keep to himself.  The town sees him as a mystery, a man you don't want to cross but who's loyal to those he calls friend and family.  To the women in town they see him as a sexy beast, which I wholeheartedly agree with!  The moment he and Uma meet is a life-altering experience for them both and takes them on a journey that empowers her and teaches him the power in letting go to another.  In subtle ways Ivan shows he cares for Uma, from shedding his caveman looks to helping her find her self-worth through his longing glances. He proves time and again that he'd do anything to make her happy and keep her safe, but a chance to avenge Uma may put their HEA in doubt in a pulse-pounding conclusion that wrapped up a bit to easily.  Ivan may look like a beast but he has a heart of gold.  He let Uma take charge in moments where she felt weakest and I adored him for it.  His care of Ms. Lloyd also endeared him to me as he could easily charm her bitter heart.  His care of the unwanted town strays made my heart ache even more and sealed his nomination to my list of book boyfriends.

From start to finish I found myself fully immersed in this powerful romance. The main characters were larger-than-life with pasts that left an indelible mark on them both and bound them together in an ultimately uplifting connection.  Their romance was sweet yet scorching at times, empowering as Uma was given control during their erotically-charged encounters.  Throughout the story Ms. Anders vividly depicted the past of both of the main characters which helped me understand the feelings they were going through in the healing process.  The town of Blackwood was also brought alive as a haven for Uma with its majestic mountains and warm countryside courtesy of Ms. Anders talents.  The colorful denizens of this small town further enhanced the narrative, relating past secrets that changed my views on characters as well as introducing me to complex and intriguing secondary characters.  British bartender Rory's antagonistic banter with Ivan's sister, Jessie, especially has me intrigued as it's full of sexual tension that I hope to see play out in the next installment in this series.  On a whole this was an unforgettable story, with characters I quickly came to care for, and I highly recommend it to readers looking for a powerful romance of survival and acceptance.

My rating for this is an A.

*I got this book from NetGalley for review in exchange for my honest opinion.


Adriana Anders has acted and sung, slung cocktails and corrected copy. She’s worked for start-ups, multinationals and small nonprofits, but it wasn’t until she returned to her first love—writing romance—that she finally felt like she’d come home. Today, she resides with her tall French husband, two small children and fat French cat in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where she writes the dark, gritty, steamy love stories of her heart.


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