Reader’s Edyn

I always felt like I could do something more than just read. Finally, I have found both a creative outlet and a chance to do something meaningful with my reading. This blog was created in appreciation of and tribute to all of the authors who have brought me joy through their books. These reviews are my way of giving back to authors and providing recognition for the hard work that each one completes every day!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Review: Under His Skin by Sidney Bristol

       Title: Under His Skin
                  So Inked, Book 1
       Author: Sidney Bristol
       Release Date: July 20, 2012
       Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
       Category: Contemporary Erotic Romance
       Type: Kindle/Paprback

A woman who doesn’t believe she deserves love…

Toe-curling kisses and enough sex to fill a weekend were all Pandora wanted from a fling with her teenage crush. She’s never forgotten how he played the knight in shining armor to her damsel in distress. She’s ready to say thank you in several naughty ways, so long as she can walk away when it’s over with her heart intact.

A man moving on from tragedy…

Brian has no intention of allowing the feisty tattoo artist to leave after one taste. He hasn’t had enough of her inked curves. The packaging might have changed, but Pandy is the woman he hasn’t been able to excise from his memory. He’s ready to put together a new life, one that includes her.

But Brian isn’t the only one vying for Pandora’s attention. Someone else wants her, dead or alive.

Pandora swirled the glass of Tuaca and downed it in three gulps. The smooth brandy slid down her throat and sent warm fuzzies coursing through her body. She couldn’t get drunk fast enough.
A weight settled against her waist. She squeezed her eyes shut, chanting, No, no, no!
“Why aren’t you up there getting ready for the awards?”
She turned on the stool, keeping one hand on the bar for balance. She should never have allowed the girls to dress her up in the first place. The red wiggle dress fit her like a second skin, and the underwear served only to annoy her. She’d never understood garters.
At least focusing on that distracted her from what Robert had done this time.
“We were disqualified,” she said, slurring her words only slightly.
Brian’s jaw dropped. If she had the coordination, it would have been the perfect opportunity to kiss him, but she didn’t trust herself leaning that far forward.
“What? How?”
“I drew the tattoo on you. I didn’t make a stencil first.”
“That’s bullshit.” The way his eyes flashed and arms flexed as he clenched his hands into fists made her a little hot. Then again, there wasn’t anything about Brian that didn’t turn her on. What would her ex-fiancé think if she told him it had been Brian she thought of when they’d had sex?
“Yup. I said that too. The rules are written all vague and shit. Robert and the West Coast Shop assholes pressured the organizers. All of us who drew instead of tracing are disqualified.” If she was able to string that many words together and slur only a little, she wasn’t drunk enough. Turning to the bar, she signaled the bartender for another.
Brian wedged himself between her stool and the next. “There’s got to be someone you can complain to.”
As she reached for her new glass, Brian picked it up first and sniffed.
“That’s mine.” She made a wild grab for the glass.
He caught her wrist, making a shackle of his fingers. “I think you’ve had enough.”
“Have not.” Releasing her hold on the bar, she made another attempt to snag the brandy.
Brian lifted the liquor out of her reach and forced her other arm up while trying to grab her flailing appendage with his fingers. She pitched forward, sliding off the barstool. Her heel fell off the rung and her skirt trapped her legs. Stumbling forward, she winced, already seeing herself sprawled across the floor. Instead, she planted her face directly into Brian’s chest. He wrapped his arm around her waist, squeezing her against his untattooed side.
She wasn’t drunk enough not to want to wither and die from mortification. Placing her hands against his shoulders, she shoved. But she might as well have been pushing a brick wall for all the good it did her. Brian pivoted, putting the bar to her back, and leaned against her. She could feel his hips and the bulge of something else.
“Let go of me,” she growled.
He turned his face away and downed her drink.
“Hey, that was mine.”
Setting the glass on the bar, he wrapped both arms around her. Though she’d been up close and personal with him the day before, that had been in a professional situation. Without alcohol. Slightly inebriated and plastered against his lean chest was a new experience. The urge to lift her chin and kiss his jaw, suck his lips and thrust her tongue into his mouth was strong. She hadn’t been able to put the fantasy of him to rest, but neither could she bring herself to close those final few inches and make it a reality.
Over his shoulder, she glimpsed Butch take the stage, microphone in hand. “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to announce the winners.”
Ducking her face, she pressed it to his shoulder. Her back ached from spending yesterday hunched over Brian’s tattoo. She had a tension headache, and now her stomach rolled from the brandy.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” she muttered into his t-shirt.
He said something she didn’t hear and took her hand. As Butch began acquainting the audience with one of the smaller contests, Brian led her through the press of people crammed into the ballroom. Focusing on putting one foot in front of the other, she didn’t question why she was following him. It was nice not to have to sit at the bar by herself. She hadn’t yet been able to face the other girls after her public disqualification. Escaping with Brian was preferable to the alternative.
Exiting from the ballroom-turned-bar, she sucked in a deep breath and squinted in the bright lights of the lobby. Brian kept a firm grasp on her hand, leading her across the foyer to a comfortable nook with contemporary leather lounge seating built against the walls. He pushed her down onto the edge of one of the couches and hovered.
Pandora cradled her face in her hands, her elbows two painful points digging into her knees.
“Can I get you anything?”
“A beer? I’m not drunk yet.”
“I think you are. How about some water?”
“This is tipsy, not drunk.”
Where the ballroom had become stifling with the press of bodies and the pulsing music, the foyer was cool and the music at least muted. She wanted to drink away today, but it would require a greater amount of alcohol than she’d consumed to do more than make her a little loose.
Her gaze focused on Brian’s worn Converse, the way each shoe sported twin worn spots behind the rubber toe where the shoe would crease when he knelt.
“Hey.” The shoes creased and his right knee hit the ground.
Sighing, she straightened and pushed her hair over her shoulder. She’d curled it for nothing. “I’m fine. A little dramatic, but I’ll be okay.”
“Pandora, Pandora, fly away home.”
She whipped her head around and glared at Robert, flanked by her former coworker Juan and a man she didn’t recognize. He had his thumbs hooked into his belt and glared at Brian. She hated how often Robert said her name.
“Fuck off, Robert.” Her voice lacked the heat, the fiery quality of her hatred for him. It took effort to be that mad, and she was beaten down enough not to care.
“Slumming for a new boyfriend, Pandora?”
Her blood boiled. Shoving to her feet, she took two steps toward Robert, jabbing her finger at him. “What? Or go back to being with you? No thank you.”
“Hey.” Brian stepped in front of her, blocking her view. “Back off.”
She peeked over Brian’s shoulders. Robert’s face had transformed from his typical cocky grin to full-on crazy. His eyes glinted, the pupils larger, his nostrils flared and color high in his cheeks. All he needed was a vein popping out of his forehead to complete the picture. She’d seen him like this before, and he’d demolished a Vespa because it was in the spot where he usually parked.
“Or what?” he said in a low voice that had goose bumps breaking out down her arms.
Looping an arm around Brian’s chest, she pulled him back. She didn’t know what Robert would do, but he was crazy and getting into it with him was not how she wanted to spend the night.
“Let’s just go, please?” She pressed her front to his back, her hand splayed over his stomach. She wasn’t tipsy anymore.
He flattened his hand over hers, rubbing his fingers across her knuckles.
Robert turned his head to acknowledge someone calling his name. Pandora took advantage of the distraction to grab Brian’s hand and lead him to the bank of elevators. She pressed the button and allowed him to push her into the first available lift. She tottered to the far wall, grabbed hold of the bar mounted at hip height and faced the glass. She liked to watch the ground drop away suddenly, as if she were flying. At the first pull of gravity as the elevator rose, her stomach rolled and protested.
“You okay?”
She glanced over her shoulder and nodded. “Yeah.”
Leaning back, her back hit his chest. Brian paused and she thought he would step away from her, but he wrapped his arms around her waist. Allowing her eyes to shut intensified the disorientation, but Brian steadied her.
“You can’t antagonize him like that.”
His breath was warm against her neck. “You did.”
“Yeah, well I almost married him. For some reason I get away with fighting with him. I think he likes it. But you? I think he would go berserk.” She knew he would. Though she hadn’t seen it happen to a person, Robert was one small step away from making that leap.
“You were going to marry him?” The disbelieving growl surprised her.
She looked over her shoulder, wanting to soothe her hero. “I was in a bad place the last year I worked for him. I’m not proud of who I was then, and I regret every second I was engaged to that deranged, self-centered dipshit.”
His features relaxed and he leaned against her. Their breath mingled, scented with vanilla and brandy. She could kiss him right now. He squeezed her hip and circled her waist with his other arm to splay his hand over her stomach. The press of gravity lessened as the lift slowed to a stop.
“Where are we going?”
She shrugged. “I already checked out of my room.”
“This is my floor. Come on. I can get you some water.”

Dialogue Highlight:
Overeager, he forced himself to walk up to his chosen artist. He was already overdoing it if his leg was trying to buckle. Most of the clients had been doled out at random, but as a favor from a guy who had once worked promotion for the band, he’d been allowed to choose, and he’d made his pick based on portfolios. A quick internet search said she had a steady hand and excelled at both new school and traditional styles of tattoos. Perfect for what he wanted.
She bent over a desk, her ass up in the air. A worn patch at the bottom of one cheek, just below the back pocket on her jeans, showed a glimpse of skin. A mural spread across the back of her shoulders left on display by the cut of her halter top. Cherubs shot arrows at…zombies? He laughed and leaned against the padded table.
Standing, she laid out the tools of her trade on the top of a rolling set of drawers. Tattoos wrapped around her arms, bright, colorful pieces that melded together into two unique sleeves of art. She glanced at him and did a double take, her eyes a startling, vivid gray sparking some memory he didn’t share. Had he kissed her? There were weeks from the early years he didn’t always remember.
He held out his hand. “Hi, I’m—”
“Brian-fucking-Adler,” she said on an exhale. The way her brows were trying to crawl off her face didn’t speak well for her opinion of him.
“Uh, yeah.” When she didn’t take his hand, he spread his and smiled. He could play this cool, he was the king of cool.
She glanced left and right. Her jaw dropped as the pieces clicked into place. “You are not my client.” She groaned and lifted a hand to her forehead, rubbing her temple.
Frowning, he rested his hip against the table. Around them the other artists were putting their heads together with their clients. “I’m sorry, have we met?”
She pinched the bridge of her nose and moved her lips. If he wasn’t mistaken, she was counting to ten. The way she sucked in a deep breath drew his attention lower, to where the deep plunge of her white halter top plumped her breasts. Little leopard print spots prowled across the top of the mounds, tantalizing him to find out if they covered the rest of her breasts. He jerked his head up from ogling her rack and focused on her face.
“Sorry,” she blurted and gestured to the table. “You wouldn’t remember me. I’m not having the best morning. Sit, please.” He did as she asked, making himself comfortable on the table.
“Let’s start over.” She smiled, looking more like a modern pin-up girl than his soon- to-be tormentor. “I’m Pandora, I’ll be doing your tattoo today. What were you wanting to have done?”
He’d seen her portfolio. If it wasn’t for that, he would get up and walk away now. Her attitude didn’t inspire confidence at the moment. “I want an old school ship on my side, but done in bright colors.”
“Oh.” Her shoulders relaxed and the tenseness in her face eased. “I do both. How big are you wanting it?”
He bumped a spot mid-hip on his left side, then up to just below his nipple. Her brows started doing the thing again where they wanted to crawl off her face.
“That’s—big. We only have twelve hours to do the whole process. Do you want it in full color? With clouds and waves and shit around it?” She slapped her hand over her mouth. “Sorry, stuff around it.”
He chuckled. “I looked over your portfolio. You’re a freehander, aren’t you?”
She blinked at him, surprised. “Um, yeah I do a lot of freehand tattoos, but that’s usually for flowing stuff. Ships are precise, with rigging and sails and nets. I can do it with a reference, but—”
“Don’t let her tattoo you, man. She’ll screw it up,” a low, gravelly voice spoke from behind him.
Brian turned and pasted a cool smile on his lips. He recognized that bastard.
“Go fuck yourself, Robert,” Pandora said in a honey-sweet voice.
“Seriously.” Robert stepped closer. “She used to be my shop girl, couldn’t hack it so she went over to this prissy all-girl place. She’ll screw you up, man.”
Pandora pushed to her feet, hands balled into fists.
Getting caught between two irate tattoo artists did not sound like the best way to start off his day. Still, Robert was high on the list of douchecannoes. Standing, Brian put a hand on her shoulder.
“Thanks for your opinion, man, but fuck off.”
 Robert held his hands up. “Your funeral.” He backed away from the station and walked down the line. People were conspicuously not looking at them.
She shrugged his hand off. He almost braced himself for a punch but it didn’t come.
“Sit.” She nudged him back. “Shirt, off.”
This is my first book by Sidney Bristol. I decided to read UNDER HIS SKIN for a couple of reasons; first and foremost being that I have read some very good books from Ellora’s Cave lately. When I had the chance to feature this book on the blog, I jumped on the chance. I also wanted to read this book because it explored some unfamiliar territory for me. I don’t know a lot about tattoos having none myself, but I was intrigued by the idea of having a series/book centered within the tattoo world. I also liked that both of these characters had a lot of crap to rise up from before they found each other.  Those factors considered, I decided to read and review this book.
Pandora has had a less than desirable past at best. She was deserted by her father at a young age and raised by her mother for several years until cancer claimed her life. She ends up the unwanted child of her father and never quite fits in with him or his new wife and new life. She bails at 18 and ends up eventually hooking up with her emotionally unbalanced and abusive ex, Robert. She tries to make a break from Robert only to be forced back into the relationship until one fateful night when she is rescued by her new “family”. She finds peace within her So Inked family and settles into a better life than she had before.
Brian has been there, done that. As a former rock star, there is not much he hasn’t been exposed to at one time or another. Life was good on the road to success until a plane crash takes the lives of the band members; all except Brian. Trying to cope from survivor’s guilt and some ass-kicking physical therapy, Brian decides to pay homage to his former band members by permanently inking them on his body. He finds Pandora after searching through several artists that can do the job.
Pandora instantly recognizes Brian when he comes to her for his tattoo and is mortified, but tries to play it cool and behave professionally. Several questions later, Brian has figured out who Pandora is. Ironically, as big as the crush was that Pandora had on Brian, he too did not go unaffected by the young girl from a few years back. Little does she know just how much of an impression she made on him. But a bad situation and feelings of guilt may make it impossible for them to move past the artist/client relationship. Several issues arise that interfere with a possible future for the two. Highest on the list being Pandora’s belief that Brian can do so much better than her. Of course Brian has baggage from the crash, and Pandora also has a crazy asshat of an ex who is lurking in the shadows.
What I liked most about this book was that each chapter began with a definition of tattoo terms such as stencil and flash. I mean I didn’t have a clue what any of this lingo meant, but the descriptions allowed me to continue reading without interference from my lack of knowledge in this area. It was beyond apparent that Ms. Bristol knows her tattoos, the processes, and just about everything else someone would need to know. I appreciated that she included so much information about tattooing without presenting it in a confusing way. I came away feeling somewhat educated. I also enjoyed that Pandora and Brian remained consistent in character throughout the story. I felt like they knew who they were, they knew their faults, and they made no bones about it except to try and make a go of a difficult situation.
Unfortunately, I had a few things that I didn’t like. There were a few sections of the book that mimicked things that had been stated prior. For example, two or three times we read about how jealous Pandora is that someone else had tattooed Brian before she did. I felt like I was re-reading parts that had already been covered. I also disliked that the whole story ended so abruptly. I was reading and then it was over. I had no clue that the story was about to cut out on me. I feel like there was so much left unfinished. Robert, Carly, Ike’s mother ~ just to name a few things that I felt left me hanging. The only thing I can think of is that the following books may cover some of these topics because this is the first in series. But that may be a bit of an unfortunate circumstance if that is the way things are handled because the couple featured in the next book would lose some of their time. I am not saying what will or will not happen in the next book because I have absolutely no clue. I just don’t like finishing a book and being left with a million questions. I also really disliked Robert. As a psycho, he works. But I felt like he could have been mentioned as part of Pandora’s past and reason for many of her insecurities without actually being a part of her current life. His actions toward the end of the book were unexpected and I felt like Carly was thrown under the bus as a secondary character. I just didn’t like how things played out.
This book is not going to make it as a favorite read for me. And although I really enjoyed the educational aspects of tattooing that was added to the book, it wasn’t enough for me to be able to really like the book and overlook the flaws that interfered with my enjoyment. The story is a good attempt and can likely be enjoyable for many people as a quick read to pass the time. Of that I have no doubt. And in fact I have seen several positive comments about this story. But for readers like me who hate to be left with questions at the end and who want to see more of an HEA (especially when reading a novella), you might want to think twice about this particular story.
(eBook copy provided by author/tour company in exchange for an honest review.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

I lurve comments! Say whatever is on your mind; just keep it respectful. I am always game for a conversation. :)