by Adriana Anders
Series: Blank Canvas #1
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on February 7, 2017
Sub-Genre/Theme: Contemporary, Erotic
Format: ARC, Ebook
Buy: Amazon, B&N
Add to Goodreads
I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley.
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.
Under Her Skin by Adriana Anders blew me away. Its raw sincerity, combined with a romance that I can only describe as urgent and primal, completely pummeled my heart.
Uma is on the run from an abusive past. Her ex-boyfriend, Joey, was a manipulator who controlled Uma’s life, cutting her off from family and friends. He isolated her to the point where he was her primary connection to the outside world. One night, the relationship takes a horrifying turn when Joey holds Uma against her will, assaulting her and marking her body with slurs in the form of tattoos.
Uma flees to the small mountain town of Blackwood, Virginia, after hearing a radio interview about a dermatologist who helps people like Uma for free. Desperate to remove the tattoos that cover much of her body, Uma is scared to undergo laser treatments but just wants to feel normal and whole again–less like a freak and more like herself.
In the meantime, Uma takes a job as live-in help for Ms. Lloyd, a cantankerous widow. She and Uma butt heads constantly, but eventually grow on each other as they develop a kinship.
Living next door is Ivan, a blacksmith and ex-con who served time for assaulting his sister’s abusive ex. Ivan is a dichotomy of burly, imposing physicality combined with quiet tenderness. On one hand, Ivan is the man who nearly killed someone exacting justice on his sister’s behalf. At the same time, he’s the man who rescues stray animals and looks in on his agoraphobic neighbor out of concern.
Ivan has his share of heartache from the past, which is a big reason why he keeps to himself most of the time. Uma probably should be afraid of him, but his inherent sweetness tells her that she can trust him. Likewise, Ivan is drawn to Uma’s contradictory personality as well. In one moment, she’s jumpy and skittish; in the next, she’s bold and challenging. Ivan doesn’t know much about the city girl, but he knows that he likes the fire he glimpses in her.
Uma and Ivan strike up a friendship that becomes more, thanks to their intense physical attraction. However, Uma’s shame from being marked haunts her constantly and steals her confidence. But Ivan doesn’t pressure or push Uma; instead, he makes her comfortable and assures her that she’s never at fault. Ivan’s unconditional acceptance and loyalty bolsters Uma during her struggle to regain the sense of self that was stolen from her. Uma truly goes on a journey in this book. That journey takes her through hell, but she emerges on the other side so much closer to being whole again.
Throughout the story, there’s a delicious undercurrent of longing and tension between Uma and Ivan. Once their relationship turns sexual, the storytelling is elevated to another level. For both of them, sex becomes almost a conduit for healing–while simultaneously being dirty and super erotic. The sex scenes in this book are positively transcendent. Anders’ evocative, sensual, and deeply emotional writing style is reminiscent of some of my favorite authors, such as Anne Calhoun, Cara McKenna, and Charlotte Stein.
Under Her Skin hit me hard in the feels, in the best possible way. And this might sound silly, but after I finished the book, I felt absolutely euphoric. It’s that good. I highly recommend this book and eagerly await the next book in the Blank Canvas series.
Rating: 5 stars