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Thursday, November 12, 2009:
"Skin Game" by Ava Gray (2009) - review

A beautiful fugitive—wanted dead or alive.

Kyra is a con woman and a particular kind of thief. She steals with a touch, but she only takes one thing: her target’s strongest skill. Which means she can be a fighter, an athlete, a musician, an artist—anything she wants… for a limited time. Heartbroken, she turns her gift toward avenging her father’s murder; with deadly patience, Kyra works her way into casino owner Gerard Serrano’s inner circle. After pulling off the ultimate con, she flees with his money and his pride.

A hit man who never misses the mark.

Reyes has nothing but his work. Pity for Kyra, he’s the best and mercy never sways him once he takes a job. He’s been hired to find out where Kyra hid the cash—and bring her back to face Serrano’s “justice.” Dead will do, if he can’t locate the loot. He’s never failed to complete a contract, but Kyra tempts him with her fierce heat and her outlaw heart. So Reyes has a hell of a choice: forsake his word or kill the woman he might love.

Really, what can I say about this book that hasn't been said already? Basically what it comes down to is that Ann Aguirre is a master at whatever she writes. Truly. Whether it be science fiction or urban fantasy or paranormal. Whatever. This story, while having some otherworldly elements, is closer to a straight contemporary than anything else, proving that Ms. Aguirre, here as Ava Gray, doesn't need any extra trimmings to write an incredibly absorbing and entertaining tale yet still evoking powerful emotion and longing. Despite the gritty and rawness of this novel, it nevertheless tugged at my heartstrings most insistently and shows that love can be found in even the most unlikely of places.

Kyra is unlike any other heroine that you'll probably come across, mostly because she stays true to herself all the way through, despite how she changes after meeting Reyes. She may finally have connected with another person, but deep down she's still the same person she's always been. Also, Kyra does whatever she can to survive. She doesn't just talk the talk. This woman has done things that you can't walk away from, yet instead of turning away from her, I found myself admiring her for how she's survived. She's never known any other kind of life, and she has her own code that she lives by. You won't see her sitting behind a desk or being a soccer mom, but that doesn't make her any less appealing.

Reyes is the man sent to kill her for conning a dangerous and powerful man, and he intends to do just that. No, he's not too soft to kill a woman, but he has his own moral code as well, and believing she killed her father, he convinces himself she deserves to die for it. However the woman he tails is not the woman he thought she was. Despite his reservations though, he still plans to carry out the hit, waiting only long enough to find out where she hid the money she took when she ran from Gerard Serrano.

But this fearless, edgy woman surprises him again and again, arousing him more than any other woman, and he feels more alive when he's around Kyra, suffused in her irresistible energy. He knows that breaking away from her is inevitable, but he wants it to last as long as possible. Together they experience a wild, crazy, dangerous adventure, and for a little while, neither of them feel so alone...

My thoughts:

Loved this book. Absolutely, positively. It's not a fluffy, sweet, light-hearted love story, but it's still incredibly sexy and romantic in a very basic, elemental way. Kyra and Reyes are unlike any couple I can ever remember reading about, even those written about by the same author. They are truly like a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde in a sense, on the run, avoiding the law at all costs. They go where the thrill of the con draws them, but their choices are also based on their conscience. No assaults against innocent, good people. They are compatible in so many ways, and these similarities surprise them. Reyes doesn't expect such a delicate, lovely woman to indulge in rough sex and have a history of breaking the law and being involved in unavoidable violence, but it's the life she's always known. Kyra has an extraordinary gift that she cannot share with others without risk to herself, yet Reyes accepts this about her quite easily, sensing something different about her from the moment they meet.

While theirs is not a life I can imagining living, nor would I want to, I can't help but feel all these warm and fuzzy feelings about two hard, dangerous and magnetic characters, not to mention being rather envious of their incredibly erotic sexxin'. Kyra is not a breakable woman dreaming of being wooed with sweet promises and soft touches, and Reyes is not the kind of man prone to tender words and grand gestures, but together, these two create something memorable and lasting together. Brought together by a dangerous man bent on revenge, Reyes and Kyra forge a connection that they cannot easily walk away from, no matter how hard they want to. Their's is not an easy life, but it's one lived on their terms, without apology.

So thank you Ann Aguirre for writing such a powerful, moving, gritty story, one that stays with you long after you finish the last page and has you longing for more. Also a story that isn't your traditional romance but still incorporates all of my favorite things about a memorable story. You're already an auto-buy author for me, but now I'm DYING for the next installment. "Skin Tight" cannot be released soon enough for my taste.

Rating: ***** out of *****

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  1. Wow, 5/5 - it must be good. I have seen other blogs giving the same result, so I think I should take the hint and definitely put this on my wishlist! Thanks for the great review :)

  2. I got this one based on Rosie's raving about it. Now I'm looking forward to reading it even more!!

  3. Totally agree. Loved it and can't wait to get the next one!
    Great review!

  4. Yes yes yes yes!!!!

    Stacey, I'm so happy you liked Skin Game! I have soooo been dying for my favorite people to read it, so I can talk about it!

  5. Wow, thanks for this lovely review.

  6. Oh my god! Ann commented on your blog, how cool is that!

    I'm with you I wasn't sure why this was labeled paranormal, like I care b/c it was so frigging good anyway. Great review!

  7. BCC, you BETTER get it LOL. It's so fabulous. I can't say enough good stuff about it. And I don't even think I got to the biting ;)

    Kristie, I hope you love it! I am totally an Aguirre fangirl!

    Susi & AL, it's awesome to be a part of the Skin Game club :) I couldn't put it down. Definitely one of the best reads of 2009, if not ever.

    Ann, but of course. And thank YOU for writing such a phenomenal book. What a delight it was to read. So layered and complex and satisfying. How refreshing to read something by an author not afraid to take chances. You rule!

    Smokin, definitely worthy of a squee moment! I should be more mature about this, since I actually did meet her last Dec when she came to town - we met for pizza. But that only made me adore her more. Ann is so down-to-earth and one the coolest people I've ever met. I'm glad you liked the review :)

  8. Great,,, another book I am going to HAVE to read. I just put it on my wish list.

  9. Great review! I really enjoyed this book, so glad you loved it too!! :)

  10. Fantastic review, Stacy! Very excited to see this is one of your most favorite books EVER. That's one heck of an endorsement! I'm moving it up the pile.

  11. Great review! 'Skin Game' more than lived up to the hype and 'Skin Tight' is one of my most anticipated reads for 2010.

  12. I know I'm post and to Ann's books. I'm starting Grimspace today...finally!

  13. I want to read this now :)!!!

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