Review: Skin

Review: Skin by Karin Tabke

Curvaceous and feisty, Francesca Donatello is the owner of Skin, an upscale woman's magazine and her pride and joy. To boost sales, she's decided to feature a smoldering male centerfold in each issue - even though it was once forbidden by her rigid father, a recently murdered mob boss. He always doubted her ability as a businesswoman, and now Francesca is even more determined to succeed. So when she meets sexy, charismatic model Reese Barrett, she knows he is perfect, and perfectly chiseled, for the job.

From the moment Reese sheds his clothes for the photo shoot, business becomes pleasure, and both are overcome with unadulterated desire for each other. But what Francesca doesn't realize is that Reese is a cop who's using her to infiltrate the Donatello family and find out who murdered her father. Even she is a suspect. But it soon becomes apparent that someone wants Francesca as dead as her father. As they dodge bullets and bodies Francesca and Reese shed secrets and inhibitions -- and learn that they must trust each other to survive.

Francesca "Frankie" Donatello, a bay area Mafia Princess, has one dream that she'll do anything to bring it to fruition and that's to see Skin flourish. It's one of the only businesses of Donatello Inc. that's legit and despite Frankie's last words with her father and his threat to disown her, she'll make Skin into the premier magazine that it was destined to be. But several roadblocks have sprung up to hinder her goal. One, her father was murdered the morning after their argument. Second, her spoiled half brother has suddenly taken up an interest in Skin. Third, a codicil will has surfaced taking Skin away from Frankie. And lastly, someone wants Frankie dead. But these facts could prove to be the least of Frankie's worries.

Enter Reese Barrett, a.k.a. Reese Bronson, an undercover cop investigating the murder of Frankie's father, notorious bay area mob boss Santini "Sonny" Donatello. The prime suspect: Francesca Donatello. Reese isn't above sleeping with women, lulling them into a false sense of trust and thereby listening raptly when all their secrets come tumbling out onto the pillow. Also Reese's conscience isn't perturbed in the least when he uses those secrets to build a case against said women and/or their families and the delectable Frankie is no exception. Posing as a male model, Reese auditions for Mr. Skin and to be featured as the magazine's anniversary edition centerfold. Reese's intense and immediate physical interest in Frankie gives him slight pause but he's determined to crack this case and hopefully put away some very bad people.

Frankie knows immediately that Reese is trouble but she's also desperate to prove to the family that she is more than capable of making Skin a success. Her body's instant arousal over Reese's sexy good looks and smoldering charisma is undeniable proof that he's the perfect model for the task. But her euphoria is short lived. Three back-to-back attempts are made on her life leaving Frankie shaken but more determined then ever to prove once and for all that Skin is hers and that she'll do anything to keep it. Hoping to find her father's original will, Frankie decides to to head to Carmel with Reese in tow. He's been promoted to body guard after saving her life twice and Carmel's beaches will also be the perfect backdrop for Reese's photographs.

Reese has been working diligently at portraying the man that seems to be lighting Frankie's fire. Normally he isn't anywhere near this outgoing and the facade is draining to maintain but finally Frankie succumbs to the raging need between them. Unfortunately for Reese, Frankie can turn off the afterglow of hot sex faster than any man he knows hence no pillow talk and consequently, no information. Reese knows instinctively that Frankie's hiding something but is it just her loyalty to her family or is she really her father's murderer? So far she's given nothing to Reese that he didn't already know. So he resolves to build an even deeper trust with Frankie in the hopes that she'll spill and for the first time, he feels a twinge of guilt over what he must do. Somewhere along the line Reese started to develop strong feelings for Frankie.

After noticing some suspicious behavior on Reese's part that smells strongly of cop, Frankie is already setting herself up for betrayal but her heart isn't her main concern. She makes Reese swear that no matter if he turns out to be something other than he's said, he must honor the contract with Skin. Frankie can't afford to loose Reese as her centerfold model and time is more than precious at the moment. When the house in Carmel proves not only empty of her father's will but it is the scene of another attempt on her life, Frankie gives into Reese's demands that they get as far away from the San Francisco as possible. A few hours later, the pair land in Wyoming.

The last place that Reese ever wanted to see again was his childhood home. Saturated in the past, Reese is once again overcome by guilt for his hand in his younger sister's death but to keep Frankie out of harms way, he'll face his demons. It's at this point in the book that the characters really start to come alive for while Reese is being haunted by his past, Frankie is realizing her love for the man that she knows will ultimately betray her. It's also at this time that Reese is informed that all arrows point to Frankie as the murderer and while his heart screams it's raging denial, Reese has to not only face the facts of the evidence but also the fact that he's fallen in love with a cold blooded murderer. Desperately he tries to come up with different possibilities that may save Frankie from life in prison but once again he starts kicking himself for wanting to deal with a murderer. Reese resolves to seduce Frankie one more time and get her to spill the truth before he's yanked off the case. For surely if his team knew about the emotional turmoil broiling in his head, they'd pull him away from Frankie fast enough to make his head spin.

Frankie decides to give into her desires one last time and in a moment of pure insanity for both Frankie and Reese, the two make love with such heated passion that the memory is burned on them both forever. Frankie can't run away anymore. Hiding out in Wyoming does nothing for her and she must stand up to her family. To do this she must leave Reese and make things right if she ever wants to be with him. But when his ultimate betrayal is uncovered, the pain is like nothing she's ever felt. Despite the fact that she was preparing herself for it, her heart had always denied it despite her brain's warnings. Before Reese can even summon the courage to go to Frankie and do his best to make amends, she's gone. Taken. And Reese finally comes full circle on the truth. But it may be too late. The first horror is that Frankie will end up dead and the second, is that if she lives, she'll never forgive Reese.

'Skin' was a love/hate read for me. The beginning was interesting and unique, drawing in my reader heart like a moth to a flame. But then that flame fluttered and dimmed. I was having issues connecting with both the hero and heroine. I didn't like their decisions, their motives, or their words to one another. I didn't like how their angst always led to sexual tension or straight sex. I'm not a fan of "death and destruction gets me hot and bothered". Plus, Frankie had some real "Too Stupid To Live Moments" that irritated me. But when with these two fierce personalities touch down in Wyoming, the flame began to burn bright again and once more, I was in love with this book.

Frankie is a unique heroine. One that I haven't read before. She's defiant, strong-willed and shockingly sassy yet underneath, she's scared shitless. Truly, she has no idea what she's doing or who she is. At heart, she's a people pleaser to the point where she'll risk her life to prove herself to her family. Frankie is also extremely naive and very trusting even after she's warned by the ones she loves that nothing is as it seems and she must trust no one. Times are dangerous when a mob boss is taken down and all out war is threatening to explode in the battle for power. Besides, she's been horribly duped and used before, but still her trusting nature stays in tact and Reese is able to penetrate her feeble defenses. Frankie also proves to be a conundrum to Reese for she's unlike any woman he's ever known when it comes to sex. She's fierce and passionate but once the party is over, her mind is on her work leaving Reese to fight harder for the intel he's after. Yet this is effective in getting Reese to open for Frankie. He tells her things that he hasn't told a soul in fifteen years.

Reese was also not your run of the mill hero. While his cover made him appear outgoing, in truth he really gave nothing away. It made me wonder if we ever saw the real Reese. He was a safe to crack but when opened, his anger spawned mostly from latent childhood rage. I was extremely happy that Frankie made him work for information in exchange for opening himself up to her in trade. But even still, Reese's story isn't revealed until nearly the very end. Both of these characters had tough shells to break and it didn't help that neither trusted the other fully for a good portion of the book, for Reese it wasn't until the very end. His convictions of Frankie's involvement in the death of her father were hard to take and many times I wanted to strangle him but what angered me the most is the lack of discussion showing a reconciliation of Reese's accusations with Frankie. I don't know if the author ran out of page time or what, but the ending was rather abrupt.

The suspense plot that was woven throughout, actually wasn't that bad. I had my suspicions of who wanted to kill Frankie, but even at the end, Ms. Tabke still had me guessing. Kudos to her on that one.

In an effort to close this long meandering review, I will say that I enjoyed 'Skin' and it won't be my last read by Karin Tabke. The book had all the makings of a fantastic story yet there were some elements that I couldn't get past and for that it merely makes it a good read and one I'd definitely recommend.

Hussy Approved Reading Material!


Interested in Karin Tabke? Click HERE for More Info!


Michelle G said...

Hey VFG,

This is not my usual read so I thank you for the honest review. I have not read Karin Tabke - but I will put her on my list to try. :) She also has a historical saga doesn't she, something about swords and such?


VampFanGirl said...

Hi Michelle!

You know, I bought this book without even reading the back, that's how much I loved the cover. Luckily it didn't suck. lol! Hero/cop books aren't my fave either but I though 'Skin' was definitely worth my time. And bonus! It made my inner hussy purr.

Yes, Karin Tabke has a historical series out call the Blood Sword Legacy and they're about tortured mercenary knights. I have the first book in the series already.

Thanks for reading the review. I know it was crazy long. Sorry 'bout that.

Have a great weekend!

:) VFG

Lea said...


"Hussy Approved Reading Material"!

Excellent way to end a review VFG! lolol

Thanks for you honesty. It sounds like this read was a bit of a slow go at times and I would have difficulty connecting with the characters too from the way you described them.

Wonderful thorough review though, You really gave good insight as to what the story is all about.

Have A Great Weekend!


ann marie said...

Love your ending, thanks for the review, I think I will place this one on my tbr list. Have a great weekend. I get a whole weekend to catch up on some reading. :)

VampFanGirl said...

LOL! You like that Lea? I thought I would put my little stamp on things that I feel is guaranteed to satisfy our inner hussies. ;)

Yeah, you know I really liked the beginning. The first chapter was VERY attention grabbing and then it just became redundant. But when the two land in Wyoming *sigh*, I was in love. It really could have been an amazing read. This is an older novel by Tabke so I hoping that she's grown more as an author. I'm even thinking about picking up another book that features a secondary character from 'Skin'. It's called 'Jaded' and it sounds pretty good.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

:) VFG

VampFanGirl said...

Hey ann marie!

I definitely recommend 'Skin' espically if you want to get your inner hussy purring. *wink*

Oh, aren't those the best weekends? I haven't had one of those in a while. I'm a little green with envy over here. Have fun!

Happy Reading,

Sophie Renwick said...

I'm SO on board with Hussy approved!!! LOVE it!!!

VampFanGirl said...

LMAO, Sophie!!

Leontine said...

Thanks for the in-depth review...and I live for crazy long, sometimes there is just that much to tell LOL

I think I'll stay with me trying out Karin Tabke in her Blood Sword Legacy series. I've got the first one on the shelves and way to much erotica to catch up with *wink*

Blodeuedd said...

Hm, yup it makes me go like that. It sounds great, could be great, but after what you have to say. I am sure they would just annoy me

My Blog 2.0 (Dottie) said...


Great Review, I love the long reviews.

I really enjoy the sassy heroine reads so I think I'll take a peek at this one. I tend to be a little sassy myself!

Dottie :)

MsMoonlight said...

What a great review - the honest views of the good along with the not so good that you found in the book.

Barbara said...

Wow, girl, great review! Seriously. Yeah, the whole Death and Destruction make me wanna do the hibity dibity isn't one of my favorite character traits either. I'm one of those people who watch a movie and get annoyed when, right after a battle or death scene their will be bodies laying around and here's the hero and heroine making out, lol. Yeah, doesn't happen in real life.

Who am I kidding, half the stuff in romance novels don't happen in real life. I guess that's what makes 'em fun! *wink*

I'm loving the "hussy approved reading material" bit, btw :D

VampFanGirl said...

LOL Leontine! You love the long ones, huh? Yeah, sometimes I really do end up haveing a ton of stuff to say.

I'm defintely going to keep reading Karin Tabke. I have the first novel in the Blood Sword Legacy series too. The woman's got talent.

Yeah Blodeuedd, the characters aren't for everyone and like I said in my review, I developed a love hate reationship with the H/h. But I still would recommend it.

Thanks Dottie for liking the review and reading the whole thing. Frankie is one sassy chick so if that's how you like them then 'Skin' is for you! ;)

Thanks MsM!

Barbara! I know! I couldn't get into the whole "death and destruction makes me horny". WTF? But yeah, otherwise it was a good read.

Of course romance to a huge extent is fantasy but in a contemporary, there just has to be some realism if it's going make the reader believe, IMO.

'Skin' has been stamped as hussy approved! lol!!

Have a great weekend everyone!

;) VFG

Mandi said...

Hmm..not sure if this one is for me. I like a good mystery..and I have heard good things about Karen Tabke. I love that I found your blog through a JR Ward mention but you almost always review books I have yet to read.

Cecile said...

Hey VampFanGirl,
Okay.. I loved the signature at the end!! That had me grinning from ear to ear!!!

Loved the honest review!!! You always provide that to us and that is appreciated. And to give Ms. Tabke credit, you did say this is one of her earlier works, so hopefully the newer ones will be rock solid!
Hope you had a great weekend... and thanks for bring to mind another great author to add to the list!!

VampFanGirl said...

Hey Mandi,

LOL! I know what you mean. Everyone in our little blogging community reads different books. But I like that because I get introduced to so many new and fabulous authors. Hopfully in the near future, I'll read something that you're more interested in. Although I read a couple different genres, paranormal is my first love.

Hey Cecile! lol! It's my new hussy approved stamp. I'm so happy that you guys like it. ;)

I really like Karin Tabke. While 'Skin' wasn't my favorite, it says something that I just purchased 'Jaded' which features one of the secondary characters from 'Skin'. The woman does write some incredibly hot love scenes. Yowzaa!

;) VFG

Lea said...

Hey VFG!

Thanks so much for pimping my contest in your sidebar, I really appreciate it!



Cecile said...

Okay Vamp... am I missing something... You are having a contest and I can not find out where!!! I think I am still feeling the effects of not sleeping last night!!! Let me know... Because You Know I would have mentioned it!!! Now I feel like a loser friend... because I cant find it! Help me out here, please!
Thanks! Cecile

VampFanGirl said...

You're welcome Lea! (((hugs)))

Cecile, girl I know you'd pimp for me if I had a contest going. But alas, no contest from me. ;) You're totally NOT a loser friend. It was just your tired eyes playing tricks on you. (((SUPER HUGS)))

;) VFG

Tracy said...

Sounds interesting. I can see how the h/h would annoy you at first. I'm not a huge fan of death and destruction leads to sex either. :)

I'll put this one on my wish list.

VampFanGirl said...

Hey Tracy!

Yeah, in the beginning, these characters had their annoying moments but the last half of the book is really good and worth the trouble.

Happy Reading,

Cecile said...

Okay... Whew... *wiping sweat from brow* just wanted to make sure that I was not missing something!!!

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