Review: SKIN GAME by Ava Gray

Review: SKIN GAME by Ava Gray

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.

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Single Title/Series: SKIN GAME is book one in the loosely tied Skin Series but it can also be read as a stand alone novel.

Cover Thoughts: I'm not diggin' the cover at all. First, the guy's pecks are oddly shaped, reminding me of deflated balloons with the nipples swooshing out towards his elbows. And while we're scrutinizing this region, check out the patchy chest hair. Yuck! Second, his face just isn't appealing with his smallish chin and too full lips that are almost womanly. Third and last, his abs look alienish. So yeah, not a winner with VFG

Why I Read It: I've read a LOT of awesome reviews for this book and how smokin' hot it was so naturally I had to read it for myself. ;)

My Review:

Kyra Marie Beckwith is not your typical paranormal romance heroine with their kind-hearted souls and wide-eyed innocence. She's a woman shaped and molded by her will to survive along with a strong acceptance of the world for what it is. She hasn't been thrust into a previously unknown aspect of that world nor is she shocked by its cruel, everyday injustices. She's seen and lived within the grimy nitty-gritty fringes of society. Most of all, Kyra isn't helpless nor does she need or want a strapping, larger-than-life hero to save her however nice the thought of having a man capable of protecting her may be. You see Kyra is a rather good con artist and her drive to con doesn't necessarily stem from desperate need or for having lacked the smarts or the drive to hold down a nine-to-fiver. Kyra simply enjoys conning for the thrill of it. But that's not why having a steady man in her life is unwanted and dangerous. It's dangerous because her body simply cannot physically handle the constant stimulation of touch.

Developed in her early teens, Kyra's had to live with a strange ability that allows her to steal the honed skills of any other human being with one single touch. Then, as if by magic, Kyra can instantaneously become a professional athlete, fighter, code cracker - you name it, she can steal it and become it. However, there's always a catch and that catch is that Kyra never knows exactly how long she'll possess the skill and worse; too much touch with too many people can trigger a migraine of gargantuan proportions. Funnily enough though, this strange capability is not the reason why a very vengeful, very dangerous Vegas casino owner has hired a hit man to end her life. Instead, it was her ability to steal Gerald Serrano's heart then practically leave him at the alter. Obviously for a man with an ego that stretches above and beyond the Las Vegas strip, its the worst kind of pain.

Enter Reyes with his strokable brown skin, black piercing eyes, and fighter's body. With looks that can and do kill, it's no surprise that Reyes has been known to get intimately close to the women he's been contracted to terminate. But don't cover your mouth in shock just yet, this dark and mysterious hit man has unbreakable scruples that don't include killing a man or woman simply because someone wants them dead. Instead, he reviews their files with careful precision, making sure that there's a valid reason for their deaths before committing himself to the contract.

Liking himself to a housekeeper courteously ridding the world of its filth, next on Reyes's hit list is Kyra; a woman who supposedly killed her own father for the take to the tune of millions. Her file reads her to be a greedy bitch that deserves to die and for the money he's being paid, Reyes doesn't mind the fact that this particular contract is going to require that he become very close to his target. But Reyes's renowned reputation hangs in the balance when he finds himself in a complicated position with Kyra, one that he's never found himself in before. For the first time Reyes feels undiluted passion as well as a shocking possessive streak for a woman he barely knows but one that he'd also desperately like to claim - all the way to her soul.

Feeling lonelier than ever with her father dead, Kyra is killing time by roaming along the southern United States conning the local pool halls for fast cash until her best friend returns from overseas. Specializing in financial embezzlement, Mia is the perfect person to help Kyra flee the country, possibly to Canada, with the millions she won in Vegas. Kyra wouldn't be surprised if her ex-fiancé, Gerald Serrano, put out a hit on her so when a drifter partitions her for a ride, her instincts flare to life. Having stolen his skill momentarily, Kyra knows that her drifter - Rey - is capable of killing a person with his bare hands because for the moment, she can do that. If anything, that fact should warn her to ditch Rey immediately but Kyra can't stop her hormones from sitting up and begging for the mysterious man's touch.

Caught off guard by Kyra's ability to answer his questions without truly revealing anything, Reyes is initially a bit frustrated but he also can't help but admire her well developed guard. Reyes's curiosity is then doubly piqued when he notices something unusual about Kyra especially after he witnesses her using his unique fighting moves to subdue a thief at a gas station thrift store. Knowing that the only way he's going to the find the money before ending Kyra's life, Reyes must get her to trust him and to do that, he has to give her a part of himself in return. But Reyes never thought he'd willing give her his heart.

When Reyes flips from being Kyra's killer to her protector, he knows that his earlier intentions will eventually be revealed and that Kyra will undoubtedly despise him. But in the meantime, he plans on soaking up as much of the fascinating woman he fell in love with as he can. Unfortunately, Serrano really wants Kyra dead. The money is no longer as important as his reputation and only her death will do. Since Reyes rolled over on the contract, Serrano is sending out the next bad guy in line to take her down. When Kyra inevitably learns the truth about Reyes, all hell breaks loose but instead of being able to ditch him and go undercover, Serrano dangles Mia as bait and Kyra finds herself needing Reyes more than ever.

SKIN GAME is a well written and fast paced story about a very unlikely hit man of a hero and a con artist for a heroine. Kyra is flamboyantly confident and unfailingly loyal. Her one weakness: Incredible vulnerability when it comes to love and acceptance. Conversely, Reyes is all about looking out for number one with no personal commitments to speak of but it's his strict code of honor that prevents him from becoming truly evil. Instead, he's rather like an avenging dark angel. Therefore, it's Reyes's fear of indifference and Kyra's craving for love that fulfills what the other is lacking, for Kyra will never be indifferent to Reyes and Reyes can and does love Kyra for exactly who she is, strange ability and all.

After the above mentioned, you're probably wondering why I gave this novel a B instead of an A grade and honestly it's entirely due to the element of forgone conclusion. Reyes and his real reason that he and Kyra meet obviously isn't anywhere near the serendipitous event that Kyra's been led to believe. Knowing that once Kyra discovered that Reyes was paid to kill her and was at one point determined to kill her, it left little doubt to what the end result would be. Instead of the reader turning the pages, excited for what's unknown and yet to come, the reader knows exactly how things are going to combust. It then becomes a waiting game...a kind of torturous one too.

However, SKIN GAME is addicting for I'm now dying for SKIN TIGHT. Ava Gray really does have a stellar writer voice and I'm really lovin' how unique her characters are proving themselves to be. Luckily, SKIN TIGHT is a total mystery to me as how things will play out and I'm really looking forward to that after the predictable SKIN GAME. For paranormal romance lovers out there who like the sexual tension hot and the sex combustible, SKIN GAME should not be missed.


Other Reviews:

Romance Rookie: B-
Colleen's Reads: 4/5 Stars
Michelle's Book Blog: 5/5 Stars
The Book Vixen: 5/5 Frogs
Book Lovers, Inc.: 4 Bookhearts
Buried by Books: B-
All Things Print: 4/5
Leontine's Book Realm: 4 Stars
Smokin' Hot Books: 5 Smokin' Smooches
Fiction Vixen Book Reviews: 5 Hearts

Coming Soon:

SKIN TIGHT by Ava Gray

Releases June 1, 2010

Uncovering the truth is her specialty

As a forensic accountant, Mia Sauter could usually tell when people had something to hide. She made her living exposing secrets while concealing her own. Then, in Vegas, she met a clever, ruthless man who called himself Addison Foster. One year later, she’s still haunted by his betrayal.

He’s a natural born liar

The truth of him had long ago been buried. Foster was only one name of many; he’d been so many men, he’d lost count. Reinvented as Thomas Strong and hell-bent on revenge, his mission is about to be compromised by the one woman capable of exposing him…

Reunited, they confront the explosive chemistry still crackling between them. But their chance meeting will have consequences, for a ruthless madman has his own deadly agenda. The question is—if they survive the fallout, will he choose love over vengeance?


Blodeuedd said...

Haha you're so funny.
But yeah those abs looks freaky and the pecs, you're right

Smokinhotbooks said...

Oh god page 24 did me in. Where he bites her on the neck.

Erotic Horizon said...

I loved this as well VFG...

That evil KC. pimp out pages 24 to me as well even before I read it...

I was really drawn to the concept of the Rouge like heroine ( X-men) it worked for me..
Love your thoughts on this one and am looking out for the next book in June...


VampFanGirl said...

Hey Blodeuedd!

Ugh, so not the greatest cover. I'm glad someone else recognizes the freakiness.

Hugs, VFG


KC! LOL!! You must have really been affected by that bite to remember the page number. Damn, girl! I'm impressed.


VampFanGirl said...

Hi E.H.!

Ooo yeah, I didn't think of Kyra that way, as Rogue from X-Men, but now that you bring that up, I'm totally picking up on that vibe.

Me too. June can't come soon enough. I'm dying to know who Foster Addison is for real.

Hugs, VFG

Charlotte Featherstone said...

LOL! Deflated balloons....I thought that's what we got when turned 60! ;)

Another great review!!!!
Have a fab w/e.

Patti said...

LOL at your cover review :)

I think I'm the last person left alive who hasn't read this yet, although it is in my TBR (somewhere). I do want to read it soon!

VampFanGirl said...

Thanks Charlotte!

LOL! Well this poor guy is suffering from early aging if that's the rule. :)



Hey Patti!

LOL, I thought that I was the last person to have read SKIN GAME too. You definitely want to move this one up on your list cause its mmm mmm good!

:) VFG

Laurie (BittenbyParanormalRomance) said...

Crap! you guys are killing me. I have had this book for over three months and now, I have to pull it out.. Great review.

VampFanGirl said...

Thanks Laurie!

SKIN GAME is definitely up your alley, girl.

Happy Reading!!

Hugs, VFG

Mandi said...

This book is soooo sexy!!!

But - I am dying for Foster's book..I am so intrigued by will she make him into a romance hero?? I can't wait!

Barbara said...

"the guy's pecks are oddly shaped, reminding me of deflated balloons with the nipples swooshing out towards his elbows" LMAO!! I have to agree. They do have a "deflated" look about them.

But, like they say, never judge a book by it's cover. Glad you liked the story.

Fiction Vixen said...

Very nice review. I can't wait for Skin Tight. Foster freaks me out, I can't wait to see what Ava Gray has in store for him. :)

Donna [F.D. Ramblings] said...

I really need to move this one up on my TBR pile. Everyone and now you have raved about this book. Very good review, as always enjoyed it. :)

Lisa said...

OMG, VFG-I so agree with you regarding this cover. The problem is that that particular cover model has graced one too many books. He is on so many romance books-I think his stock photos should be retired! There are tons of other gorgeous young models out there!

On the other hand, I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed the book as I've been hesitant to purchase it!

Dottie (My Blog 2.0-Tink's Place) said...


I've been looking at this series, but didn't know if it would be my cuppa. Glad to see you enjoyed it, always great when you find something new to enjoy.

Great review, I'll add to my list!

Dottie :)

Cherry Mischievous said...

Wasn't very convinced of this book when I saw it around the blogosphere... maybe I need to check it out again...

Anyhow, you have an award here:

Cecile said...

Great job on the review honey! You had me lol about his Manbooies.. lol!!! But I am glad that you did not just judge the book by the cover only! Have a great weekend!

VampFanGirl said...

Hey Mandi!

Oh gawd me too. Foster is such a mystery with his evil agenda of which we still know nothing about. And Mia. I'm really likin' her too except I hope she doesn't get duped as easily by Foster in their book though. I want Foster to work for it.

Hugs, VFG


Hey Barbara!

LOL! I suppose I didn't really have anything nice to say about the cover did I? LOL! But you're right, it does show that you can't judge a book by its cover.



Thanks Fiction Vixen!

LOL! Yeah, Foster kind of freaks me out too in the sense that I have NO IDEA what the man is up to. Its nothing good I don't think either...

:) VFG


Thanks Donna and you really REALLY have to move this one up in the queue. Its worth it.



Hey Lisa!

Ugh, this guy is so NOT attractive. Where's Nathan when you need him?!

Well, despite the ugliness on the cover there's nothing ugly upon the pages. You gotta read it, girl!

:) VFG


Thanks for lovin' my review Dottie! And YAY that it did its job in selling the book to you. :)

I hope you read it. Truly, its an awesome, must read especially for paranormal romance lovers.

Hugs, VFG


Hey Cherry!

Thanks for the award. I'm on my way!

:) VFG


Thanks Cecile!!

LOL! Manbooies, love it! Oh yeah, this is a read that you definitely can't judge by its cover. :)


Tricia said...

Well at least I'm not the only one who hasn't read this yet I'll have to bump it up further on the TBR pile as for the cover art lol after a second look yeah totally agree with you on the deflated manboobs :)

VampFanGirl said...

Hey Tricia!

Oh girl, I think you'll really REALLY love SKIN GAME. Don't let the deflated manboobs slow you down cause this one's right up your reading alley. *wink*


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