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Alice Janell

Whovian Browncoat. Fantasy author. Avid knitter and pretend cooking show host. Please send Milky Way Midnight Minis.

Skin Game (Berkley Sensation)

Skin Game - Ava Gray Earlier, when I reviewed Ann Aguirre's "Blue Diablo" and "Hell Fire", I mentioned that Aguirre is rapidly becoming one of my newest favorite authors. When she writes as Ava Gray, she's still one of my favorite authors.

Aguirre, known for her Sirantha Jax and Corine Solomon series, writes paranormal romance as Ava Gray. When you read Gray, be prepared for some heat between the pages.

In the first book of her Skin series, "Skin Game", Gray introduces a new world. In this world, the paranormal aspect is not limited to shape-shifts, werewolves or vampires. Gray writes a more realistic paranormal element. The main female, Kyra, has gift that allows her to steal her target's strongest skill with a single touch.

Kyra doesn't steal the skill forever; in fact, she never knows if the skill (be it fighting, stealing or scrapbooking) will last five minutes or five hours. Think, Rogue from X-Men, but minus the "sucking-away-your-talent-AND-life" aspect.

"Skin Game" follows Kyra -- a con artist -- as she is on the run after pulling a big con on the powerful Vegas mobster, Serrano, who was responsible for her father's death. Serrano has lost a lot of money because of Kyra, but it's not the money that has him bent on revenge, it's the damage she did to his pride. Serrano sends a hit man who has never failed to complete a contract -- Reyes. When Reyes catches up to Kyra and gains her trust, he finds himself drawn to her.

Kyra is a tough cookie. She has a very independent streak, due to the fact that she's spent most of her life on her own. She's fierce and thoroughly enjoys her life as a con-artist. Despite her tough exterior, Kyra isn't without her faults. Throughout the story, as she begins to trust "Rey" (Reyes), Gray gives Kyra humanity with various revelations about the character's vulnerability. Kyra sleeps with the light on, something she's done every since she was a child; Kyra loves her old car -- it's the only thing of her father's she has left; Kyra has one friend that she's kept since childhood.

Similarly, Reyes' character is also tough; he's a fighter with a very keen intellect and gift for observation. He notices straightaway that Kyra's overly fond of her car. As Reyes gains Kyra's trust and gets her to reveal herself to him, he, too, is revealing himself to Kyra.

Though Kryra and Reyes sleep with one another early on, for most of the story they dance around one another with double entendres and an almost laughable shyness. Sometimes it's endearing to read adults acting like shy teenagers, but for two tough characters like Kyra and Reyes, it tends to be a yawn at times. Regardless, it's sweet to see Kyra realize that she doesn't have to be tough all the time. Gray writes fantastic characters.

Gray's writing is sexy and edgy. The sub-plot that revolves around Serrano and his right-hand man, Foster, provides a bit of a twist near the end. Be prepared, however, there are loose ends at the end of "Skin Game" -- these loose ends are tied in book two of the Skin series, "Skin Tight".

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