Kyra Marie Beckwith has been a con artist for as long as she can remember and she is good at it, very good. So when her father dies at the hand of a very powerful man she burns for revenge, and she gets it, big time. Only, to ruffle the feathers of a powerful man such as Gerard Serrano means he wants back what he considers his, and restore his pride at the same time.
To get what he wants Serrano hires the best man for the job to hunt her down, get his assets back, and bring Kyra along for him to deal with. The best man for that job is Porfirio Ten-Bears Reyes, a.k.a. Reyes, and he catches up with Kyra as she pulls a con in a small town bar. From there a road trip commences that becomes more dangerous with each passing day. Danger is something Reyes is used to dealing with, feeling increasingly more torn between his budding attraction for Kyra and his highly valued work ethics however is something new to him.
I heard many raving voices about the novels of Ava Gray's alter ego; Ann Aguirre, and after a while I still had not read any of her work. It was the moment where I read a blogpost on this author's blog that I took my chances in winning an ARC of Skin Game. I entered, and lo and behold I was one of the winners. I lost my Ava Gray cherry to the story of Kyra and Reyes and I am slowly descending from a romance high. Not only did she court me as a reader with well paced action, storytelling and sultry sensuality. Ava Gray introduced me to a set of characters who had me at their hello.
The instant Kyra and Reyes meet it is spontaneous combustion between them which doesn't diminish in any way, shape or form throughout the story. There are some wonderful opposites; he is a health nut and she needs her junk food, he has learned his skills, she steals them from others. There are also some similarities, they both like rough love between the bed sheets, they are both very good in what they do and both do it for reasons that meet their own moral standards. From the get-go their personalities grabbed my attention, I instantly liked them and I just loved the quirks that went with these two.
If there is one thing I learned from my first experience with Ava Gray's work it is that she is an author who knows how to bring compelling characters to life. It is a certain elemental magnetism emanating from the characters, whether friend or foe, that captivates me. The way they live, love, feel, fight, work through their inner turmoil's, it all enriches and works with the other elements in this novel. The romance is what ensnared me so in Skin Game. Gray gave me such an in-depth portrayal of both Kyra and Reyes that I understood both their emotional triggers for their individual decisions.
Kyra is a bit paranoia at times, she is also fierce, sensual, intelligent, a bit pragmatic and comfortable in her own skin with her ability, though it often also has less desirable side effects. Reyes is lethally dangerous, virile, skilled, commanding, keeps himself unattached and is not expecting anything from anyone. Together they make the verbal sparring and body language sizzle through the pages and such a pleasure to read. At times their passion and feelings were raw and demanding and at other times it was caring and gentle and I just gobbled it up like it was my next Ben and Jerry's fix.
I was immersed in their romance and for quite a while it felt the suspense factor was in a supportive role and almost subservient to the character/romance development of Reyes and Kyra. I got to meet Gerard Serrano who fills the bill for an unforgiving and cruel enemy and if there was one secondary character who profiled himself in Skin Game then it was Addison Foster. I still remember the page where all my red flags went up in utter want of finding out more about this character. He is neither fully good or bad but in a grey area that keeps me on edge what he will do. With highly intriguing aspects regarding Foster, Ava Gray created a man who has all the right character traits to become quite the dark tormented hero.
After a well paced build up of first time encounters, revealing conversations, passion, and growing trust something happens that shot my feelings straight in to a range of shock and raw intensity. From there the suspense had twists and turns and I almost got to feel pity for Serrano...almost. The only thing that had me puzzled at times was the paranormal factor in this book, because save from Kyra's ability there is not much paranormal to be found. Okay two things had me puzzled; I also would've liked an explanation in how Kyra's ability was canceled out with a certain person, now it just appears to be a convenient solution. Upon closing Skin Game I noticed I read this novel in the blink of an eye and this is largely due to Ava Gray's writing style which effortlessly held my attention. An easy flowing style yet fraught with all the rich emotions from the characters and a good dose of suspense from the plot.
Ava Gray wined and dined me with the best elements I love in a novel; beguiling but flawed characters, high-voltage sensuality, great dialogues and a suspense that held my attention from cover to cover. Skin Game was an exhilarating way for me to lose my Ava Gray cherry!