Skin Deep by S. W. Vaughn
Will Ambrose knows everything about love – except how to find it himself. He hosts a popular GLBT relationship radio show, but his own affairs have been rocky and abusive. With sexy, seductive tattoo artist Cobalt, it’s lust at first sight. Unfortunately he’s already involved … until that night, when his late arrival home sends his cop partner into a jealous, violent rage.
Cobalt is a Fae, banished to live among humans. His studio, The Grotto, is both a hot spot for the NYC body art crowd and a haven for other Fae seeking protection. Though he’s given up on relationships, since his human lovers tend to go insane when they discover his true nature, he can’t help his lustful reaction to Will when the radio host visits The Grotto. He tries to dismiss it, but is compelled to get involved when a cab deposits a battered, broken Will at his door, with Cobalt’s name on his lips.
Can their powerful attraction – and phenomenal sex – overcome an abusive closeted cop, a traitorous Fae who tries to divide them, and an ex-lover with inhuman powers who’ll stop at nothing to take Cobalt back … including going through Will?
I really enjoyed this urban fantasy novel with an interesting premise and good characters. The setting is contemporary with fantasy elements in that Fae creatures are living amongst humans. The writing is good with fewer errors than usually found from Loose Id of late, which is an unexpected benefit to the story. The plot moves incredibly fast and the chemistry between the two men is very hot. This is an author I haven’t read before but hope to read something from them again.
Radio talk show host Will Ambrose has lousy luck with men. His track record with men involves a lot of violence and his current closeted cop boyfriend escalates this even further after one horrible night. Needing help, Will ends up at the doorstep of a local tattoo artist, Cobalt. From that moment Will is embroiled in a Fae dispute while trying to extricate himself from the mess of his relationship.
The plot is incredibly fast paced and actually leaves several holes at the end, which I didn’t notice until I thought about it. The characters are decent and slightly different from classical roles. Will plays an almost helpless guy who keeps attracting men who hurt him. Although Will is not entirely helpless and he eventually stands up for himself, he does go through a majority of the book getting into difficult situations. Will is saved from this horrible stereotype by a good sense of humor and an actual brain, which he uses to help him and finally make some smart choices. Cobalt as the sexy tattoo artist and exiled Fae is incredibly hot, yet caring and his treatment of Will is sweet and affectionate. Both men are well developed into interesting, three dimensional characters.
Likewise the supporting cast from Will’s best friend to the various Fae characters is all interesting with enough to differentiate them. The cast could easily overwhelm the reader and blend together, but the story does a very good job at showing the depth of each involved in the story and their role. Similarly the plot balances the Fae problems with Will and Cobalt’s growing relationship and blends together with an interesting setting. The tattoo shop, The Grotto, is a great atmosphere and the detail afforded the store is fascinating. I really hope the author revisits this couple and the tattoo shop in the future, as there are numerous possibilities as well as loose ends to be tied up.
There are a few elements that don’t work, such as the ridiculous Starbucks scene and eventual resolution of Will’s relationship. These are unfortunate as I could see what the story was trying to accomplish and parts of the scene and resolution are understandable and reasonable. Yet the culmination felt too easy and a quick way out of a problem. However for this problem, the story well kept my interest and the various elements were fun to read and entertaining. The sex scenes are not gratuitous and actually occur later in the novel, but due to the quick pace and fast read this is unlikely to be a problem.
Overall this is a story I’d read again, even with the problems, as the setting is one of my favorites and the tattoo shop elements were a great and interesting addition. The characters are well developed with good tension and chemistry. For urban fantasy fans, this story should easily entertain and be worth reading.
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