Book Review: Close To The Skin by Zara West
Close To The Skin is a really unusual story, and I find myself struggling to find the words to describe how I feel about it. While I sympathized with Bella, the protagonist, a talented tattoo artist just trying to make a living in Brooklyn, I felt that her love interest was frankly an absolute ass.
Vernon is a billionaire not-at-all-ex crime boss. He lies to Bella repeatedly, when he finally convinces her to marry him he empties out and sublets her apartment without telling her, tries to give away her beloved cat, and repeatedly disregards her stated wishes.
Bella behaves like a complete idiot and continually lets him back into her life. In fact, she seems pretty dense in general. When she gets a creepy phone call late at night and the caller ID displays the name of a dead enemy, she doesn't jump to the logical conclusion that someone else has the dead guy's phone. No, she convinces herself that he isn't actually dead. It never even OCCURS to her that someone else might have the guy's phone. I found myself saying 'what a complete dope'.
It's not the only dopey thing she does. In a meeting in LA with important Hollywood power players, trying to sell them her designs for a TV show, she apparently doesn't make scanned copies or even photocopies of her designs to hand out. No, everything is in a single sketchbook, without backup, which she promptly loses, and then there is a really dumbass subplot about someone stealing her designs and her job which pushed the bounds of belief way too far.
Bella seems to spend the entire book being rescued. Although we are informed that she has self-defense training, she freezes up whenever she is confronted. The only violence she shows is throwing things at people who care about her - though I have to admit, after Vernon's appalling behavior, I cheered when she threw a wine bottle and socked him in the head with it. If only she'd shown that sort of courage when in the power of bad guys instead of continually needing rescue. Seriously, there were more damsel in distress scenes than an old-style medieval romance novel, and not once did Bella manage to find her way out of trouble without help.
The book is well written; I found only a couple of tense flips and no typos, and Vernon's redemption arc is one of the biggest heel-face-turns I've ever seen in print, leading to an extremely saccharine happy ending. If you like modern-day damsels in distress and assholes who make good in the end, this book might be for you, but I really didn't enjoy it. 2 stars.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through ReadingAlley.