Title: Skin Deep (Brothers Fae Trilogy #1)
Author: S.W Vaughn
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Paranormal M/M
Length: Novel (199 pages)
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
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?
Brothers Fae Trilogy
I wanted to read this book because the topic is something that is not explored much – abuse of gay men by their partners. Also, the fact that it was an urban fantasy with a Fae protagonist made it even more attractive because I love books about the Fae.
When the story opens Will is hosting his nightly radio talk show where he dishes out advice to men about how to fix their love lives. I thought this was rather ironic considering how messed up his own life was. On this particular night one of the callers is Cobalt, a Fae who is living among humans because he had been banished from the Faerie Kingdom for having sex with the Fairie Queen’s consort, Eoghann, who betrayed him. Cobalt confessed on air anonymously that he pays for sex because his past lovers have all ended up dead or went crazy, and he doesn’t want to inflict any more pain.
Will’s boyfriend Lyle is a closeted police officer who is abusive to him, but Will always makes excuses for his behaviour. A few days prior Lyle had beaten Will badly and Tess, his boss, had tried to get him to report Lyle to the police but he didn’t because he was afraid that Lyle would kill him when he found out. After his show that night Will went out for drinks with Tess who got plastered and dragged him to Cobalt’s tattoo parlour, The Grotto. When they see each other Will and Cobalt are instantly attracted, but Cobalt refused to pursue the attraction because he was afraid of placing Will in danger.
Will eventually goes home where Lyle is waiting for him and he handcuffs and gags him before giving him the worst beating of his life, almost killing him. His injuries were so severe any right thinking person would have called 911 but not Will, even though his body is a bloody pulp. He suffers through the excruciating pain caused by his injuries and drags himself to The Grotto the next day because he’s so disoriented he doesn’t know which end is up. Cobalt tries to heal him with magic and traditional medicine but there was only so much he could do. Eventually Will has to return home and face the music i.e. Lyle. However Lyle is very loving on the phone, and does everything he can to win back Will’s trust. To give him credit Will breaks off their relationship, but of course things don’t end there! Lyle lies in wait for an opening to do him more harm and he gets his chance when Will is arrested in a bizarre and silly incident involving a gun. Will doesn’t request a lawyer even after being mistreated by the arresting officers, which gives Lyle his big opportunity to appear to be his white knight and Will agrees to be released into Lyle’s custody. This is when the story fell apart for me.
I thought that Skin Deep, while well written, suffered from an overload of sub plots. At times it seemed like the author had too much story to tell and in the end she couldn’t tie up all the loose ends. This book has a lot to recommend it but there was much I didn’t like including the first unsettling scenes involving Will and Lyle when Will was beaten and left for dead, as well when he returned to his apartment with Cobalt – my stomach roiled a few times. Will demonstrated the typical victim mentality by revealing at one point that he got off on being beaten and that his previous partners had all abused him. He kept on making the same mistakes about the type of men whom he chose, just like some people do in real life. Maybe I couldn’t relate to him because I could not relate to or understand this aspect of his personality.
What I found fascinating was that Cobalt was supposedly pretty strong before he was banished from the Faerie Kingdom, yet he constantly flip flopped about his relationship with Will – one minute he wanted him in his life, and then a little later he would push him away or get Uriskel, another Fae and an old acquaintance, to do his dirty work for him, all in the name of saving Will from harm. I wanted to smack both of them many times – Will for poor judgment and Cobalt for being such a wimp. Skin Deep is a dichotomy because at times it was very good then at others the plot became so muddy I wondered where it was going.
Will did redeem himself in the end somewhat and proved that physically humans can be just as tough as paranormals when tested, but while each flawed protagonist was likable I couldn’t be 1000% invested because of their characterization. Neither one is the sort of character that I would call on in a life or death situation because I couldn’t be sure how he would react.
Despite all of the issues I had with this book it was actually an unusual and intense read and was never boring, consequently I think it is quite deserving of 4 stars. What saved the story for me were some of the secondary characters, starting with Tess. I also liked Cobalt’s two Fae friends, Shade and Nix. At times their repartee with Uriskel was hilarious and there is quite a bit of information in the book about Fae politics. I thought that some of the best scenes were those in The Grotto, a melting pot and meeting place for humans and paranormals alike. Many readers may like Skin Deep and I’m probably one of the few who had problems with some aspects of the story which, while engrossing, was disturbing. I do recommend this book because I think the plot is different from the run of the mill M/M romances.