Under Your Skin is the newest offering from Shannyn Schroeder, and is also a kick-off to her new series “For Your Love”. Our hero, Kai, is a closed-off tattoo shop owner with a past, while our heroine, Norah, is a pregnant, single lady looking for a reconnection with her family. When Kai’s mother has surgery and needs to move in with him, his very careful routine is disrupted and chaos ensues. Enter Norah, who also happens to be a nursing student, who is supposed to bring calm, but instead brings another kind of chaos.
The author has graciously provided an excerpt for me to post here, so that you can get a flavor of the book. In this scene, where Norah and Kai meet, Kai is on the phone with his sister about caring for their mother after a recent surgery.
Kai Ellis came from the back room to the musical sound of female laughter. The girl sitting across from Tommy at the front counter had an awesome rack spilling out of her tank top and her tits jiggled as she laughed.
“Hey,” he called, “I told you no girls while you’re on the clock. Get busy on your own time.”
Tommy dropped the food in his hand. “Gross, man. This is my sister.”
She wiggled her fingers. Then she pointed. To Tommy, she said, “Let’s ask your friend here, I’m sure he’s made mistakes in his life.”
“Boss.” Kai crossed his arms. He had no intention of answering questions about his mistakes, but it annoyed him that she jumped to the conclusion that he’d made them. Part of the reason for opening his own business was so he would never have to answer to anyone about his past again.
“I’m his boss.”
She continued on as if he hadn’t spoken. “It’s normal for people to make mistakes, right? Even if they’re huge mistakes, you still learn from them. Life lessons and shit.”
He knew all about making life-altering mistakes, but he still wasn’t about to discuss them. Addressing Tommy, he said, “Girlfriend or not, she needs to go.”
Her eyes popped wide and she slid from the stool. Tommy laid a hand on her arm. “It’s fine.” He twisted on the stool. “Kai, this is my sister, Norah. She just moved back to town.”
Norah stepped around Tommy with her hand extended. Her belly stuck out full with a baby. He’d forgotten about Tommy bitching about his pregnant sister.
When he didn’t move, she dropped her hand. “Sorry. I thought I’d catch Tommy before his client came in. I brought him lunch and dessert.” She turned and picked up a plate from the counter. “Want a Rice Krispies Treat?”
Her smile was friendly as she spoke, but her light blue eyes filled with mischief. Like she was offering up more than marshmallows and cereal. It was a good thing that belly was between them. He stayed rooted to his spot. Then his phone rang. Again. He’d ignored Jaleesa all morning, but if he planned to get any work done, he’d have to deal with her.
With his phone in hand, he spun and walked back out the way he came. “Yeah.”
“It’s about time. I’ve been calling you all morning.”
“Mom’s surgery went fine. She came through with flying colors.”
He’d figured as much. It was just her knee. “Good to know.”
“Are you coming to the hospital today?”
He walked until he hit the back door of the shop and stood in the alley. “I don’t know. Depends on how busy I get.”
“Kai, it’s not like this was some surprise. We scheduled it. You could make sure you’re free. You’re choosing not to.”
His sister’s sigh whistled in his ear. “We need to talk about where Mom will go when she’s released from the hospital. She’ll only be here a few days.”
“I thought you were looking into a rehab facility.”
“I tried, but it made her upset. She thinks we’re going to dump her off and leave her for good.”
“So explain to her that’s not the case. She knows she won’t be able to get around your house. It’s not like she lost her mind.”
“She’s feeling vulnerable and she’s worried about being alone.”
“I don’t know what you want from me, Jaleesa.”
“Maybe she could stay with you.”
“I have stairs in my house.”
“Five, Kai. Five measly steps to get up to your door. Everything else is on one floor. You have the space.”
What she really meant was that he could make the space for his mom to move in. He didn’t want to. His house was set up exactly as he wanted. He would have to move all of his workout equipment somewhere, probably to the basement or the garage. He had no furniture for her. No bed or anything. He didn’t have guests and he liked it that way.
“I can’t take care of Mom. I don’t know what to do with her.”
“And I do? You figure it out, Kai. That’s what you do for family.”
“I have a business to run and I keep long hours.”
“At least think about it. We can probably hire someone to fill in when you’re not around so she’s not alone, but she’ll feel secure in your house.”
“Why can’t we hire someone to help at your house?”
“Maybe we can convert some space to make it work.”
“My whole family isn’t losing our living room so you don’t have to man up.”
He shook his head, not wanting to lose this argument. “We’ll talk about this later. I have to go.”
“Try to stop by the hospital. It’ll make her happy.”
“Yeah.” He clicked off and stared at the brick building across from him. He was tempted to throw his phone to hear the satisfying crack of plastic against the wall. Instead, he inhaled deeply and closed his eyes. The air he sucked in was rank with the smell of rotting garbage. Tomorrow was pickup day and the heat did no favors for the Chinese restaurant on the corner.
The sun beat against his skin, searing it. Five minutes of quiet without thinking about his mom at the hospital. Anything was better than the damn hospital. Leaning against the back door, with his eyes closed, he allowed the sun to sink into him.
The door thumped against him and he stepped away. So much for his five minutes.
There’s a lot of things happening in this book. Norah was living in Boston with her aunt when she got pregnant, and escaped back to Chicago to be with her father and brothers to deal with the pregnancy. She doesn’t contact the father until about 1/3 of the way through the book, when she had already decided to give the baby up for adoption.
Kai is a super closed-off hero, always stomping around in anger, annoyed that his mother would need his care, frustrated with his sister for not taking care of their mom even though he’s a single dude and she’s got four kids. This frustration and the tense family dynamic is never really explained, and that was a point of frustration for me. I could not understand why Kai was so pissy and I have little patience for moody heroes, so he was not my jam. I know some readers loooooove a moody Alpha, and so if you do, Kai is your dude!
The best part about this book for me was the navigation of the adoption storyline. I loved reading about how Norah arrived at her decision, and I could tell that Schroeder did a lot of research and gave a lot of thought to how she would portray it. The way Norah interacts with the adoptive mother, for instance, felt so real to me I wanted to hug the both of them. This viewpoint is so lacking in romance, where babies are usually portrayed as the happiest things ever. How Norah navigated the emotions of love and what was best for her kid and then how she chose who she wanted to raise that kid was so refreshing. I’d recommend the book for that alone, to be frank.
This is a NA-adjacent book. While Norah seems mature because of the massive life decisions she needs to make, there is about a 10-year age difference between Norah and Kai and her inexperience in relationships becomes evident quickly. There are some of the tropes of NA apparent here, experienced older dude shows younger lady how to have magic orgasms for instance, but I wouldn’t call this a typical NA. However, if you’re super averse to any and all NA novels, I want you to be aware.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a good NA storyline, anyone who enjoys moody heroes taught to love by the heroines, and anyone interested in reading about adoption from the birth mother’s perspective. Grab a glass of your favorite summertime beverages to match how hot this book is at times (I went with a not-too-hoppy IPA), and settle in.
- If you have any questions about adoption or would simply like to know more, Adoption.com is a great place to start.
- Birth Mother Baskets is a non-profit I wish Norah could have been a part of! Providing care and love specific to the experience of being a birth mom, the organization would have been a great fit.
- Kai was involved with “bad kids” growing up, and it’s heavily implied that he ran with a gang. Employment training and opportunities for former gang members are difficult to come by. This article explains some of the solutions out there.
I was given a complementary copy of this book in exchange for participation in a Tasty Books Tour and an honest review. Thanks!