Beneath the Skin…
Flying Doctor Elly Lavender has spent years on the run from a violent stalker. Her obsessive former patient will do anything and threaten anyone in his campaign to force her to love him. When her most recent cover is blown, she runs for help to the childhood friend she could never get out of her mind – outback cop Adam Jepson.
Isolated, hurting, all Adam Jepson wants is to forget. After the deaths of his wife and son three years before, he’s moved to the outback with his young daughter, Zoe, to put the past behind him for good. But when Elly walks into his station, she reminds him of all the childhood joy and love he’d forgotten. Soon, he’s lost in a desire he never knew could exist. And while his guilt at leaving Elly behind years ago, and the vow he’d made to his dying wife, means he can never be the man she needs, he can’t stop caring, can’t stop trying to make Elly’s life right. Though the whole town seems against them, he can’t stop wanting the forbidden.
But when anonymous harassment escalates to murder, Elly knows her presence in Macks Lake has put Adam and Zoe’s lives at risk. Everyone’s safer if she remains alone – a fact that her stalker is very much counting on as he gets ever closer to his prey…
Right from the outset with Beneath the Skin, you know you’re in the hands of a skilled writer, one who knows exactly how to hook you, how to keep you turning the pages deep into the night, and how to spill all the secrets at just the right time. This is my first Melissa James novel but it most certainly will not be my last.
With a tension filled plot and realistically crafted characters, Beneath the Skin is a stand out novel within the romantic suspense genre. There’s so much depth to this novel and Melissa’s passion for improving the lives of Australians living in rural and remote areas – as detailed in her author’s note – blazes through the story, infusing every part of it with relevance and significance. Issues relating to Indigenous Australians are handled with a perfect balance of sensitivity and truth. Tackling the ongoing ripple effect of the Stolen Generation and weaving it into a commercial novel is no small feat and it’s testimony to Melissa’s strength as a writer that she has not only done this, but done it exceptionally well.
I enjoyed the way Melissa told the story, alternating between Elly, Adam, Danny the stalker, and later, Rick. I am a fan of multiple perspectives though, as you always seem to get a more balanced feel for a story when you can get into the heads of all the major players. In a novel such as this one too, where a sustained threat is imminent throughout, alternating perspectives introduces an evolving element into the story that may have otherwise been missed. We have the constant fear Elly lives with being magnified as the story progresses, as we, the readers, begin to clearly see just how out of touch with reality her stalker is. Without having had the benefit of being inside of Danny’s head from time to time, the danger he posed as his wits deteriorated may have been minimised, which would have reduced the suspense throughout the entire novel significantly.
There are a few clever and unexpected twists within Beneath the Skin and more than one crazy person to deal with, but to say much more would be skating into spoiler territory and this is not a novel you want spoiled! Suffice to say, it is a novel that will keep you enthralled from start to finish and should satisfy readers who enjoy multiple genres rolled into one. A very fine commercial fiction debut from an established author; I sincerely hope we have the opportunity to experience more of this type of fiction from Melissa James in the not too distant future.
Thanks is extended to the author for gifting me with a copy of Beneath the Skin for review.
Beneath the Skin is book 49 in my 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge.