Under Her Skin
After last year’s Bakery Sisters series, I was looking forward to Susan Mallery’s latest trilogy, this time about three heiress sisters living in Texas. Unfortunately, the first entry in the series, Under Her Skin, just didn’t work for me on a couple of levels.
Lexi Titan is the oldest of three sisters, and heiress to the massive Titan fortune — at least, she’s a potential heiress. Lexi’s father Jed has pitted the three sisters in competition against each other, with the most worthy daughter winning both the Titan fortune and Jed’s love. It is Jed’s love that Lexi is truly competing for, and to prove her salt as a businesswoman she built a chain of day spas from the ground up. But there’s a problem: a couple of years ago Lexi took out a $2 million loan from an anonymous investor, with the condition that the loan would be callable at any time, giving Lexi just 21 days to come up with the money. Eager to expand her business, Lexi agreed to the terms of the loan. Now the investor has called the loan and Lexi has to come up with $2 million pronto or she loses everything. I know what you’re thinking: who would be dumb enough to agree to this kind of loan in the first place?
Cruz Rodriguez is the wealthy owner of a race car team, having worked his way up from poverty at an early age. Unfortunately, his wealth has not bought him entry into the high echelons of Texas society. Despite his success, he’s still dismissed as not being good enough. Cruz decides to change his status by means of a woman with good breeding and connections. Who better than Lexi Titan? Who, by the way, happens to be the woman he de-flowered 10 years ago and never forgot. When Cruz learns of Lexi’s predicament, he offers her a deal: in exchange for the money she has to go along with a 6-month fake engagement, live in his house and in his bed, and introduce him to important members of society. Desperate for the money, Lexi agrees.
The characters of Lexi and Cruz were the biggest weakness of this book. First off, Cruz never really grew on me, and while I didn’t dislike him per se, I didn’t much care for a side of him that’s brought to light about halfway through the book. Part of this problem is that so little of the story is told from Cruz’s perspective. In the end I was left questioning how believable his two epiphanies were, one being the HEA. And why Lexi was so in love with him.
Lexi is a much more likeable character, partly because we see much more of the story from Lexi’s perspective, and partly because she’s a nice person who leads with her heart. That said, my feelings toward her varied at times from respect to total disbelief at how dumb she could be. While her actions at the end of the book somewhat make up for her previous senselessness, it didn’t totally erase the several WTF moments I’d had.
The other big problem I had was the whole setup for Lexi’s predicament. Why on earth would she agree to such a loan? And, in the face of losing everything, her reason for not asking her sister for money was flimsy at best. Plus, given how often we’re told that she is headstrong and willing to stand up to her father, the fact that she would go along with the competition against sisters she loves doesn’t quite ring true.
Despite these issues, Under Her Skin was sometimes a fairly enjoyable read. I had no trouble turning the pages, and there’s an interesting subplot that ties the trilogy together. In addition, a secondary character introduced halfway through was written quite realistically and her angst believable. I especially enjoyed how her relationship with Lexi played out.
In the end though, while I was never bored, I was never truly engaged either. Susan Mallery is a talented storyteller, and I wouldn’t hesitate to try her again, but Under Her Skin just wasn’t as good as much of her previous work.