REVIEW: Skintight by Susan Andersen
Dear Ms. Andersen:
I had no idea Skintight was a reissue when I picked it up, but I had never read it and the Vegas showgirl coupled with professional poker player hook piqued my interest. And I love Vegas. Probably more than I should. Waaaay more than I should. But that’s another story.
Treena McCall is a professional Vegas showgirl clearly on the downswing (read: the wrong side of the age spectrum) of her professional career. She took an 11 month sabbatical from la Stravaganza, the Vegas casino show she’s in, to care for her husband, Big Jim McCall. Big Jim was an older (oy, from what I could glean, easily old enough to be Treena’s father) man who married Treena for her ability to be his arm candy, and promptly had a recurrence of cancer. His illness and the resulting care ate into Treena’s nest egg, and pushed her dream to open a dance studio into the unforeseen future. Treena is back at la Stravaganza, fighting to keep her place in the show for another year. Big Jim left her one thing: a signed World Series baseball worth a wagonload of dough, but she’s trying to adhere to Big Jim’s wish to leave it to his estranged son.
Jax Gallagher (aka Jackson McCall, son of Big Jim McCall) is an MIT math nerd in a stud’s body, but still has plenty of the insecurities that a kid attending college in his early teens and graduating before his body filled out would be saddled with. Jax is a professional poker player and jets around the world on the tour circuit. When the news of his father’s death catches up with him in Monaco, Jax gets drunk and sits down at the tables and now has an IOU out to a Russian Elvis for his father’s World Series baseball. If he doesn’t show up with it by the end of the tournament in Vegas, Jax is in danger of losing multiple body parts. Thinking that Treena is a gold-digging user, he decides to seduce the ball out of her rather than asking for it. Angst (and a ton of hot sexin’) ensues.
My initial problem with Treena is this: why the hell did she marry Big Jim in the first place? Her explanations of him making her feel loved and loving him without sex just don’t seem to hold water for an attractive, well adjusted woman who is not into gold, “stage door Johnnys” or looking for a way out. Not “being good” at sex due to a need for control is one of her reasons for marrying Big Jim (nope, no sex in that marriage) and it’s also an irritating excuse. Treena’s parents don’t really understand or agree with her choice of profession (and they’ve never seen her topless – more on that in a moment), they stand behind her and support her emotionally if not financially. How Treena ends up with Big Jim is beyond me. And Treena’s sexual hangups? Yeah, I’m not feeling those either.
Jax, on the other had, is a mass of emotional problems stemming from his horrible relationship with his father that he’s never managed to get past. Jax is sometimes like a little boy in a man’s body, and I don’t find that attractive. He thinks his father only wanted him to be an ace athlete and hated the fact that he was a math genius. Which might have been the case, but Jax has managed to hold on to every ounce of anger he’s got and, for a really smart guy who is a pro poker player, he has a hard time reading Treena. Then there’s the initial idea that Treena slept with his father and now he’s going to be making the moves on her…yeah. There is a squick factor here.
Now before everyone gets their panties in a wad, please note that Treena is not a stripper, an exotic dancer, or has patrons thrusting cash into various pieces of clothing. She’s a Vegas showgirl. If you’ve ever been to a traditional Vegas casino show or sat through Showgirls, you know traditional Vegas casino shows feature dancers that do not wear tops (or much of anything at all except heels, feathers and headgear). Treena’s choice of profession doesn’t sway my opinion about the book in any way, and this is just a warning for those of you that are squeamish about women baring their breasts.
I enjoyed the cute secondary characters (old people (!) finding both emotionally and sexually fulfilling relationships!) and the set up for the other books in the series (more showgirls, be forewarned). Andersen generally writes strong characters, but I felt that at times Jax and Treena were too juvenile and contrived. Their lack of maturity hasn’t curbed my interest to read the next in the series, though. C+