Second Skin by Alex Whitehall #AfternoonDelight

Second Skin by Alex Whitehall #AfternoonDelightSecond Skin by Alex Whitehall

Genres: M/M Romance, New Adult Romance, Sci-Fi Romance
Published by Riptide on April 11, 2016
Pages: 90
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
  add to goodreads
three-half-stars      three-flames

I really need to pay better attention when I’m reading blurbs and checking out new to me books.  And yeah, really that cover should have clued me in (gorgeous, right?)  But sometimes, it’s kind of fun to get startled by the unexpected.  See, I thought I was getting a college age Contemporary Romance and, well, it was… But it had a sci-fi twist.  The story was cruising along doing the expected and then I had a ‘what was that!?!  Oh, well that changes things.  Adjusted.  Moved on to appreciate an interesting new dynamic in the story.

The story opens with Jay headed to the library for a tutor to get some help with Math.  Jay encounters the math tutor and he is instantly taken with Roswell.  Roswell doesn’t seem to care that Jay is transitioning and identifying as a ‘he’ instead of a ‘she now.  And Ros has a quirky geek love, too.

But when they start dating, Jay doesn’t know what to make of Roswell’s reluctance to take things deeper and asks for time.  Is it because Roswell really does struggle with Jay being trans?  Jay has met that before and it hurt a lot so now he is on edge.  But when the truth comes, Jay suddenly is forced to confront his own perceptions about acceptance and differences.

I enjoyed the story.  It is thoughtful and has a good premise, but I felt it cruised along in depths that were too shallow for the dynamics of this story.  This influenced my impression of the characters somewhat.  I struggled to connect at times, but there were some curiosity points, too.  And, as some know about me, curiosity will hook me in and keep my attention when other things do not.

The author did something interesting when it came to Jay- intentional or otherwise I do not know.  Jay is transitioning and has felt the effects of confusion, self-doubt, and negative opinions even from an earlier relationship.  This colored his thinking, no doubt about that.  Then there is his personality and interests that place him firmly in socially awkward geek territory.  But he also has good things going for him from family and friends.  Just by choosing to follow the path he has makes him a pretty strong person.  I was all set to start rooting for him.

But (here’s that interesting part that I mentioned) then the story got going and I realized through his thoughts and actions, that Jay was both the villain and hero of his own story.

Jay wants love and acceptance and thinks he finds it with Roswell.  But even as things get going with this pair and with Jay’s surrounding activities, I was struck that Jay is self-absorbed and let’s his past color his perceptions of the present (don’t we all).  Roswell is generous and kind and comfortable to be with.  But then when something truly out of this world occurs, Jay fails to demonstrate these traits in return to the one who gave immediate acceptance, understanding and friendship to him.  And generously at that.  The author pulled out some startling emotions for Jay when he learns Roswell’s secret that wouldn’t have occurred to me.  Again, my curiosity was peeked even while I felt less connection to the story than I should.

Roswell is something of an enigma.  I liked what I saw and he had big secrets.  But after the reveal, he stays something of an enigma because the focus is solidly on Jay- which I get.  However, it leaves me shrugging and not much to add about our Ros here.  He had big stuff going on that sounded fascinating, but it was quickly explained and pushed past since this is Jay’s story.

The romance was alright, but not really the thing that stayed with me at the end.

I have to mention another interesting response I had to this story.  Though I didn’t connect as well with the major players, Jay or Roswell, I did connect with Jay’s best friend, Connor.  If anyone comes out feeling heroic in this story, it’s Connor.  All along he is the guy that just shines.  He may not struggle with gender or sexual orientation, but he was still true to self.  He looks like a popular person and he could have been in looks, ease of manner, and athletic ability, but he didn’t hide his other ‘geek’ side and he openly hung out with socially awkward people.  He valued everyone and not those just like him.  And he was a true friend.  He forced Jay to look carefully at his words and actions when it would have been easy just to give affirmation to Jay when he breaks it off with Ros even while promising to have Jay’s back, always.

The sci-fi aspect was more of a sci-fi realism thing.  It’s there and important, but this story doesn’t feel sci-fi.  I think this is because the important reason for it’s presence is to draw attention to the concept of acceptance and diversity.

In summary, this is going to be one of those stories that I enjoyed for all the wrong reasons I think.  I enjoyed the theme, the curious aspects, the secondary character while tolerating the main players and the romance.  I think those looking for a quick, thought-provoking read in the m/m sci-fi romance category should take a look at this one.

My thanks to Riptide Publishing for the opportunity to read this one in exchange for an honest review.

Challenges Met
Romance Roundabout #135 NA
New to Me #56 author/gender-fluid
Diversity #25 trans/gender-fluid

The following two tabs change content below.
I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

Latest posts by Sophia Rose (see all)

  • It is always interesting when this happens, when you enjoy a book for reasons that aren’t expected or typical.

    • Yes, exactly. If I were asked whether I liked the book or would recommend it, my answer would be ‘yes absolutely’. But it wouldn’t be for the typical reason I usually enjoy a romance story. 🙂

  • Interesting premise for a story. Glad you liked it.

    • Thanks, Mary! I was curious and was glad to have read it.

  • Sci-fi realism, interesting

  • I must admit you have me curious. I even went to Amazon thinking I could find out the secret. No luck! Even the description of the author was really different on Amazon. Very interesting review!

    • Sorry to be mysterious, Lorna. 😉 Let me know if you want in on the secret and I can message you.

  • LOL it’s always a little bit of a trip when that happens and you get a little paranormal or sci-fi mixed in without expecting it. Since I don’t read blurbs ever I’ve had that happen a handful of times now.

    It is interesting how that can happen with secondary characters and they catch you more than the primary ones.

    • Surprises all around for me. 🙂 Ha! It did feel a bit like when on the rare occasion I snag a book without reading blurb or other reviews. You do live dangerously. 😉

  • Interesting premise. With the name Roswell I kept thinking “alien”.

    • Haha! That did come up in conversation, Velvet. 🙂