Snakes are an unusual animal for the shifter subgenre, and the book has an extra twist – Margo Bond Collins knows her snakes inside out, and this is what makes the book fascinating. I learned a lot about snake characteristics and enjoyed the application of these to a shifter, and a greater shifter world. The neutral treatment of the species was refreshing for an animal often vilified in fiction. I also learned they have a nemesis: the mongoose.
My one complaint about the subject matter was that it is difficult to put a new spin on the tired shifter concept and that, although the unusual animals goes a long way toward doing this, I had no idea what a mongoose was and could have done with more explanatory imagery.
The characters themselves are well drawn and often morally grey in their choices. The protagonist, Lindi, is working against her base instincts and has put herself in a job where she is forced to be empathetic toward humans, pushing her predatory instincts to the back of her mind. Her reactions to fears of her true nature and towards prejudice in the shifter world are realistic and avoid being whiny. I enjoyed seeing her bravery and determination to do the right thing for vulnerable women and children. I one hundred percent trusted her character, and that she would not deviate from her caring tendencies. This kept me turning the pages, hoping she found a second home in the shifter community, and mentally berating those that would oppose her so rudely.
The romantic interest, Kade, is attractive and intelligent, with his own important job. However, I felt he was clever enough to realise he should have explained more about the shifter world to the clueless Lindi earlier on. This lapse was one of the only places I lost believability in both Lindi and Kade’s reactions and decisions. In line with this, I wasn’t keen on how Lindi was pushed into the shifter world with little preparation. All too often characters in shifter stories think their choice is the best and don’t consult with the individual involved. I was surprised that Lindi didn’t take more offence to this.
Romantically, Lindi and Kade should be at loggerheads due to their opposing animal natures, but they can barely keep their hands off each other. It is as if there is a mating call between them – though this is never stated. In fact, by the end of the book, I was still unsure if their attraction was a natural, human, first sight attraction or whether it was an animal instinct amplifying their feelings. I feel this could have been better explained and was waylaid by the plot. However, the steamy sexual tension between these two makes up for it. There is a constant danger in their intimate sessions, their bodies on the edge between human and animal (without crossing the line into bestiality). This heightens the emotion and tension behind the scenes, as does their relatively short length.
The non-romantic plot kept me on my toes and kept Lindi from escaping Kade’s advances. It pushed the main characters into their relationship and showed each of them how strong the other was, and how strong their emotions were. The final fight scene had me wondering who would survive, and turning pages as quickly as I could to get to the end, despite having guessed the culprit from 50-65% of the way through the book. This makes the novel perfect for a romance, but not ideal for mystery lovers.
Under Her Skin, in short, is a new twist on shifter tropes of romance, control, and a council-ruled hidden society within the human world. The romance is tense and slitheringly hot, the plot fast-paced and full of both intrigue and high emotions. There’s also a lot of mileage for a sequel where the shifter world adjusts to its new additions. If you like paranormal romance, this is not one to miss.
Editor's note: This article was originally published at Long and Short Reviews. It has been republished with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.