Under Your Skin by Lee WinterUnder Your Skin by Lee Winter is the second book in her romantic suspense series, On the Record. You could read this without reading The Red Files, but I don’t know why anyone would want to when The Red Files is such a brilliant book. 

Catherine Ayers and Lauren King love living in DC and are loving their lives together even more. Ayers is back at the top of the political reporting pack and Lauren is plugging away at trying to nail that big headline that will make her employer glad they took on a junior reporter like her. When a story about a missing food delivery robot leads Lauren to an app that people can use to find their criminal lookalikes, she knows something is up. Unfortunately the story has to wait, because she’s heading off with Catherine for their wedding-planning vacation in Iowa.

Catherine has long been estranged from her family, so the Kings—including Lauren’s dad, five brothers, and her Meemaw—are a lot to take in at once. Never one to back down from a challenge, the Caustic Queen is determined to make things work, even if she has to swallow most of her barbs and make nice with her many in-laws-to-be.

All isn’t as simple as it should be in Iowa, as word gets out that the corporation that just opened a factory in the Kings’ hometown is making chips that will be implanted into veterans. Sure, Lauren and Ayers have a wedding to plan, but the story always comes first, right?

The Characters

I’m SO happy I got to spend more time with Lauren and Ayers. It was like reconnecting with old friends! Even better, this time we not only get Lauren’s perspective, we also get Catherine’s.

I don’t think Lauren had a huge character arc and that was 100% fine by me. Instead, we got a view into the good relationships she has with her family, which lets us understand how they’ve helped her be who she is—funny, loving, and stable (even if she has the occasional insecurity).

Catherine, on the other hand, has a massive arc. It started in The Red Files, which we only saw through Lauren’s eyes. In Under Your Skin, we get to see the human behind the ice queen and learn how she truly turned into the Caustic Queen that keeps everyone at arms length with her scathing words. She had already thawed significantly before, and it was so satisfying to see the final stages of her thawing in this book.

There are a lot of side characters between family members and friends. Of particular note is Lauren’s Meemaw. She may be small, but my goodness is she ever mighty. May we all have someone in our lives who love us as much as Meemaw loves Lauren and the rest of her family.

The Writing Style

While The Red Files and Under Your Skin work together to create a single coherent narrative (although, again, you can just read Under Your Skin if you want), it’s clear that Lee Winter’s writing has matured. Under Your Skin has the strongest and tightest writing out of all of her books, with the romance development, plotting, and pacing all humming along at perfect pitch.

The one thing it doesn’t have that The Red Files had in spades is snark between Lauren and Catherine. Given the different nature of their relationship in this book, I think that was a perfect choice. Plus, Lee Winter delivered humour and snark in plenty of other places, ensuring that it has the same fun tone that we all loved the first time around.

The Pros

EVERYTHING! Every single little thing!

If I had to pick my favourite element, though, I’d say that it was getting Catherine’s perspective. Not only is it amazing to learn what makes her tick and see her change, but even better, we get her perspective on a couple of my favourite scenes from The Red Files. I won’t say which, but I will say that time may have slowed when I got there.

The Cons

Nothing about the story, but I don’t care for the cover. It makes sense now that I’ve read the book, but it makes it look like a contemporary romance and doesn’t at all convey the mystery aspect of the story. It also looks completely different from the cover of The Red Files so they don’t look like they’re from the same series.

taras favourite lesbian booksThe Conclusion

Hands down, this is one of my very favourite books this year. I love it just as much as I loved The Red Files, and I’m thrilled that it’s an even better book. If you haven’t read anything by Lee Winter before, this would be an okay place to start, but you really have to read The Red Files and then Under Your Skin because they are on my friendship litmus test list now. I will be rereading these over and over and I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Excerpt from Under Your Skin by Lee Winter

The hiss of the shower stopped.

Moments later, Lauren, in a white robe, stumbled into the bedroom, her hands furiously working a towel through her hair. She slung it over the back of a chair and flopped onto the bed with a hearty huff of air.

With a long look at Lauren’s wild hair and exhausted blue eyes, Catherine reached across, combed a stray tendril from her eyes, and smiled. Even when Lauren was too tired to see straight, she looked adorable. Well, adorably rumpled. “A late one tonight. Feeling better now?”

“You know, I think I do. Got my second wind. Whatever you’ve done in the kitchen smells amazing.”

“It’s seared tuna with scallops cooked in a reduction of lime butter, bok choy, and yellow pepper, and a corn salad with turmeric dressing—plus basmati risotto, of course.”

“Of course.” Lauren gave a tired laugh.

“Just something I threw together. I put the fish and scallops on when you texted me that you were on your way. There’s nothing worse than overdone fish.”

“Nothing.” Lauren broke into a smile. “My God, I live with someone who sears sesame tuna.” She sat up, rummaging under her pillow, and dragged out a pair of pajama bottoms and a tank top. Flinging off her robe, she slid on her clothes and rolled over toward Catherine. She planted a kiss on her cheek. “You spoil me.”

Catherine shrugged, but she was warmed by her lover’s reaction. She’d always liked to cook as a solo pursuit, but when you had someone to cook for, it was surprisingly gratifying. Even eating her own portion alone at a more reasonable hour, all Catherine had thought of was what Lauren would think of it. Of course, the salad was something she assumed any Iowan girl would appreciate. It had corn in it, after all.

Lauren kissed Catherine again, on the lips this time, and whispered in her ear, “Love you.”

It made Catherine’s heart quicken. “Mm. That’s possibly your stomach talking.”

Crawling back to her feet, Lauren nodded. “Oh yep, that, too.” She plodded toward the kitchen.

Catherine smiled, rose, and followed.

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Series

The Red Files

Under Your Skin

Bits and Bobs

  • ISBN number: 9783963240263
  • Publisher: Ylva Publishing

Lee Winter Online

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