Book Club: Beneath The Skin

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Author: Melissa James
ISBN: 9781489232373
RRP: $29.99

I need to preface this review by saying there will be spoilers. I know, shock horror, I’m not a fan of spoilers. BUT, there is information I would really like to put in this review that wasn’t on the back of the book.

Beneath The Skin is a great melding of genres in that there are elements of suspense, crime and romance which weave a gripping story that I had trouble putting down but what I really loved about this story was the strong Aboriginal characters. I am so stuck at the moment trying to put into words what I’m trying to say here without sounding disrespectful or discriminatory because really there should be no reason that the race of the characters needs to be mentioned in the blurb. The Aboriginal heritage and culture of the characters form a large part of the story and I enjoyed reading their stories.

The other thing that I wanted to mention here is that when reading the Author’s Note I discovered that Melissa James will be donating a percentage of royalties from the sale of this book to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and also to the Royal Flying Doctor Service so I urge you to all go and purchase a copy, the read will be well worth it.

Elly Lavender is a dedicated doctor who is passionate about helping the rural Aboriginal communities; she worked for the Royal Flying Doctor Service until helping a patient landed her with an unstable, violent stalker who happens to have an extremely wealthy grandfather in his corner. Elly left her job with the Flying Doctor Service and is on the run when her cover is blown she heads to the small town of Macks Lake to where her childhood friend, and now police officer, Adam Jepson lives.

Beneath The Skin touches on many Aboriginal issues; speaking of the stolen generation, the loss of family, the connection of all Indigenous people, the insular nature of the outback communities and the medical hardships faced by those same outback communities.

Elly is being stalked by a man with serious issues, a man determined to get what he wants and do anything it takes to get it. The story is told in the third person with short first person chapters following the moves of the stalker. Elly heads to Macks Lake for help but it soon turns out that there’s more to the history she shares with Adam Jepson.

Beneath The Skin takes us back to Elly’s childhood and the more we learn the easier it is to see how she has become such a respected doctor and why she is so dedicated to her patients.

Adam Jepson has taken a huge step back in his career after the deaths of his wife and baby son to raise his daughter in the small town of Macks Lake. Three years later he is still mired in guilt and living a half-life.

I loved the way some elements of the story played out. The suspense held me captivated because when anonymous harassment in Macks Lake begins and rapidly escalates, we know it can’t be the stalker yet and all of the circumstantial evidence points in an extremely unlikely direction. The only thing that tops it is finding out the truth of it.

Many elements come together in an action packed story of love, family, mental health, abuse, loss and grief. A romantic suspense that offers thought provoking clues to follow in the stalking storyline as well as steam and sexual tension in the romance stakes.

Beneath the Skin is a book that I honestly can not think of anything bad to say about. I loved the story, the characters and the settings…. actually I didn’t love all of the characters, but I wasn’t supposed to. The primary characters were all quite intimately drawn and getting to know them throughout the story was quite eye opening.

Melissa James is definitely an author I will be keeping an eye out for.

Beneath the Skin is Book #31 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017.

Melissa James can be contacted on Facebook.

Beneath the Skin is published by Harlequin and available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Harlequin 20 of our Beauty and Lace Club Members will be reading Beneath the Skin so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments.

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22 thoughts on “Book Club: Beneath The Skin

  1. Wow!! I absolutely loved this book! I had trouble putting it down, I just wanted to keep reading to find out what happened. It kept me guessing the whole time. Will definitely be keeping an eye on this author.

  2. A genuine thank you to Harlequin and Beauty and Lace for supplying this latest book for review, Melissa James ‘Beneath The Skin’

    Melissa James is an expert at setting the scene and the resulting emotional turmoil of running from a crazed stalker, Dr Janie Larkins (aka Elly Lavender) fleeing from all she knows and loves to keep them safe from her troubled tormentor Danny Spencer.

    Elly who lost her mother at aged 10, was fostered into a white family and conditioned into their white life, falls for her adopted families grandson who breaks her heart when he marries and leaves Elly and all she loves. Elly discovers the truth of her Aboriginal ancestry, leaving country life to reside with her mother’s people in Sydney. Here she pursues a career in Medicine and returns to country areas to treat her people in isolated outback areas. Charismatic, caring and professional, here she treats an accident victim who becomes obsessed with her and follows her in order to capture her heart.

    The book explores beautifully the ingrained bigotry of black versus white, class structures and there preconceived expectations, living up to family name and family member’s demands, manipulation and mental illness. The author delivered characters with strength, empathy, forgiveness and human frailties. It also alerts us to the difficulties of those dragged from their natural upbringing, the problems facing those who are shunned by their own people due to being brought up by ‘whites’ and not being accepted by white society as they are ‘black’.

    This book was a thrill a minute, leading you to certain expectations then twisting the story to lead to something more dramatic. The author described the natural environment beautifully as well as delivering solid, realistic characters. You learn to love some of them and hate others. And just when you thought the story might come to an end, the author extended the story out and gave us some more tit bits and details about the characters. Enthralling.

    I highly enjoyed this adventurous ride and would highly recommend this Melissa James book.

  3. I received this book last week, and have spent, literally the weekend , reading thru it. In places I found it a little hard to understand, but I shall now go back and start from the beginning again, and then be able to put in a review.. thanks for the chance melissa., and all the crew behind and with her….

      1. I was having trouble reading it. I shall start from scratch today and see how I go with it. No wonder I was having trouble, I am talking about a different book. No, the one I received was Daughter of the burning city by amanda foody and it is the one I am having to start again from scratch.

        1. That would explain why I couldn’t find you on my list…. I hope you have better luck second time round.
          It was definitely a different book, you needed to focus if it’s not your usual genre.

  4. ‘Beneath the Skin’ by Melissa James
    Elly Lavender is on the run from a violent stalker.
    The flying doctor has been having to change her identity and cover her tracks to try and stop Danny Spencer from finding her.
    The compassionate doctor cant help but stop in on remote Aboriginal community’s as she flees (after all this is the reason she trained to be a doctor, helping those in need who don’t see a doctor as often as others take for granted) making her easier for Danny to track.
    Elly runs to Macks Lake where her childhood friend Adam Jepson is an outback cop.
    Adam is a lost and hurting sole after his wife and son were tragically killed three years before, the once fast paced city detective is trying his best for his young daughter Zoe.
    As the story unfolds we realise there is a bit more to Elly and Adams past than just being childhood friends. Both are holding back on there mutual attraction, Adam by a promise he made to his dying wife and Elly has been hurt by Adam in the past but also doesn’t want to put him and Zoe at risk.
    The story is also following Danny as he tracks Elly down and we get an insight into his messed up mind.
    The longer Elly stays in Macks Lake the more likely it seems that someone else wants Elly out of town, running Elly out of town would play right into Danny’s plans..
    Does Elly run again to protect those she loves or will she stay?

    I really enjoyed Beneath the Skin, there was so much more going on than just Danny stalking Elly and the romance between Adam and Elly.
    Elly’s childhood was filled with loss and abandonment, being aboriginal as well as white Elly felt she never quite fitted in in either world, this was explored and added an interesting insight, there is also Adams story since Elly has last seen him.
    Then there is the insight into Danny and his tragic childhood and the events that led him to being mentally unhinged.
    All these things combine for a great read and some other twists in the story that you don’t see coming leave you on the edge of your seat eager to turn the page.
    Thanks to Harlequin and Beauty and Lace for the chance to read and review Beneath the Skin.

  5. Beneath The Skin by Melissa James. I give this book a 4 star rating.
    Elly Lavender is an outback Doctor, She is on the run from an obsessive former patient who is stalking her. She runs to Mack’s Lake where Adam Jepson is the policeman . They were great childhood friends. She is worried her presence in the town will bring danger to Adam, his daughter and the town. Adam and Elly have unresolved issues.

    The story is told alternatively between Elly and Adam and Danny the stalker.
    For me the story highlights the problems faced in outback communities and small towns. Also it covers the treatment of indigenous Australians past and present day.

    It is set it Australia by an Australian author. There is romance and crime. It is suspenseful ! Will Elly and Adam get together? Will the stalker be stopped in time ?
    Thoroughly enjoyed it.

  6. Thankyou Beautyandlace and Harleqinbooks for the opportunity to review ‘Beneath the Skin’ by Melissa James.
    Elly Lavender is an outback medic and is being stalked by a violent former patient. She makes her way to Macks Lake.
    Adam Jepson is a detective at the Poliçe Station there and he grew up with Elly from when she was ten and living with his grandparents. They were inseparable despite an age difference.
    Adam is widowed with a daughter Zoe having lost his wife Sharon and their son in tragic circumstances.
    He hasn’t seen Elly since his marriage when she was fifteen.
    Unaware of her Aboriginal heritage until then and with a feeling of desertion by Adam she is very slow in trusting others and not confident In herself.
    Frightening events take place at Macks Lake and the stalker, Danny gets closer after his grandfather gains inside information as to Elly’s whereabouts.
    Elly is a likeable character, unsure of herself and trying to fit into her culture, and not confident of being accepted by Adam and his family, especially as she feels the family have always disapproved of her.
    This was an interesting story bringing awareness of feelings of all the characters and gave an insight into the Aboriginal culture.

  7. Beneath the Skin is my first novel by Melissa  James and certainly wont be my last!

    I really enjoyed the way this story was told. I found the way Melissa portrayed the characters and the aboriginal culture really interesting and kept me turning the page. There are alot of topics covered in this book but they all work seamlessly together and make a really intriguing read.

    What a great Australian romantic suspense, Well Done Melissa!

    Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Harlequin for the opportunity to read this great book.

  8. As always, I like to start thanking Beauty and Lace and the publisher, Harlequin, for this amazing book!

    Beneath the skin, where to start!
    This book had me enthralled from the very first page, I absolutely loved it!
    So full of suspense, and unexpected twists and turns, I found it very hard to put this book down and managed to finish it in only a few days.

    Elly- what a sad story she had. From her upbringing, losing her mother horrifically, and her father taking her brother never to be seen again, to being scared to trust anyone, hiding in trees kicking at people because she didn’t know who to trust. Then to finally trust, and fall in love with Adam for him to be unaware and marry the wrong girl. For Elly to move on, to become the victim of a horrible sadistic stalker who’s clearly suffering from split personality disorder.

    I just wanted to hug Elly the whole book! She was such a sad character.
    However, when she goes to Macks Lake and reunites with Adam, who has since lost his wife and son in a car accident, I am filled with love and hope that Ellys life will turn around, and with lots of twists and turns and the surprise of her long lost brother, I was so happy to see it finally did!

    The ending of the book, the hospital siege- what a heart stopper! My eyes couldnt read fast enough! And to find he had escaped prison again, I couldn’t believe it! But what a great way for it to end, with Danny finally out of Ellys life for good, as sad as it was for him.

    I absolutely loved this book and will be rating it the whole 5 stars! I thought the ending was a bit quick, as in there was no clue as to what happened to them, the twins etc afterwards, so I’m really holding out hope that there may be another book After this one featuring these characters!

    Will definetely be keeping an eye out for future books by Melissa James! Highly recommend to all to read this book!

  9. Thank you for selecting me to read Beneath The Skin written by Melissa James
    I really enjoyed reading this book
    Elly is the main character a doctor who is on the run ( not saying why no spoilers ) going from town to town helping the aboriginal people
    This book has it all love, suspense, drama, and a beautiful ending
    I am sure all readers will love this book

  10. Beneath The Skin was an intense read! We follow Dr Lavender who’s on the run from Danny an extremely unstable character who has his heart set on claiming her. I really enjoyed the story when it was told via Danny/Monsters character it was distrubing but it was the best bits in my opinion.
    This story has it all really drama, thriller and somehow managing a love story too! I found the withdrawal from Adam and Ellys characters a bit slow at times…as in I was like ohhh come on already just get on with it but reading on you get a bit more insight into why not just the initial tragedies they’ve faced.
    Overall a good read Thank You Beauty & Lace, Harlequin Book and Melissa James (I’ll be keeping as eye out for more books by her)

  11. Beneath The Skin is a suspenseful outback Australian romance written by Melissa James. With her strong writing and her suspenseful story line this story will keep you intrigued , she gives us crumbs along the way to intrigue the reader and have us wandering which way the story is going.

    Many plot twists and a merry go round of events, the author pens many secrets within the pages.

    With a violent stalker among the midst Elly has to keep moving and fleeing from one place to the next. She Enlists the help of an old friend Adam. But what Elly doesn’t know is that Adam also has demons of his very own.

    The author delivers us a smorgasbord within, steamy romance, crime, suspense, family heartache, loss , and so much more. It will pull at your heart strings many a times watching Adam fight his inner demons from his past , and trying to move on with his future with out the guilt that consumes him.

    The stalker was well detailed giving us that spooky , creepy , feel to him – he definitely come across in exactly the way the author penned.

    Many aspects and points were outlined and penned , remote outback, lack of support and the medical restraints within the outback communities. Family, heartache and living in fear. But after it all there is light in the darkness so to speak. Aboriginal aspects mentioned – I didn’t completely agree on certain mentions . Each to there on on these topics mentioned.

    Overall well delivered characters both good and bad

    3/5 rating for this read.

  12. Beneath the Skin by Australian author Melissa James is a romantic suspense story set in outback Australia.

    Elly Lavender, a flying doctor who is been pursued by Danny a violet stalker flees from place to place, in order to try and save her own life. When she can no longer stay safe by her own means she heads for her childhood friend Adam Jepson who is a police officer in Macks Lake. When Elly gets to Macks Lake and reunites with Adam she finds that he has demons of his own following the loss of his wife and son. Adam is also bringing up his daughter Zoe.

    With events that keep happening in the township of Macks Lake to Elly and Adam, Elly starts to wonder if she should stay in Macks Lake or moves on, especially as she does not want to see anything happen to Adam or Zoe. But if she keeps running will she run straight into Danny and his horrid plans for her. Does she run or does she stay?

    Beneath the Skin is a novel with so many things happening not just with Danny stalking Elly and the past and present with Adam. Elly’s childhood was filled with much sadness of loss and abandonment. Then there is Danny and his tragic life, especially with the way his grandfather treats him, and Danny’s mental instability.

    This is a story that keeps you wanting to turn the pages and just keep reading and reading. I would highly recommend Beneath the Skin.

  13. Beneath The Skin by Melissa James is described as “A gripping outback romantic suspense novel”.
    This is very true.
    Elly Lavender is a Doctor and this is her latest identity.
    She is on the run from a former Patient she treated who has fixtated on her.
    He will do anything to anyone who he thinks is keeping Ely keep away from him.
    Elly runs to a former childhood friend for help.
    He is Adam, an outback Policeman.
    Adam lost his wife and infant son three years previously
    and has brought his surviving young daughter Zoe to the isolated outback town of Macks Lake.
    When Elly appears, all the childhood feelings resurface for Adam.
    The timing is very wrong for romance.
    The incidents follow Elly from place to place,
    the harassment escalates, the trail of bodies increase,
    a chilling confrontation is building in Macks Lake
    where Elly is finally face to face with her Stalker.
    Thank you to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Harlequin
    for the oppertunity to read Beneath The Skin, a memorial book.

  14. Thank you for the chance to read this amazing novel Beneath the Skin

    Once started this book is hard to put down with it’s intricate storyline of suspense drama & romance
    Elly is on the run back to her childhood & the one person she can hopefully trust both are strong characters in their own right but will their strength together overcome the haunting nightmare that follows Elly
    Loved the attention given to many Aboriginal issues & the descriptive tones of the outback

    This is a book that having a great storyline was so hard to put down & I recommend it for anyone that likes a good story full of suspense

  15. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Beneath the Skin,thankyou for sending it to me. I thought the storyline was very good and unusual,you don,t usually read about aboriginal characters and I found it very interesting and informative.I love the romance and intrique and I never saw the twist at the end .exceptional reading..

  16. ‘Beneath The skin’ by Melissa James is a crime, suspense and romance novel, that covers many themes including, love, family, mental abuse, loss and grief.
    Elly Lavender is a doctor who runs back to her childhood friend for help in Macks Lake to escape a violent stalker, an ex patient of hers.
    Her former ‘childhood friend ‘, Adam Jensen, is there. Adam is a policeman but has his own demons to fight. having lost his wife and son three years ago he moved back to Macks Lake to bring up his daughter.
    I enjoyed this book and it definitely had me in suspense and wondering what would happen next. It was also interesting learning about Elly’s childhood and her Aboriginal Heritage.
    This is definitely a book worth reading.
    Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Harlequin for giving me the opportunity to read this book.

  17. Beneath The Skin – Melissa James

    If you’re after a book that tells you what’s going to happen in the first few chapters, then this isn’t the book for you, but if you’re after a story that will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat with each page, then grab Beneath The Skin.

    Melissa James has the reader hooked and intrigued from the first word, drawing you in as Elly Lavender’s story slowly reveals itself in each chapter.

    The blurb on the back of the book does not do this complex story justice and I was unsure about whether I would enjoy it after I read it, but soon knew there was far more to this book than the blurb. A lesson to never judge a book on its cover.

    Readers are taken through the Australian outback as Dr Elly Lavender runs from one Aboriginal community to the next. James then takes her readers into the mind of a psychopath who is determined to make Elly his and he doesn’t care who he has to murder on the way. The way James takes readers through Danny’s mind from his personality and into ‘Monster’s’ thoughts, is a clever and deep way of helping the reader understand his actions. There are times the reader may even feel some sympathy for his situation at the hands of a manipulative grandfather. Danny may not be the only one trying to scare Elly and warn any other males away from her.

    When Elly tracks down her lost childhood friend, Adam, who is also a police officer, it soon becomes clear that there is more to their relationship than simply friendship and James brings their struggle to life in the pages of Beneath The Skin. Adam’s best mate, Rick, is a character who will bring a sudden surprise to the ending of the book as the reader is encouraged to distrust him throughout the story.
    Beneath The Skin is one of the most mysterious books I have read and one of the top reads this year as you’re left guessing until the last page. Highly recommended.

  18. Melissa James’ ‘Beneath the skin’ is a carefully woven story of intrigue, emotion and most importantly touching on Aboriginal issues in rural Australia.

    Elly Lavender turns up in the sleepy country town of Macks Lake one day under a false name & with secrets held close to her chest. She came looking for the one person in her life she thinks she can trust, local cop Adam Jepsen.

    Elly’s hiding a dark truth, she’s on the run from a crazed and calculating stalker. Adam is still wallowing in the grief of losing his young family a few years earlier.

    I found this book a liitle haphazard in the beginning, I think it was the attitude of Elly and her drama that did it, but once I got into the groove of the characters it became quite an interesting read that I wanted, and needed, to follow through with to see where it ended up.

    Melissa James is certainly a gifted wtiter and has managed to capture the intricacies of the Aborigonal culture in a sensitive way.

    I’ll be looking out for more if her work in future.

  19. Beneath the skin is a good romantic suspense story that had me gripped from the beginning to end. The story is told from the perspective of the main 3/4 characters, and this is a great way to build suspense.
    It was a real shock and scary to find out just how mentally unwell Danny is, it took a while to learn what was going on for him. Getting into the head of Danny throughout the story really added to the suspense . The way Melissa portrayed Elly was really interesting, her character gain me some great insight about aboriginal ways and culture.

    Overall I really enjoyed this book and will definitely recommend!

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