Review: Breaking Skin by Debra Doxer

Note: This ARC was provided by Give Me Books Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Breaking Skin is a standalone contemporary romance novel penned by author Debra Doxer and I do believe this is her at her best. Now, I've only read one other novel by her prior to this one, and while I enjoyed Play of Light, there was a different kind of intensity with this latest release. The story is about twenty-three-year-old Nichole "Nikki" Taylor, a ballerina who has made dancing her life, having left her past in Cooperstown as far behind her as possible. The tale she tells is both heartbreaking but hopeful, and it's one that she shares with thirty-four-year-old Cole Dempsey, a former professional hockey player and single father who is dealing with the consequences of his eleven years in the NHL and the machinations of his ex-wife. Apart, Nikki and Cole and struggle with the burdens thrust upon them; Together, these two may have found exactly what they need: that one person who accepts them wholeheartedly and fits them to a T. The question is, will they be able to fight for their love when needed?

Returning to her hometown isn't something Nikki Taylor ever looks forward to. She left for a reason, but visiting her older sister Renee and her niece Langley is something she needs to do. When she realizes that her niece is all alone and that her sister is nowhere to be found, leaving nothing more than a message that she'll be gone for a week, Nikki knows she has to do the right thing and stay. Not that doing the right thing has worked out for her before. But Langley needs her, and if it means having to stay in Cooperstown for a few more days then that's what she would do. The fact that her sister's next-door neighbor just happens to be the same man she had a one-night stand with two years ago should bring a smile to her face. Unfortunately, it seems that he's less than thrilled at her presence. She isn't entirely sure why he's filled with disdain every time he looks at her, but she has a pretty good idea why. She's determined to stay out of his way, but the pull to the man she's never forgotten is far stronger than either one of them had realized.

It may have been a one-night stand but nothing about that night two years ago has ever escaped Cole Dempsey's memory, and that's saying something considering his increasing tendency of forgetting things. When it dawns on him that his neighbor's sister is none other than Nichole, the girl he slept with, he quickly reconciles what he knows about Nikki, and what he knows doesn't put her in a flattering light. She could very possibly be just like his ex-wife, and Cole decides the farther away he is from her, the better. But then, the stories Renee Taylor told him about her sister don't seem to mesh with the woman he glimpses each day he sees her. She has gone above and beyond in caring for her niece and she appears to be far more genuine than he had been led to believe. Then there's the fact that he can't deny just how drawn to her he happens to be. However, with his health issues and his pending custody fight regarding his son, and his own, Cole can't help but wonder if he isn't far too broken to be with the much younger Nikki.

I so loved this story! Nikki and Cole are complex main characters, each one dealing with the ramifications of their own choices in their lives as well as having to handle those brought on by the self-serving actions and close-mindedness of those who were supposed to love them most. The story plays out in a way that I wasn't expecting, helping to keep my attention solely focused on everything that was going on from start to finish. Admittedly, I wasn't a fan of Renee's, believing that she was selfish and had a misplaced sense of loyalty to two people she shouldn't have stood by. She was also manipulative and while it may have been played off with a supposed hint of innocence later on, what she asked Nikki to sacrifice had me wanting to shake her. I did have an issue with the formatting of the novel. Since this was told from altering viewpoints that had no set arrangement, it would have been nice if the name of Nikki or Cole were placed underneath the chapter title as a heads-up. Overall, though, Breaking Skin was a fantastic five-star breakthrough read. ♥

Release Date: 24 June 2016

Date Read: 24 June 2016

Learn more about Debra Doxer.

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