Intrusion (Under the Skin)
Avon Red Impulse / November 4, 2014 / $2.99 digital
I believed I would never be able to trust any man again. That kindness was only for fools and would lead me down that same terrible path into darkness. I thought so with every fiber of my being—and then I met Noah Gideon Grant.
Everyone says he’s dangerous. He never comes out of his house—a place that looks like it could be featured in Serial Killers Monthly. But the thing is … I think something happened to him too. I know the chemistry between us isn’t just in my head. I know he feels it, but he’s holding back. The pleasure he gives me is unreal—if only I could give something in return. If only he would let me in. I think I can make him feel something good. And for the first time in forever, I want to.
He’s made a labyrinth of himself. Now all I need to do is dare to find my way through.
If there is one thing Charlotte Stein is a master of, it’s the slow burn in romance, specifically building up sexual tension until you and her protagonists cannot take any more. Stein’s latest, Intrusion, is no exception. Her latest hero is definitely quixotic; the first time the heroine meets him, he's walking around at night. He’s unusually perceptive, his hair is a mess, and he’s not quite there all the time. Yet something draws the heroine to Noah, despite the fact that she initially thinks he’s a dognapper.
Noah and Beth connect on some crazy deep psychological level. If any reader is wondering what inspired this novel, it’s definitely Silence of the Lambs. The iconic movie and its iconic heroine, Clarice, are referenced by Beth throughout the work. Unlike Clarice, however, Beth may or may not be on the trail of a serial killer in the guise of a particularly unusual hero. And also unlike Clarice, Beth develops a romantic relationship and attachment to her mysterious neighbor. The sexual tension is palapable and is broke in the softest of touches and most innocent of caresses that quickly turn naughty.
The mystery of who Noah is and what he does is at the heart of this novel as Beth sorts out his oddities: the sleepwalking, the myriad of mechanical parts lying about his house, and how someone so smart seems to have so many secrets. Beth is a typical Stein heroine in that she’s timid as to how to approach the situation but goes ahead and does so anyway. Beth’s past is also a bit of a mystery, but it’s fair to say she’s been burned before so taking a chance on her very odd neighbor is astonishingly brave. For those worried about Beth’s dog, it’s fine. Intrusion poses a darker and suspenseful novel compared to Stein's previous forays into the New Adult genre. It also does not focus on a particular kink like some of her other contemporary romances do. Instead, the reader becomes the voyeur looking in on Noah and Beth’s relationship.
Taking inspiration from something as deep and psychological as Silence of the Lambs can be risky, especially if you go into the story expecting Noah to be a Hannibal Lector redeemed, (spoiler alert: he’s not). Instead, the book’s plot does not mirror that of the famous tale of cannibalism but rather the suspenseful mystery. Stein draws the reader into a microcosm that is Noah and Beth’s own little intimate world. Outside of each other, the pair does not have a lot of interactions, if any with the outside world, (no, Beth’s dog doesn’t count). The whole setting is a sleepy little neighborhood with somewhat weird neighbors that adds to the suspense of the story.
Without going into too much detail, the big reveal behind Noah’s backstory is pretty wonderful and explains all his eccentricities. What’s nice about Beth is she doesn’t try to save Noah from himself; Noah’s not necessarily broken, more like a little battered with some nicks and dents. Beth is willing to accept Noah and intimacy with him on terms that both he and she are comfortable with. In fact, Beth could turn into the aggressor at any point in time, but she refrains from taking things too far. The slight hesitations at moving forward with particular kinds of touches and physical intimacy give it Stein's signature sexual tension.
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Sahara Hoshi reviews for Wicked Lil Pixie and is a lifelong reader of romance. Favorite genres include new adult, paranormal romance, contemporary romance and erotica.