Apr 5 2017 1:00pm

Adriana Anders’ Blank Canvas Series: “Dark, Smart, and Full of Heart”

3 Defining Characteristics from Adriana Anders' Blank Canvas Series!

Debut author Adriana Anders’s Blank Canvas series has popped up on my radar several times lately. Gorgeous covers with tattooed skin and provocative taglines. Rave reviews and tattoos… Wait, I already mentioned the tats. They’re important, though! These darker stories haven’t been my go-to in the last year or so because I’ve been burned by heroes that I felt were controlling and abusive. Does this sound like you? Well, have no fear: these books are the dark romances you’ve been waiting for.

Under Her Skin by Adriana Anders

The Ink

This post is based entirely on the first two books in the series, Under Her Skin and By Her Touch. They both take place in the small town of Blackwood, Virginia and feature one protagonist who lives in the town and one who comes to town seeking the help of the local dermatologist, who specializes in tattoo removal. In both cases, the tattoos were involuntary, though both characters have voluntary tattoos as well.

I have some ink. I chose it and I love it. I drew it on my skin for weeks before making it permanent. The idea of being inked against my will is horrifying. In Under Her Skin, Uma has been tattooed by an abusive boyfriend. The tats are all over her body, saying crude things like “mine” and “bitch.” She starts the book completely incapable of looking at her own body. In By Her Touch, Clay was inked ON HIS FACE by the sadistic biker who discovered his undercover cop identity.

The Feels

If the tattoos and the abuse all sound awful, it’s because they are. You’re supposed to have this visceral feeling of repulsion. Uma and Clay both have PTSD symptoms (Clay has been diagnosed and refuses his meds) and both are hiding in Blackwood to escape both the people and the memories that chase them.

Side note: I give major props to Anders for handling PTSD in a responsible way. Too often, I see men just “working through” their PTSD and it perpetuates a falsehood that our soldiers (and people in general) don’t deserve. If you have questions, this is a decent starting point.

Uma’s match, Ive, and Clay’s match, George(tte), also have demons. One is an ex-con and the other lost her husband to cancer and hasn’t been able to live her life for a decade. Heartbreak all around.

I know, I know. I’m selling the books real well. Here’s the thing: these are not the only feels in these books. The sexual chemistry as these characters reclaim their bodies and their lives is off-the-charts. The tenderness from both heroes and the explicit consent from all parties are so important and present. Anders breaks her characters (and readers) down into little pieces and then puts them back together in a new shape that’s both complete and strong.

The Hope

By Her Touch by Adriana Anders

Anders uses the removal of the involuntary ink as a physical representation of the slow and painful emotional healing process that Clay and Uma undergo. The fact that George is doing both for Clay (removing his ink and healing his pain) is certainly not lost on readers. The removal of the tattoos doesn’t feel like a throwaway plot device, but neither does it magically fix our characters. Uma has to learn to trust again. Ive has to believe that he’s worth something. Clay is so lost, I can’t sum up his needs in one sentence. George has guilt and grief and a tendency towards isolation working against her. Of course, love conquers all. These books are both romances and you’ll get your HEA.

The process they all go through turned out to be much more inspiring than I expected, however. I found myself thinking that maybe, with friends and a little kindness, we can make things better. You see, the side characters are real people you might meet in your own town. I loved the romance and the main plot, but I think I was most interested in the way the secondary characters (many of whom appear in both books) shape the decisions of the protagonists. Ive’s sister has been through her own hell and come out the other side. She’s a grounding influence for both Ive and George. The Sherriff is a man who genuinely cares about his community and sets a positive example for Clay and Ive. The salty old lady in Under Her Skin? She was awful and wonderful at the same time.

In summary, Under Her Skin is a story about an ex-con and a battered woman coming together to find strength and love. By Her Touch is a story about an undercover ATF agent/biker in hiding and the dermatologist who’s helping remove his tattoos coming together to find redemption and love. They’re beautifully written, sexy as hell, and will break your heart in the best way. 

Learn more about or order a copy of the books in Adriana Anders's Black Canvas series:

Under Her Skin
By Her Touch

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When not reading All of the Things, Suzanne is raising two small valkyries and trying to open a bookstore. Book, comic, and assorted other tweets at @cerestheories.

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1 comment
1. Kareni
I'm looking forward to reading Under Her Skin (which happens to be free today for Kindle readers). Thanks for your thoughtful review, Suzanne.
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