Review: Naked (Body & Soul #1) by Gina Gordon

NakedTitle: Naked
Author: Gina Gordon
Series: Body & Soul #1
Rating: 4 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
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Blurb:
The deeply sensual Body & Soul series kicks off with “a fun, sexy emotional read” (Lisa Renee Jones), as one woman discovers the courage to face life’s greatest challenges—and explore her connection with a handsome neighbor.

Violet Walker has been hiding. Withdrawn after a terrible car accident, she is worried about going back to her high-pressure job, where she’s expected to project confidence and sleek refinement. Allowing herself a distraction, she’s been watching her sexy neighbor work on his house. But when the shirtless, grinning hunk catches her in the act, Violet is struck by the unmistakable jolt of physical chemistry, a sensation that’s both thrilling and terrifying.

Noah Young is used to moving from one construction job to another, never laying a firm foundation. The same goes for the women in his life—until Violet changes all that. His beautiful voyeur embraces his rough edges and shows him a hint of real love. But even Noah can tell that she’s holding back, hiding her body and her heart from what they both truly want. If only he could get a little help convincing Violet to see herself as he sees her: perfect in every way.

My Review:
This book was very thought provoking, and it definitely struck a chord with me. There were lots of subliminal messages that really made me stop and think about society’s perception of beauty and how it affects us all.

Violet never wanted to be defined by her beauty but that’s what has happened her entire life. She is a woman trying to forge a path in a very male-dominated world (construction), trying to prove she has achieved her position due to skill and intelligence, and not because of how she looks. Everyone dismisses her as beautiful – the employees in the company, the Board members, even her own mother criticizes her choices, wanting her to pursue a career that will showcase her beauty. The only person who appears to see her intelligence, strength, and determination is her father, and he is slowly disappearing in front of her eyes thanks to early-onset Alzheimers.

Violet is waging a terrible inner battle. Though she doesn’t want to be defined by her beauty it’s hard to deny it when it’s how people see her. So when that beauty is marred by tragic circumstances it’s understandable that she falls apart. Unsure of who she is, and what she should do with her life, she flees to a small town to lick her wounds.

Violet doesn’t want her flawed skin to change her outlook but it does because she has spent so long being defined by it. She could easily resort to cosmetic surgery but I admired her for not even contemplating it. I really felt Violet’s torment. She didn’t want to care that her looks were altered, but she did, and she hated herself for that.

Noah literally falls into her life one day and there’s an instant mutual attraction. He is a ‘real man,’ the kind she has never tangled with before. At her insistence, they don’t even share their last names, so their connection, at the start, is based purely on their looks and strong chemistry. Oh, the irony. But, as they get to know one another, she sees the man he is and realizes that if there is any guy she could trust with her secrets it’s him. There were tons of sexy times, which is quite out of character for Violet, but she readily gave into her wild side, and it was a great distraction from the real problems. They had great chemistry together, and I was definitely rooting for them. Noah was very sweet and patient with her, and he always knew exactly how to play it. He never pushed her to reveal what she was hiding under the scarf, giving her whatever time and space she needed. He was hoping that she would eventually open up to him. Loved him for it.

Violet does gradually start sharing more of herself, but she still struggles to fully expose herself to him. She wants to – which was progression – but she still can’t go all the way. I thought this was expertly handled and extremely well written. Her fear of being touched in certain places was raw and painful and the emotions dripped off the page. She would get so close to it, and then pull back, too afraid to go there, and it was so credible and realistic.

The characters and the complex emotions are what sold me on this story. I love a strong character- driven book with an underlying social message, which this was. The plot was fairly predictable and nothing that happened was a surprise, so I can’t say the story itself blew me away. As I said, it was Violet’s personal journey and her interaction with Noah and the other characters that hooked me.

I love Roxy, Harper, and Noah’s sister Charlotte, and I fully anticipate future books about them. I can’t wait to continue this series.

The writing was very good and the pacing was great – it flowed smoothly and I had a hard time putting it down.

I had some issues with the last 25% of the book which is why this is a 4 rather than 5-star rating, but I would still highly recommend it.

This book made me stop and think, and I always love that in a read. I felt very connected to the subject matter and I’ve been in a strong philosophical mood since I finished it. How many of us can say we aren’t bothered about how the world views us aesthetically? That we truly don’t care about our flaws? That if we were permanently scarred we wouldn’t react as Violet did? Harper had found a way to overcome society’s narrow classification of beauty, and she shone from the pages of this book.

The author included this dedication at the end which I absolutely loved – a great way to summarize the main message:

“To every person who has ever had a moment of self-doubt. May you always find the confidence to be yourself.”

There is also a very honest, heartfelt statement at the back of the book from the author in relation to her own self-esteem, and I admire her greatly for the courage in sharing that with the world. Well done on a great book, and thank you for the very entertaining and highly-emotive read, Ms. Gordon.

I’d like to thank the publisher for supplying a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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