I generally review romance, paranormal and urban fantasy. I tend to pick review books that I want to read, so generally my reviews will be positive. I always give my honest opinion: good, bad, and indifferent.
Note: on my blog I use a letter grading system. I've listed the ratings below. For sites with stars, I have listed the equivalent rating. If I didn't finish the book, I will not rate it with stars.
A+ Personal Favorite (5 stars)
A Loved It (4.5 or 5 stars)
A- Enjoyed A Lot (4 or 4.5 stars)
B+ Liked It A Lot (4 stars)
B Liked It -- Recommend (4 stars)
B- Liked It -- But I had a few small issues (3 or 3.5 stars)
C+ Liked It -- But I had issues (3 or 3.5 stars)
C Finished It -- Liked some, didn't like some (3 stars)
C- Finished It -- Liked a little, didn't like a lot (2 or 2.5 stars)
D Not A Big Fan (2 stars)
E Don’t Waste Your Time (1 star)
TW: Reading this book was like watching a Train Wreck
DNF: Did Not Finish
updated July 9, 2015
As a former CIA agent and co-founder of The Associates, Zelda knows she has no choice but to step in on behalf of her twin sister Liza, who is going to be “loaned to” a Mexican drug cartel for the weekend. Although she hasn’t been undercover in six years, since the mission that broke her, she understands that getting into Brujos' territory would save countless lives. However, when things go horribly wrong and Zelda is further traded to the dangerous El Gorrion cartel, she realizes that she may have to break cover and escape.
Hugo is a loaner, but enjoys his isolated life outside of Buena Vista, Valencia. However, when El Gorrion’s men threaten the town and its rare savincas crop, Hugo knows he must resurrect a dangerous ghost from his past. When he finds an American prostitute among the men he goes after, he decides to take her captive to help him around the house, seeing something more in her eyes that the woman she claims to be.
I absolutely love The Associates series, and think Behind the Mask may be my favorite title of the series. I love how the author parcels out clues and information, while the reader waits to see how it will all play out. The suspenseful storyline is intelligent and exciting. And Ms. Crane’s story makes me feel. There were parts when I was afraid to read the book because I knew it would have to get bad before it got good. Bringing me into the world and keeping me so emotionally and mentally engaged made for a very rewarding read. Additionally, there are some intense scenes between Zelda and her co-founder, Dax, that are all the more powerful for those who’ve read the series from the beginning.
I completely adored both main characters. Even though she’s one of the Associates’ founders, we’ve never really known anything about Zelda, so she felt like a fresh, new character to me. She is haunted, and this journey is very cathartic. Since part of the story is shared from her POV, the reader is privy to the wide array of emotions and steps she must go through to begin to heal. Her passion and inner-fire were a complete joy to read.
Likewise, Hugo had his own path of self-discovery, realizing that the ghosts he’d laid to rest are still under the surface. His attraction to Zelda is so strong when he knows her as Liza, that both Zelda and this reader realize that when he finds out her secrets, things will get ugly. And they do. But the key to what makes Behind the Mask such a successful story and romance is that the author doesn’t cheapen the emotional reactions, rather she allows the characters to work through the rough patches and get to the other side. And together - WOW!!! This pair is so full of explosive chemistry, it made the proverbial pages catch fire. And although this could have been written as a huge case of Stockholm syndrome, Ms. Crane builds the romance around an equality; one that is a bit unconventional, but both characters are on equal standing.
Overall, I really enjoyed Behind the Mask, and it is one of my favorite books of 2015. Ms. Crane pens a darkly twisted, yet heartbreakingly beautiful romance. The intensity between Zelda and Hugo is off the charts because they are two people with everything to lose and willing to give up their lives to protect it. The suspenseful story is riveting and well-played, with an ideal balance between action, torture, mind games, and love. I strongly encourage you to pick up The Associates series!
My Rating: A+, Loved It - Personal Favorite
Review copy provided by author
Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About