Elisabeth Lane's Reviews > Behind the Mask

Behind the Mask by Carolyn Crane
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it was amazing

Behind the Mask is an exceptionally powerful book. Both the adventure and the romance were believable and the hero and heroine, Hugo and Zelda, were both just as damaged as I like my characters. But it's also an exceedingly dark book, and in the end, just too dark for me.

And darkness is unquestionably the intent. I don't want to make it sound like this book was in any way unsuccessful--I've given it five stars because it deserves it. The quality is absolutely not an issue. Crane is a master and she's done here exactly what she set out to do--to push the envelope just a little bit more than in previous books. My impression that they have been getting darker as the series goes on and the hints that have been dropped about two other eventual heroes is that they're going to get darker still.

But here's what I liked. I especially appreciate Crane's handling of Zelda, who is a professional spy and a force in a way that most heroines are definitely not allowed to be. Zelda can and does take everything. It's the main thing I've loved about these books: the heroines aren't coddled. They're all effective at what they're trained to do and not exploited for the shock effect of violence against women. They just have dangerous jobs and/or important goals that put them in harm's way. When they're hurt or tortured, it seems like part of the job rather than women in refrigerators.

And the heroines are so powerful that they're all paired with men who are not just strong, they're legendary--feared by everyone. This is epic level stuff. I didn't think Hugo was quite as vividly drawn as Thorne in the previous Associates book, but that's a quibble. We still understand exactly where his strengths and vulnerabilities lie and why. He's forceful and protective, not just of Zelda, but of anything he claims as his. Any lover of alpha heroes will adore him, but his profound vulnerability and eventual tenderness kept him from feeling like a caricature to me, as a lot of RS heroes seem to.

My specific problem with this book was that there were two scenes that contained a level of violence, both physical and emotional, that were exceedingly disturbing. While I accept the scenes' roles in the story--they weren't gratuitous--it was simply too much for me. Even the entirely convincing happy ending was insufficiently cleansing. I left this one feeling soiled rather than uplifted. And that's not what I'm personally looking for from my romance reading. And that's okay. There's lots of books and lots of readers out there. But I think without specific assurances from other reviewers I trust once future books have been released, I'll be parting ways with Dax and Company here.

I'm sad because the writing is terrific. Unfortunately, it's a bit like the TV show Hannibal was: terrifying, amazing, excellent, but in the end, just too much for me.
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Reading Progress

May 26, 2015 – Shelved
May 26, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
June 29, 2015 – Started Reading
June 30, 2015 – Finished Reading

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Maria Rose It totally wowed me :-)


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