Review: Behind the Mask by Carolyn Crane


Title: Behind the Mask (The Associates #4)
Author: Carolyn Crane
Date of publication: 19 May 2015
Genre: Romantic suspense

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My rating: 4.5 Stars


To save her twin sister she must switch places with her...

When her long lost sister—a prostitute—is won in a card game by a brutal drug cartel, Zelda knows what she has to do: take her place. Save her. Focus on infiltrating the shadowy group on behalf of the Associates, and try not to think about why she left the spying game years ago. She’s slept with dangerous criminals before; she can do it again. 

Hugo Martinez is one of South America’s most lethal and wanted men, a legendary mercenary living on a windswept mountain. Even at the height of the war he wasn’t in the habit of taking women captive, but the American whore has seen his face. And he and the orphan boy need a cook. He shouldn’t want this woman, but there’s something so unusual about her…

Little by little, Zelda finds herself falling for her captor…but is he the killer she’s been hunting all these years?


Trigger warning for torture/interrogation

This is the fourth book in the Associate series of romantic suspense stories and I have read and enjoyed all of them though I haven't reviewed them on the blog. Most of the things that I can say about this latest installment holds true for the previous books as well.

This book, like the rest in the series, can be read as a standalone, but I think they are all worthy of your time and if you like well plotted and character driven romantic suspense, you should definitely give this series a try. 

Behind the Mask is really dark at times as both the hero and heroine have been through a lot and struggle with the daemons of their pasts. It's their shared darkness in way, coupled with their caring nature that brings them together. 

The story is told from dual POV and the insight into the minds both of Zelda and Hugo worked really well for drawing me into the story. I loved seeing so much of their thought processes and the day they changed through the story.

Zelda is an amazing heroine. She is one of the Associates, strong, independent, but hurt and carrying guilt and scars that can never be healed or forgotten. There is determination and violence about her that are to not common for romantic heroines. Yet she was not cold or heartless, an Ice Queen of sorts, but rather a very vibrant woman full of feels some of which she tried to deny and hide. 

Hugo is even darker than her, assassin, merciless on his enemies, lost in his own world of pain and regret and guilt. Yet, like Zelda, this is mostly on the surface, very deep down he is selfless, ready to sacrifice  himself for the people he loved. 

Their romance and connection was violent and rough and the few tender moments they shared stood out even more. The author pushed my boundaries in many ways - the graphic violence and torture were hard to read, the issue of redemption and second chance stood out prominently and left me thinking about it long after I finished the book

The whole botanical/farming aspect of the story was more than mere curious addition to the plot. It gave the whole story a much needed lightness, a sense of re-birth and hope for the future,

The suspense element was really strong and I found it quite intriguing. It was full plot twists and did keep me on the edge most of the time while reading. The Associates are rather an unpredictable bunch when it comes to following orders.

We see more of Dax (the head of the Associates) in this book than in the previous ones and I find myself impatient to read his story. By the looks of it, it will be even darker and more violent than Zelda's which is equally scary and exciting.

Purchase links: AmazoniBooks | Nook | Smashwords | Kobo | ARE 

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