Thursday, May 21, 2015

Carolyn Crane's Behind the Mask Blog Tour: Review and Giveaway

 Behind the Mask is the fourth book in Carolyn Crane's romantic suspense series, The Associates, about a private covert intelligence organization based in New York, but operating all over the world. The men and women of The Association are all highly trained, incredibly dangerous, and they have some very interesting specialties. I'm a big fan of the series, so I'm excited to be hosting a stop on the blog tour.

Behind the Mask
(The Associates #4)
Carolyn Crane
Release: May 19, 2015

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?
Carolyn Crane excels at creating characters that live in the gray areas. The agents of The Association go undercover in criminal organizations and have to do some Very Bad Things in order to serve the greater good. Zelda is the co-founder of The Association and a former CIA agent. Hugo, the hero, is a former mercenary and assassin. He takes out an airfield full of cartel soldiers single-handedly in one of the best action scenes I've read recently, but he also cares about his adopted son and the villagers in his adopted home town.

Crane also does a great job of keeping romance tropes from feeling cliché. Behind the Mask is in many ways a twisted Beauty and the Beast story. Hugo has the same violent tendencies and poor social skills as Beast. His physical damage is less obvious at first, but his physical scars serve as constant reminders of the emotional ones. However, his Beauty has her own scars which reflect her own psychological trauma, so they bond by sharing those experiences.

Zelda's backstory was unexpected after the little glimpses of her I've seen in the previous books. I never would have guessed how damaged she was. And I was surprised by her specialty - forensic botany. One of the things I love about this series is the oddball skills that each of the agents have. I also really enjoyed Zelda's scenes with Dax, her co-leader. I was surprised how messed up he is, despite his wealthy, polished appearance, and I'm looking forward to learning more about him later in the series.

Zelda's relationship with Hugo is incredibly intense and emotional. He essentially takes her prisoner, but she accepts that as part of the role she's playing. Their relationship is never really adversarial, even when he's about to kill her, because they understand each other so well. And their insane chemistry certainly doesn't hurt either. The romance is sometimes uncomfortable, but it's always compelling. Even when you're crying your eyes out, you won't be able to put this book down!

The only thing about the story that I didn't like is Zelda's original plan. She takes her sister's place in order to gain intel on the cartel. That part makes perfect sense. She then plans to trade that intel to pirates so that they can trade it to someone else. This will somehow prevent the pirates from blowing up an oil tanker. It's not that I didn't understand the plan so much as I thought it was unnecessarily complicated, and that bothered me. However, it's a pretty minor point in the story.

I hardly ever read a series out of order, but I happened to with The Associates and I don't feel like I missed anything by doing so. You could definitely pick up Behind the Mask if you haven't read the rest of the series. I would recommend reading Off the Edge (book 2) before Into the Shadows (book 3,) however, as there is a really great reveal at the end of book 2 that would lose some impact.

Recommended for fans of: dark, gritty romance, damaged heroes and heroines

ARC provided by the author

4 1/2 stars

Carolyn Crane is giving away one $75.00 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble (winner’s choice & open internationally) and thirty-two Digital Copies of either Against the Dark, Off the Edge or Into the Shadows (winner’s choice & open internationally)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author

I am a RITA-winning author of romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and other tales of love and adventure (and erotic & dark romance as NYT bestselling author Annika Martin). My books have been published by Random House and Samhain, and I also go the indie route. I work a straight job as a marketing writer, I love to read in bed and run, I’m passionate about helping animals, and I make my home in Minnesota with my husband and two cats.

Blog Tour Stops

Monday, May 18, 2015
Straight Shooting Book Reviews (Excerpt):
Romance Junkies (Excerpt):
Ramblings From This Chick (Guest Post):
Under the Covers Book Blog (Guest Post):
Lush Book Reviews (Excerpt):
Badass Book Reviews (Review):
Urban Girl Reader (Excerpt):

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Happiness is a book (Review):
Reading by the Book (Excerpt):
That's What I'm Talking About (Review):
Cricket's Chirps (Review):
The Romance Dish (Review):
The Book Review (Review):

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Em & M Books (Excerpt):
Ex Libris (Guest Post):
Herding Cats & Burning Soup (Interview):
The Book Nympho (Review):
Long and Short Reviews (Excerpt):
Love Affair with an E-Reader (Review):

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Paranormal Haven (Interview):
Becky on Books (Review):
So Many Reads (Excerpt):
Angela Quarles Blog (Excerpt):
Goldilox and the Three Weres (Review):

Friday, May 22, 2015

Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell (Review):
Blogging by Liza (Excerpt):
Bring Your Own Book Club (BYOB) (Review):
Peaces of Me (Interview):
Ariesgrl Book Reviews (Excerpt):
C. K. Crouch (Review):

1 comment:

  1. My favorite romantic suspense stories are with a special ops hero and a strong heroine who makes the hero realize he had more patience than God! LOL


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