Truth Behind the Mask
By Lesley Davis
Sept. 15, 2008
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
High above the city, a young guardian searches for the enemy...and finds love.
In a city rife with evil, masked protectors secretly watch over the inhabitants, keeping the citizens safe while hiding their own identity. One young Sentinel, however, violates her oath and loses her heart to the woman she is charged to protect. By day, Pagan Osborne is a shy security specialist working in the family business. By night, as a Sentinel, she fulfils a greater family legacy and battles the criminals who threaten Chastilian's peace. Erith Baylor, a fiery young woman with her own secrets to hide, is drawn to Pagan's quiet charm and silent strength. But with so many secrets between them, their attraction could break the ties of family and finally reveal the truth behind the mask.
I was so attracted to this book that I bought it twice unknowingly. I found the blurb intriguing. I thought maybe it’s a dark or intense urban fantasy type story. My overall feeling about this book though is that it was missing something in the way of the intensity I was hoping for. I found myself wishing the characters were darker, edgier and not so… nice.
Truth Behind the Mask started out great. I loved the setup. Pagan is sent to a car dealership to set up a high-tech security system. The owner is totally freaked by events going on and the fact that some of his high-end cars have been stolen. By day she works for her sister and her partner’s security company. But by night, she, her much older sister and sister’s partner watch over the city as Sentinels.
In this car dealership she meets Erith. Erith is different. She’s not shy, she dresses a bit Gothish and has flaming red hair. Something about Erith attracts Pagan. Erith is also attracted. Pagan is tall, very tall, and there’s something about her that intrigues Erith. She quickly finds out that Pagan is deaf and not reacting to that in a negative way turns Pagan on a bit more.
These two women dance around each other, flirting, but never doing anything overt while Pagan sets up the system. It’s clear though that Erith has some problems. Pagan sees bruises on her and flips out. Watching over her one night on her perch atop a building, she sees Erith getting beaten by her father and this enrages her.
Unfortunately Pagan has to keep her secret. And her sister and partner are warning her that it’s not OK to get involved with someone whom she is protecting. But she can’t help herself and breaks the rules bringing Erith to their secret home and world.
Erith also has a big secret. It’s a secret that’s found out fairly quickly. This is one of the things that I wish was played out a bit more for some tension, any kind of tension between the women. Once Erith finds out about Pagan and what she does and Pagan and her sister know Erith’s secret, about the ½ way point, the story lost a lot of steam for me.
I liked the characters themselves. Pagan is a rather innocent person considering the trauma she suffered as a child and her job as a crime fighter. You’d think she’d be toughened up and jaded, but she’s not. She was brought up by her older sister Melina and her partner Rogue in a loving and almost insolated way. She comes across as rather pure in how she thinks and acts.
Erith is a tech genius of sorts who has been recruited by her father to work on tech things he needs and is more familiar with the criminal element of Chastilian even if innocent. Her father is a major abuser and usually takes his anger out on her mother. He constantly threatens that he will hurt her mother if she doesn’t obey or, he beats her himself so she feels trapped. And yet, she still feels like she has to deal with her father, have some kind of relationship or closure after escaping. She’s strong but vulnerable in that area. She's also somewhat unpredictable.
I think my favorite character is Rogue because she’s the toughest and has the most grit. Where Pagan will try not to do harm in fighting crime, Rogue will do what she has too. Melina, Pagan’s sister, didn’t really stand out for me in a striking way except that Rogue and Melina and how they relate is a huge part of this story. Family and loyalty to family are huge themes from both good and bad guy sides.
The plot of the Sentinels fighting the uber nepharious, sinister, evil Phoenix who’s out to destroy the city of Chastilian is fairly interesting but not too unique. There’s really not much world building, meaning, the Sentinels, including the Sighted, what they do and who they are is explained in briefest of terms and straightforwardly. And there are major plot holes. There’s no reference to time although clearly it’s not current time or it’s in an alternate contemporary higher tech universe. And there’s no reference to any society outside of the city of Chastilian. So it does have a comic book feel to it with its super hero vs. villain in an insular city situation.
The main issue I had with this book was that there was way too much mushy talking about feelings and love. I know to most that would sound great, but it’s like one big love fest after everyone’s secret is out. It suffers just a little too much sweetness for me. From the midpoint on, when the action sort of stops and the emoting begins I lost interest. I managed to keep reading and it does pick up again.
The romance between Pagan and Erith suffered for me because of that as well. I liked how they slowly come together. Neither knowing if the other one is gay but throwing out little hints they are. Both girls are rather innocent in the romance dept. and that part was great. And it does develop slowly on the physical level. They share a room but don’t sleep together even though they profess their love for each other over and over. I mean once that happened, there was no reason to hope they’d get together anymore and it lost its steam.
I kept thinking (hoping) there’d be a glitch with Erith after telling Pagan the truth. But it’s all flowers and roses. The main foil for these two is the possibility of Pagan succumbing to the dangerous nature of her job, which wasn't enough for me.
I think if you like really, really sweet love stories with a bit of action in them and characters who are strong and independent, and set in an unique, alternate world, then this book will work for you. For the most part I enjoyed it even with the issues and I’d read another of this author’s books.
Heat Level- 3/4- there’s really only one sex scene that’s written in sensual way.
Grade- Between- it was OK and I liked it.