Title: Behind the Mask
Author: Carolyn Crane
Series: The Associates, book 4
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: Carolyn Crane
Source: Review copy from publisher
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?
I’m a little bias about this book, because I helped Carolyn with the Spanish and Latin American cultural aspects of the story, so this book has a very special place in my heart. Apart from that, I think this is my favorite of her books (and I love all of her books). So I’m going to give you five reasons why you should read Behind the Mask.
Carolyn really surprised me with this installment. She created her own country to set this story, she created its own people, culture and food. As a Latina I was astonished with the amount of research she did for this book and how accurate her setting was. *applauds her*
OMG! The action! The fighting scenes, the confrontations, the… I can’t say more without giving spoilers away, but everything was so vivid that reading this book felt like watching a high-octane movie.
People Hugo is my new book boyfriend! OMG! He’s the epitome of tortured hero. He thinks he doesn’t deserve anything good and is afraid of caring/loving others because of all the pain he suffered growing up. He is tough on the outside and soft on the inside, just how I like my heroes. Hugo is what I call a swoon worthy hero.
Zelda also has a tortured soul and many regrets that don’t let her be happy, but she is a fighter and will go the extra mile for those she cares about. She is the perfect match for Hugo.
The chemistry between Zelda and Hugo is off the charts, the sexual tension steams the pages, but that’s not all… Behind the Mask has one of my favorite sex scenes. OMFG! I think is one of the hottest sex scenes I have ever read. Hot! Hot! Hot!
Behind the Mask has the perfect balance of suspense and romance. Behind the Mask is what romantic suspense should be. If you are fan of the genre this is a book you need to read and even if you are not a fan of romantic suspense read it anyway, Carolyn Crane is a master storyteller and an author you should read. I guarantee you you will love it. Although Behind the Mask is part of a series, it can be easily read as a stand-alone.
My Verdict: 5 Paws
Other books in the series
Against the Dark
Into the Shadows
Behind the Mask
Other reviews Goodreads
Conversation with Carolyn Crane
Marcela! First I just want to thank you for how much amazing help you were on the Spanish and cultural aspects of Behind the Mask (which is set in a tiny fictional South American country). Anyway, I thought it would be good to debrief together on this process, because it was fun and fascinating (and kind of humbling) and you completely helped bring it to life.
Remember how you helped spot-correct my Spanish flubs on a previous book? But this was the first time we collaborated together from the start where you looked at the language as well as the cultural aspects—music, food, geography, all of that. It is weird for somebody to write about a region where you’re from and be kind of clueless about it? I was trying to imagine how it would be, like if somebody from Mars was trying to write about what it’s like to live in Minneapolis.
I remember helping you with the previous book and offering you my help with future books. You don’t know how painful it is for me to read books in which the Spanish is slaughtered or when Latin America is wrongfully represented.
OMG, I can only imagine! I have a confession – I was a little worried giving it to you, because there is this whole cartel subplot in it, and I was thinking that you must be super tired of Americans associating Colombia and its neighbors with the drug trade. I didn’t tell you that, but I was relieved that you didn’t seem to be annoyed at all, you were just into making the story good.
Is that kind of what bugs you the most? I think in the American media Colombia especially gets painted with the cocaine cartel brush. If you could change that, how would it change? What should it be known for?
Yes! It bugs me a lot. We as Colombians have suffered many years because of the drug trafficking. The Pablo Escobar times were very dark times for us. I think every Colombian lost or knows somebody who lost a family member or a friend due to a bomb or kidnapping. So I really hate it when people take lightly our suffering and makes fun of it, drug trafficking and its repercussions are not a joke to us.
Luckily, since Pablo Escobar’s death -more than 20 years ago- my country has improved dramatically. To the point that in the last years Colombia has been named one of the best countries in South America to do business and Forbes magazine named one of the top 10 destinations in the world to visit in 2015.
The only way to change the way people see Colombia is by educating people about our new reality and asking them to visit Colombia. The only risk in Colombia is wanting to stay.
What should it be known for? Colombia should be known for its coffee, for its emeralds (Colombia is by far the world's largest producer), for its biodiversity (four richest country in biological diversity in the world), for its beautiful women (Sofia Vergara, Miss Universe Paulina Vega…), for its music (Shakira, Juanes, Fonseca, Carlos Vives…), for its athletes (James Rodriguez, Mariana Pajón, Juan Pablo Montoya…). I could keep going, but I guess with those you can get an idea. My country is a beautiful country with amazing and talented people. Okay, I’m stopping right here because this is starting to look like a Colombian advertisement.
Your book didn’t bug me, though. Actually, I have to thank you for trusting me and allowing me to help you with the Spanish and cultural aspects of Behind the Mask. I had a lot of fun doing it, more than I have expected.
It was fun for me, too, and really helpful. Getting things right in a book just gives it more the ring of truth. And my characters are no longer doing things like eating appetizers (empanadas) for dinner and I no longer have a city named “to search” Lol. (Buscara. You suggested Bumcara, which I love. You thought of a lot of good place names.)
What’s more, this whole conversation made me change this bit in the final version – it used to be that the drug-running guerrillas in the book were roaming around the whole region, but I tweaked it so that the drug runners and coca growers are getting pushed out of places like Colombia and ending up in Valencia, which I think is more accurate and up to date of a scenario, and it actually works better for my plot – it makes them more desperate to annex Valencian land. It’s funny to me that the more accurate I make a book, the better plotwise it works. Or maybe I’ve been lucky!
What you said before about writing about Mars is a perfect example, I have to give it to you, you have a great imagination. Despite writing about an unknown place you did a great job. I know you are one of those authors who does a lot of research for her books and that was very clear in Behind the Mask. Of course, there were some mistakes, but those were things that only locals or people who have been to Latin America will notice. I’m not talking about your Spanish, though. We have to talk about your Spanish.
OMG do we have to talk about my Spanish? I had it in high school, but as you see, I’m hopeless. I think you speak three languages fluently—English, Spanish and Turkish—which is so amazing to me. I totally have to set a book in Turkey now so we can do this again.
I love that idea. Okay, we don’t have to talk about your Spanish if you write a book set in Turkey. For that you’ll have to come visit me, of course, just for research purposes. *winks*
I have to ask you, why did you decide to write about a fictional country?
It was a hard decision. I wrote about a real place in Off the Edge (Bangkok) and I want continuity in the series like for the level of realism. But I knew I wanted to create a specific history of civil war and a specific landscape with specific political players—the panorama of this book is just larger, in a way, so in the end, I had to go with whatever choice would give me the most artistic freedom for the story itself. Also, it was practical from a speed standpoint. I knew that I knew so little about that area that the research alone would add a couple months to the writing process. And I’m a horribly slow writer.
What was the most interesting thing you discover in your research about Latin America (culture, food, language)?
So much! How much the food varies, even from Colombia to Ecuador to Peru, for example. I’m embarrassed to say I imagined the food would be more like Mexican food. And hello, Colombians have salsa rosada, a mix of ketchup and mayo. Marcela, why don’t we have that here? Also, researching the music was fun, just getting a flavor of the playful aesthetics of the youth culture was really interesting. I didn’t realize about the microclimates, how wildly they vary from one place to another, like you get jungle, arid mountaintop and beach all in one small area. This is a stunningly beautiful area of the world – I’d sometimes go on Google satellite street view and click down real life streets and imagine where Hugo and Zelda would stop for meals and the roads they’d take going from place to place. I definitely want to travel to Colombia now—that was where most of my research was.
I love salsa rosada and it’s so easy to make. I always add a dash of mustard; it gives it a little extra kick.
Let me know when you are ready to go to Colombia. I can recommend you the best places to see, eat and stay. I’m sure you are going to love my beautiful country.
Marcela, I want to thank you for going above and beyond the call of duty in a few parts – I think you know what I mean. Sometimes I run out of gas trying to think of sexy things, and at one point I had this:
“She grabbed him at the root and pulled. He groaned and shoved into her hand. “[Dirty Spanish exclamation].” Seriously, how evil of me was that? And you delivered!! And elsewhere I wanted something like “let me in” and you gave me entrégate a mi (give yourself to me, which is one of my fave things my hero says. Give yourself to me!) Did you just groan? Was that the hardest part to do of what I asked you?
I think the hardest part was that scene. OMG! I never thought it would be so difficult to find the perfect words to make a smexy scene sound real, sexy and hot. *bows deeply in admiration* And you exceed that in Behind the Mask. I think Behind the Mask has one of the hottest scenes I have ever read. Just thinking about it makes me feel like I need a very cold shower.
You’re a blogger, reviewer and avid reader of romance and paranormal and urban fantasy. Do you find yourself coming at translation and cultural things a little bit differently because of this background? Like, compared to a business or marketing person or something?
I think so. Spanish is a very tricky language. One word can have a meaning in one country and a very different and sometimes insulting meaning in another. For that reason, I tried to keep the Spanish as neutral as possible, so every word has the same meaning for everybody. That’s something I had problems before with other books. Another thing that I took in consideration was who was speaking. In Spanish we talk different to strangers than to people we know and care about. That is something people don’t usually take in consideration when doing translations. Actually, I did the translations first and then read the book, after reading the book I had to change some parts I had already translated because they didn’t fit with the relationship between the characters; but that is something you won’t know until you read the book.
So I can say, the biggest difference between a business or marketing translation to this kind is that you have to take the story and the feelings and relationships between the characters into consideration and that is something a non-reader wouldn’t think of doing. I’m not saying that will be a wrong translation, no. Technically it will be correctly, but it would not convey the proper emotion.
I feel like you really did that with what we were doing. Thank you so much for working with me on this. I so deeply appreciated it. And had fun! What do we say in our emails now? Abrazos! Gracias and abrazos, Marcela.
Thanks to you for trusting me. I really appreciate it… and it was my pleasure, I really loved working with you and loved reading your book.
Many abrazos for you too.