“Don’t you find that a terribly romantic idea? Love stealing in to overtake two people who’d believed they were merely friends?” ― Cecilia Grant
Title: Behind the Mask
Author: Lisa Worrall
Pages/Word Count: 80 Pages
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Blurb: The Downe’s Valentine’s Day Masquerade Ball has been an annual event for over a hundred
years and where, four years ago, Gabe met Mike. It’s been over six months since Mike’s death and Mike thinks that Gabe is ready to move on. How does Gabe know this? He receives a letter and a ticket to the ball, from Mike. Gabe isn’t sure he’ll ever be ready to move on, but in deference to Mike’s memory, he attends the ball.
What Gabe doesn’t know, is that his best friend, Tom, the one constant in his life since college, has also received a letter from Mike.
Will Gabe be able to move forward and remember a long forgotten love, or will his world come crumbling down around his ears, again?
Review: First of all, thank you ever so much, Lisa Worrall, for making me cry without any forewarning whatsoever. Well played, you.
This is my first and only reading of Behind the Mask, which the author has recently revised, reedited, and rereleased, so while I can’t say what this book was like before, I can say with some authority now that it’s terribly beautiful. Told in a series of flashbacks, it’s the story of a man whose life has come full circle. Part tragedy and part hope, Gabriel Schofield has known great love in his life, first an unrequited love for his best friend Tom Mansfield, then with Mike Kavanagh, the Prince Charming who comes along and sweeps Gabe off his feet. Four years later, Mike succumbs to cancer, but not before he has the chance to reach back from the grave and orchestrate a dance he’d unapologetically cut in on all those years before.
The pain Lisa Worrall delivers in this book is both sweet and sublime. This story wouldn’t have been the same without the ghost of Mike’s presence reaching out through the letters he ensured both Tom and Gabe received posthumously. He was a character who never spent more than a moment on the page in those flashbacks, but he was a fully realized presence in this romance, clever and entirely charming, and an integral cog in setting in motion the future he wouldn’t be there to witness.
Watching Tom and Gabe war internally with their love for each other, a love neither knew the other felt and neither was brave enough to express at the possible expense of their friendship, was both nerve-wracking and painful to witness, but it was also the single most important factor in making Behind the Mask a book you’re likely to finish in a single sitting. Its eighty pages may not equate to a huge word count, but every single one of its words equates to big emotions and builds upon the anticipation of seeing whether Gabe and Tom can overcome all the pain their fear and hesitation has caused, the misunderstandings they created because of that fear and hesitation, and the grief they feel at losing someone they both loved, a someone who knew without being told that there was a deep and abiding love between them.
Lisa Worrall unmasks not one but two love stories in this simple but lovely little story: the sort of all consuming love that binds two souls together, and the sort of uplifting love that binds two hearts together in friendship.
I don’t read a lot of contemporary romance, but I’m glad I took a chance on Behind the Mask and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it the next time you’re in the mood for a few tears, both the sad and happy kind.
You can buy Behind the Mask here: