Friday 26 April 2013

Review: The Girl Behind the Mask by Stella Knightley [Hidden Women trilogy, book 1]

Leaving the heartache of sexual betrayal behind her in London, historian Sarah Thomson intends to make the most of her research trip to Venice. But she soon finds her attention consumed by mysterious millionaire Marco Donato. Despite their deepening relationship, however, the handsome playboy persists in playing a secretive game. What exactly is Marco hiding?

The subject of Sarah's research is eighteenth-century Venetian Luciana Giordano. At a time when debauchery is the city's favourite pastime, virginal Luciana is kept out of trouble by a zealous chaperone--until she meets a man who promises to help her escape her restraints. But just what does the worldly stranger want to teach her in return? (via Goodreads)

Ever since Fifty Shades of Grey became a smash-hit, many publishers have grown the desire to replicate its success by releasing their very own version of the trilogy. While you can't blame them for this (after all, publishing is a business and they have to make money), it does annoy me that they don't generally pick very imaginative novels. For example, you might remember my review of Sylvia Day's Bared to You, where it seems as though Day hasn't gone to great lengths to separate her plot from that of Fifty Shades (the characters' names are even similar: Eva and Gideon instead of Ana and Christian!).

So when The Girl Behind the Mask arrived in the post, I admit that I was apprehensive about reading it at first glance the front cover certainly doesn't look any different to other books of its kind. But when I flipped it over and read the back, I could tell that, despite some superficial similarities, this novel would be more unique.

Reading through the chapters, it became increasingly evident that The Girl Behind the Mask wasn't just another carbon-copy. It blends together the lives of two women living in different eras present day Sarah and eighteenth century Luciana as they experience the allure of Venice, Italy for the first time.

I enjoyed the very personal feel to both stories; Luciana's is told through a series of diary entries and letters which we read alongside Sarah as she does her research. And though Sarah's narrative isn't presented in diary form, I still felt as though she was personally confiding in me as she discusses her life before and after arriving in Venice.

The sex scenes, while unambiguous, are told tastefully. The language used is subtle, rather than being explicit for the sake it (for example, there are no 'C' words here... unless you think that letter stands for the word used to name a male bird!)

Altogether, The Girl Behind the Mask is a multi-layered erotic romance novel with a difference. If you loved Fifty Shades but don't just want to read another version of it, this is probably for you. I'm looking forward to seeing what's next for Sarah in The Girl Behind the Fan!

Rating: 4 / 5