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Behind the Baron's Mask*

Who Was that Masked Man?

This book started off really well for me. The hero, Henry, is a Darcy like one. He shuns society except when forced by his friend. Like Darcy, he tends to either skulk around the edges of a ballroom or hang out in the back. He is a baron with a secret; he writes Adventure novels. He is very dedicated to his task, preferring to spend nearly all of his time writing to just about any other activity. The heroine, Cecilia, is just starting her third season, and her social-climbing parents are demanding that she marry this year. She is determined to find a love match, which is why she has turned down past suitors. She not only wants love but companionship and a true meeting of minds (including the arts because she is an avid pianoforte player). At a masquerade, she meets a mysterious man who says all the right things, but they part before they learn each other’s identities.

Of course, the masked man is Henry, but when Henry and Cecilia meet later, he is his normal, closed-off self. But his friend is interested in Cecilia’s younger sister, and that friend insists that Henry accompany them on outings. It certainly isn’t easy for Cecilia and Henry at first, but they eventually find common ground, and their feelings start to grow for each other. I thought this part of the book had some issues with the development of the romance because Henry seemed against it for so long, and then suddenly, he’s saying he has a deeper attachment. It just didn’t seem realistic.

But the story for me went off the rails when Henry unilaterally decided that he and Cecilia couldn’t be together because of his intense interest in his writing career and his belief that she would suffer playing second fiddle to his muse and his reclusive ways. The way that he just pulled away and the way that she just accepted that and wallowed in misery—just didn’t feel like good romance to me. Probably because he was a Darcy-like hero, I wanted him to act more like Darcy here. I wanted him to be more constant and to move heaven and Earth for his woman, even when personally uncomfortable. All good love stories need a proof of love moment near the end, and the story didn’t have that. So, it fell a little flat.

I did really like the heroine’s character. She had moments of introspection, but she did love her friends and was well-liked in her close society. And I absolutely adored the relationship between the two sisters. Having grown up in a house with four sisters, I thought that their relationship was believable and quite sweet at times. They both looked out for each other and had each other’s back. I appreciated that the author did not go down the road of so many other books, where sisters are pitted against each other. Juliet, the younger sister, was stronger than I would have imagined. The sisters were definitely the bright spot in this book. I did like Henry when he wasn’t being stupid… LOL.