Masks Off is a scrumptious little anthology of all things paranormal. Every story focuses around the theme of a masquerade with the main characters each having something to hide. As their “masks” come off inevitably they find their mate, the one who loves them despite the secrets they have been hiding.
In Different Masks by BA Tortuga, the main character Kipp is a loup-garou—a “witchy wolf” that can read minds and influence emotions. He is on the run from the pack leader Gerard who wants to have his mate, Lyons, marry his sister. Gerard has threatened Kipp with death if he stays so he runs to protect Lyons. Lyons tracks him and their confrontation is probably one of the hottest and sexiest in the anthology. I loved Kipp—he was sassy and quirky and willing to sacrifice himself for the wolf he loved—Lyons. Rating: 5 stars
From there we moved on to Foxtrot by Missouri Dalton. Remy Fawkes is a vulpe (fox shifter) whose mothers and siblings were killed in the nest by versi (vampires). He is one of the last of his breed. He plays saxophone and enthralls people by his music. Unfortunately Remy is unlucky in love and, after being cheated on by his latest Ex, he is shocked to see the former love of his life, Ian, in the very bar he is slated to play that night. Ian has been sent to get Remy so he can play for Cormac at his annual masquerade party. After Remy plays, he will be granted one wish and Remy knows just what he will choose. I think this was my favorite in the anthology. The writing was clever and sharp. Remy was so wounded and really in love with a man who could only see his deceased lover. The two of them, Remy and Ian, were by far the best-drawn characters in the anthology. Rating: 5 stars
Perhaps the roughest story in the lot was Believe Me, Beloved by Charlie Cochet. Robert is a poor mail clerk with the voice of an angel. His boss Mr. Dressler, invites him to the annual masked ball held at the home of Gabriel Chase. Dressler is in actuality a wolf, and Chase is a jaguar. The premise here is that they invite those evil humans who managed to escape justice and mete out their own punishment—death. Poor Robert is merely a new twist, for you see bad guys taste lousy—and Dressler wants fresh blood. He did not contend with the fact that Chase is actually in love with Robert. This story left a lot of unanswered questions. Besides that, the resolve to the great confrontation between Chase and Dressler and Dressler’s brothers has a less than satisfying ending. Overall, I found myself uninterested in the fate of these two lovers and in the story overall. Rating: 2 stars
As You Wish by Rob Rosen takes us back in time to the story of Charles, a wealthy reclusive Duke, who had a secret. He kept only one servant, James, who did very little in actual duties except for one night a month when he was to tie up his Duke and leave him for overnight. James takes to the untying part with amazing dexterity as he finds Charles fully aroused after each monthly tie-up. I really liked this simple little story—this was an easing into a love that stood up against an incredible resolve at the end. Rosen’s writing is really quite beautiful and lyrical and the story just flowed easily. Perhaps my only quibble with this one was that the story was way too short—I really wanted to see bigger build between these two men before they were confronted with such a huge decision at the end. Rating: 4 stars
Alpha Prime by Katherine Haller is the story of an online friendship that becomes the most important mating of the new alpha prime to his Beta. On the surface Stephen seems to be careless and into multiple matings and affairs but in reality he has been biding his time until he can take over the pack he was meant to run. Christian’s family is very important to the pack and therefore when Stephen announces a masquerade ball to announce the new Alpha, Christian is forced to go. This was over the top on the hot meter—the love scene that ends this story? Well, I needed a cold drink after this one! Alpha Prime was a really fun story of the dangers of judging a book by its cover. Rating: 5 stars
What are You by Elizabeth L Brooks was perhaps the most tender of all the stories. It centers on a young man named Cory who is a cross-dressing, in the closet, never shifted wolf. While that sounds almost laughable—his feelings of inadequacy are heartbreaking—as well as his fears of being found out. You see he lives in a world that despises shifters of any kind. When he attends the masquerade ball as a female, his worst fear is realized and he is discovered. I really fell in love with both Cory and the man who saves him—this was a lovely story of redemption and new life and love. Rating: 5 stars
The final story was Annual Full Moon Werewolf Ball by Sean Michael. This was just funny from beginning to end with the best chase scene and mating to date. Grammercy thinks he was turned into a werewolf by a one-night stand whose name he even failed to get before the guy ran off into the night. Now he is the most awkward alpha wolf walking the earth and he is desperate to find the guy who made him—Damien. Sean Michael writes a really good story here with truly laughable misunderstandings between the two men—and full on really hot sex! Rating: 5 stars