Stage actor Adam is still in a bad place. Eight months after his lover Charlie left him for a recording contract, he still can’t stop thinking about him. The only way Adam has moved on is through one night stands that hold no meaning. While backstage, he is left speechless when he sees Penn. Penn, who looks exactly like Charlie, because he is his twin brother.
Penn is young, sweet, and a talented designer. He is just starting his dream job in the wardrobe department at the theater where Adam performs. Instantly attracted to Adam, he certainly does not want to follow his brother with Adam’s affections, even though he and Charlie have not spoken in years.
Adam tries to resist Penn as he can’t see clearly at first whether Penn is just a substitute for Charlie. And, how will Penn ever know if Adam really sees him and not his brother? Still, the pull is there and both men are drawn to each other time and time again. Adam is way more experienced sexually than Penn, but Penn offers something to Charlie that no man has ever been able to fulfill for him before. When violence finds them, it turns the tables on the way Adam perceives everything and he struggles to adapt. Adam could find all that he needs with Penn, but he has figure out a way to let go of all the years of anger he has been holding on to, and be able to give Penn what he needs as well.
Mask is set in the same world as Kostova’s previous novel Dance. While it would be possible to read the story on its own, it would be a more fulfilling experience to have read Dance first. The story runs parallel with a portion of Dance and not only was that an awesome story on its own, we get to visit again with MCs Jared and Fenix.
Adam is a secondary character in Dance. We did not learn his back story and he was not the most likable character. So, how to make him likable? I did not have much time to think about it because in walks Penn. Penn is just one of those characters that captures you from the first glance and never lets up all the way through. He knows he comes across as effeminate, but he wants Adam to take him seriously and to be treated as an equal in a relationship. He is super talented and designs clothes simply because he loves to. Penn likes to wear dresses at home and loves the feel of the soft fabrics against his skin. It is dealt with really well. We understand why Penn enjoys this so much, but it is not overdone and compliments his personality so well. For Adam, this is a fascination that he has always had but has never had the right partner to share it with. There are some great scenes of them discovering and exploring this.
Adam is a bit complicated. He is shown as responding one way with Charlie as he takes whatever time Charlie would give him, but he is different with Penn. These two sides of his personality are not gone into in depth. We also get more family history on Adam, which is told, not shown. The back story illustrates where his anger comes from, but some areas are not gone into in depth, and not all of the dots are connected for me on the anger issue. I would have also liked to have seen a further explanation on Penn’s previous experience with violence as it’s mentioned on several occasions but specific details are not given. Lastly here, the issues with Charlie and specifically Charlie and Penn. We are taken right up to a certain point, but then their relationship is left unfinished for me.
The main focus here is on Adam and Penn’s relationship. They work really well together, but have some growing to do before they can move forward. Penn does steal the show here for me and the different aspects of his personality had me turning pages. I enjoyed the theater setting and being able to see Jared and Fenix again is like catching up with favorite friends. We also seem to be set up for the characters for the next book. All of this, plus the epilogue view into what the future looks likes for Adam and Penn makes Mask definitely a worthwhile read.