When an ordinary call turns into the worst day of his life, Sargent Cooper Brandt is forced to watch as his partner is killed before he suffers a grievous injury of his own. Now, struggling to make sense of his previously well-ordered world, Coop must find a way to go on. But when his physical therapist turns out to be a dead ringer for his partner, Coop can’t believe it. All he knows is that he has a strangely intense attraction to the man.
Westley James doesn’t think his new patient will be any different from all the rest. Yet despite their rocky beginning, Wes and Cooper quickly warm to one another and find themselves entering a relationship. There are plenty of issues the two must resolve, but each of them is invested in making what they have work. But the man who killed Coop’s partner is still on the loose and until he’s caught, Coop won’t rest easy. When the killer strikes close to home, Wes and Cooper are left fighting to survive.
So I’m not really sure where to start with Ripping Off the Mask. The premise was great, but in the end there was so much about it that didn’t work for me that it was almost a DNF. The author does a good of introducing the characters and giving their romance a foundation of plausibility. And this novel is nice and long for those of you who enjoy a meatier story. But for me, the problems started on page one and they never really resolve themselves. The author has a decent writing style when detailing the third party action, but when it comes to conversation and exposition, things fall apart. The characters speak stiffly and with awkward cadences that don’t read as natural. It isn’t wrong per sae, but it just doesn’t flow. I think I could have moved past this had there not been so much exposition on the part of the characters. They seem to telegraph their every action and often to the point of excessiveness. So much of the text could have been trimmed without loosing the jist of a given conversation.
Added to this are characters that feel one dimensional and uninspired. When we’re first introduced to Wes and Coop, they seem to be somewhat engaging, but they fail to move past their superficial surfaces. Whatever connection was supposed to exist between them never felt grounded in legitimacy.
Ripping Off the Mask suffers from a frankly ridiculous plot. There are some who love the twin trope, but when this is piled on top of the wounded cop trope, the evil ex trope, and the ghost trope, honestly things become something of a trope-tastic mess. There just isn’t much here that feels fresh or original. And while that kind of plot can survive if the characters are strong or the author’s voice is unique, Ripping Off the Mask doesn’t have any of this. As a result, the pacing is off and never finds its groove with the narrative. Part of this was, again, a problem of excessive explanations on the part of the characters. It slowed down everything and disrupted whatever natural pacing might have eventually developed.
I actually set Ripping Off the Mask aside for several weeks because I was afraid I was projecting some sort of negativity into the reading and I wanted to make sure the review was fair. But even after picking it back up, I never connected with the book. The plot is too flat, the characters too stereotypical, and the conversational descriptions so extensive they blossom into overload. Despite my love of novels that are long and involved, I really can’t recommend this one.