Mask by Jan Irving

Dreamspinner Press

Gay Paranormal

ISBN:  978-1-61581-048-2

Reviewed by Cassie



Nineteen-year-old artist and college student Nick Anders is frustrated.  His boyfriend won’t consummate their relationship due to something traumatic in his past, leaving Nick feeling confused and a little resentful.  He meets the mysterious “Obsidian” in a chat room and they start to have strange, sexually charged chats.  When Obsidian reveals that he knows way more about Nick than he should, Nick is both afraid and intrigued. 

Scarred and changed in a fundamental way after a horrific night, Kain Mitchell spends his time hidden away in his house outside of town.  As Obsidian, he can freely speak to, and even seduce, “Moonbeam,” Nick’s online persona, without fear that Nick will be revolted by his scars or the horrible secrets he hides.  Then Kain begins to want more.  Will the chain of events he sets into motion destroy them both?

I really wanted to like Mask.  Jan Irving created a genuinely spooky, gothic-style atmosphere.  She constructed the mystery part of the story in such a way that I was kept guessing about the characters’ motivations, which is always a plus.  The storyline was intriguing, with several unexpected twists and turns (which I won’t spoil here).  I enjoyed the feeling of increasing danger as murders and other frightening events began to occur, and Kain was blamed.  Secondary characters, including two of Kain’s employees and a determined police detective, added to the sense of menace and mystery.  My problem with the story came from the main characters.  At the beginning of the story, Nick has a perfectly ordinary life.  Then Kain comes in, and seeming very much like a stalker or a pre-abusive manipulator, he pretty much destroys Nick’s life so he can remake it how he wants.  At one point he even drugged Nick, which had me seeing red.  Nick accepted a lot of the treatment without real protest, an attitude I couldn’t understand at all.  The paranormal aspects of the book, Kain’s secret, and the way Kain acted near the end of the story might justify his terrible earlier actions to some readers, but I couldn’t get past them.  As a result, while I really enjoyed the atmospheric writing and the mystery angle, the romance in Mask rang hollow for me.


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