Recommended Read, Review

Review: Unmask Me If You Can by Shana Galen (2019)

The Survivors, Book 4

Reviews of other books in The Survivors Series: Book 1, Book 2, and Book 3

Heat Factor: Yowza

Character Chemistry: The lack of emotional crazypants nonsense was quite satisfying

Plot: There were probably 4 sub-plots, so it was a lot

Overall: I liked this one

I’d been wanting to read Jasper’s story since reading book 1 of this series. First, for no reason I can fathom, I love the name Jasper. Not for children, though, only for romantic heroes. Second, Jasper is one of my favorite sorts of resourceful heroes: a clever man with amazing (and apparently innate) tracking abilities. He can find anything! And his face is scarred from war, so he’s also damaged (mostly emotionally).

The premise of the series is that there are 12 soldiers who went off to the Napoleonic wars and have a special bond because they managed to survive numerous suicide missions throughout the war. Thirty unwanted younger sons of aristocratic families joined Draven’s suicide troop and 12 came home with emotional and physical scars (aside from the emotional scars they already have due to being unwanted by their families). Lord Jasper is the third son of a Marquess, and unlike the other heroes in the series thus far, Jasper really doesn’t seem particularly unwanted by his family prior to the war. Almost all of his isolation is due to his post-traumatic stress from the war. He’s become a bounty hunter, skulking in rookeries, using his awesome tracking superpowers to earn a living.

Off Jasper goes to find a missing woman. What could possibly go wrong? I’ll tell you:

  1. He could get stabbed and almost die.
  2. He could get stuck on a cliffside in a house with a five-year-old. 😱
  3. He could fall in love with a woman who could never possibly love him because he’s SO DAMAGED.
  4. He could deliver the woman he loves right back INTO DANGER.

This is high drama, this is. To some extent, this is a tough story to tell. Jasper has definite trauma after the war, but Olivia was raped by her fiancé. There’s a whole plot just relating to the development of their intimacy, which I guess is the whole romance novel thing. Realistically, a woman who’s had that experience is going to struggle with trust and intimacy, especially physical intimacy, but romance novels are all about intimacy. And here Galen did not fall into the magical orgasm intimacy trap, which was a good choice. The “getting to know you” was probably the number one chemistry and relationship builder for Olivia and Jasper.

Olivia really struggles first with just having Jasper around (she sort of wanted to leave him to die on the trail where he got stabbed), but as he demonstrates his integrity she begins to trust him, and with trust and isolation comes intimacy. And there’s attraction as well, of course. And it goes both ways. Jasper allows Olivia to see his face.

After all of that emotional drama, there’s that danger of which I spoke, which includes the aforementioned sub-plots 2-4. Olivia’s been hiding from her fiancé and family for five years. Her fiancé is controlling and won’t let go of their engagement, and when she asked her parents for help she was left alone and raped. She has legitimate concerns about her own safety and that of her son, considering not only the circumstances but the period and the rights (or lack thereof) that women might have. Jasper wants to take Olivia and her son back to London. Her mother is dying, and besides that, if he found her, someone else can, too, so she’s not really safe, and besides that, she should stick it to her fiancé and ruin him so he can’t hurt other women. She is terrified. This is a real issue, because putting the onus on the victim to self-inflict some level of suffering because of an obligation to others is not great, even if it’s for a greater good. But then they find footprints in her haven, and she can’t keep running, so she asks Jasper for help. He can help her to London, and then he can keep her safe there because he’s the only person she feels she can trust at this point.

So I’m like, marriage of convenience, right? She doesn’t want physical intimacy yet, but Jasper is going to be celibate for the rest of his life because he’s (not) terrifyingly hideous. Seems like the perfect recipe. Alas! Jasper has the same “You’d never choose me and even if you did you shouldn’t because what kind of man am I?” mentality that Ewan (Third Son’s a Charm) and Neil (No Earls Allowed) had in their books before arriving at a HEA. Fine, fine. Marriage based on a not-marriage is probably not the best policy. Anyway, if they’re married, Olivia’s trust in her father can’t be misplaced because she wouldn’t be living with her father, and that would really ruin the story.

I don’t want to include a bunch of spoilers, and there weren’t any dramatic twists, but the end of this book was quite something. On the one hand, it was so dramatic. On the other, everything was super practical. Things go down. Bad things. Super duper stressful things. But Olivia doesn’t go into histrionics, she does what Jasper tells her to do if there’s trouble when he’s not around. Jasper, not being around, also deals with problems as they arise, so while there is a nail-biter of a climax, we do not have to deal with characters doing stupid, illogical, emotional things because feelings (please see review of No Earls Allowed for overabundance of feelings). Then again, if we have three hands, I vote highly improbable re scene-in-ballroom for resolution of problematic fiancé situation. Nice, but improbable.

The denouement was a little more elaborate than it probably needed to be after all of the excitement that preceded it, but the story was wrapped up nicely even without an epilogue, so I suppose if that’s the worst thing…(except, full disclosure, there was a Lord and Lady Richlieu which…really? Also one of those obnoxious, “If only men were smart enough to include smart women in the war effort, we would have defeated Napoleon in a trice! Silly men!” lines.)…anyway, if that’s the worst thing, I’ll take it. This one was on par with Third Son’s a Charm, so I’d recommend it.

Buy Now: Amazon

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