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Unmasking Maya by Libby Mercer
Libby Mercer 2012
E-book galley
? pages
Romance; Chick-Lit

Maya Kirkwood had the career of her dreams in New York’s couture fashion world, only to have to suddenly vanish thanks to her duplicitous ex. It feels like her past happening all over again. But Maya’s not one to give up in a ball of shame: instead, she moves to San Francisco, changes her name, and reinvents herself as a textile artist. At her first exhibition, her agent encourages her to meet a prospective new client, a successful tech nerd from Silicon Valley called Derek Whitley. Only, he’s not the pasty, paunchy nerd she expected: he’s young, tall, fit, lightly tanned and very handsome – and when she sounds him out about her artwork, Maya learns he doesn’t like it.

But Derek still wants to commission her to produce an installation for the new wing of his company building, and whether he personally likes her work or not he sees as irrelevant. Derek is all work and no play, and he seems mostly irritated and annoyed by Maya, especially her persistence and argumentativeness. Over the two weeks she spends at his company, working on the commission, she doesn’t learn that much more about the private, taciturn man. But when her father, whom she hasn’t seen in years, suddenly turns up in her life again, it’s Derek who is there to support her and help her rebuff the man’s attentions. With Maya’s secrets unravelling, a new kind of friendship begins between her and Derek. Only trouble is, she’s not the only one with a past she’s been keeping secret, and the truth about Derek could be an obstacle Maya can’t overcome.

This was such a fun, delightful, intelligent read. It’s a smooth blend of chick-lit and romance, being chick-lit in plot, tone, structure, all those key points, but with a romantic focus: getting the heroine and hero together, with some sex included for the full experience. It’s a fairly short novel, one that skips along at a steady, merry pace, easy to read in one sitting. I want to use the word “breezy” but thanks to those awful, annoying Covergirl commercials, I now hate that word.

Maya was an engaging narrator and an interesting protagonist, who had some pretty shitty things happen to her but held it together and continued doggedly on. She’s definitely tenacious, and I liked that she was a textile artist – both my mum and my sister are textile artists, with different styles of course, so Maya felt like someone I knew right off the bat. I also liked the way she handled the situation at the end: I respect and appreciate romance heroines who stay calm and don’t devolve into melodrama, and who stand firm on an issue – and who are also flexible enough to change their minds or something later, at the right time.

Derek was a classic chick-lit hero, so aloof and stoic and reserved, so that the moments when he couldn’t help himself and laughed or otherwise enjoyed himself, became that much more precious and meaningful. It was great to read about a couple who didn’t dance around each other and pretend things. Maya came clean, and Derek did too. They were open about their feelings. It didn’t solve all their problems, but it was just refreshingly mature and intelligent (the ridiculousness of the heroines’ stubbornness and the heroes’ refusal to admit his feelings in so many paranormal romance books is what made me take a prolonged break from reading the genre).

My one complaint, if you can call it that, was that I would have liked a slightly longer story. It was just a bit too fast, considering how much I was enjoying it and wanted to get to know the characters more (on the positive side, it’s a well-plotted story that doesn’t suffer from “filler syndrome” or an author who can’t self-edit and loves the sound of their own voice. I appreciate that, I really do, especially after Thoughtless). I was surprised the side-plot of Maya’s father and what happened to her in New York didn’t get revisited, yet also pleased that the story didn’t follow any predictable formulas for following-through on them. I wanted to get to know the supporting cast more, and see more of Maya and Derek’s lives play out. I say that because I enjoyed it, but also because it left me with the slight feeling of having eaten hollow carbs: too much sugar, not enough fibre? As much as I had fun reading it and loved the slightly fast pace, I can’t help but have the niggling feeling that it was a bit too fast at times. I’m torn though, because I also love that it wasn’t drawn out or padded unnecessarily.

Regardless, I recommend this as a light, breezy read about two people who have to overcome their pasts and live for the moment – and a future that’s brighter with each other in it. If you’re looking for a fun, mature romance that’s not at all shallow or prone to clichés, definitely give Libby Mercer’s Unmasking Maya a read.

My thanks to the author for a copy of this book.


Other Reviews:

“The secrets keep you guessing, and the build up as Maya and Derek get to know each other is fantastic. I was sad to finish it, but in a good way.” rosiereview

“This was a really fun,fresh and new look on romance for me. The unlikely pair ending up together in a very unexpected manner, very FRESH!” Contemporary Romance Reviews

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