By Tracy Marsac
Feb 16, 2005 - 7:20:00 PM

Andee Matthews lost her husband to divorce a day before he and his mistress died in a car accident.  She barely had time to deal with the shock that Jared was having an affair when she was dealt the heavy blow of his death.  Sommerville, Illinois being a small community, her betrayal and humiliation was the talk of the town and Andee suffered the cruelty of gossip and the loss of friends and colleagues.  A year and a half later, Andee has become consumed with her teaching and buried her feelings of hurt and duplicity behind thick walls.  When Judy, her one friend through it all, convinces her to check out the local theater's performance of Phantom of the Opera, Andee reluctantly finds herself sitting front row at the Sommerville Playhouse.  It's not long into the opening act that she's mesmerized by the power of the cast but most especially the Phantom's breathtaking performance.  Andee is so taken aback by the emotional response he invokes in her, such an acute feeling of coming back to life, that she breaks down in the empty theater after the show.  The last couple of years have taken their toll on her whether she acknowledged it or not and the devastation can't be ignored anymore.  And that is how the Phantom finds her.

In playing the role of Phantom, Max James has found a grateful reprieve from his hectic Hollywood life.  An impressive acting ability has earned him twenty-one movies on his resume.  While the hounding of the paparazzi is to be expected, it became too much for Max during a time when he desperately wanted to be alone.  Out of the eye of the media, he finally has a chance to grieve for his sister whose death to cancer overwhelmed him.  When he discovers Andee upset and alone while he's closing the theater, he only has to look into her eyes to know he's found a soul mate.  Max quickly loses his heart to this beautiful wounded woman and knows it won't be long before the media tracks him down.  Max can only hope that his skittish Andee won't be scared away when she's exposed to the more public, very chaotic part of his life.

It's one thing to create characters that complement each other and quite another, through action and words, to actually make the reader believe it wholeheartedly.  M.L. Rhodes does that expertly in MASKS!  It was very moving to see Max and Andee connect not only physically, but emotionally as well.  They both realize that they are only hurting themselves by holding back from life and coincidentally find each other at a time in their lives when they're not completely resistant to the possiblity of love again.  Scared?  Of course they are, especially with what Andee went through with Jared, and Max's public career that rudely extends into his private affairs.  Like any relationship, it will be tested by these very same factors.  How Max and Andee defend their love and overcome obstacles was very touching and riveting and MASKS is a highly recommended read by this reviewer.

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