There were many times in my twenties, when life seemed too full of drama and angst and I would’ve given almost anything to start over in a new city, with a new name. That’s what Sarah, a.k.a. Maya, does after she flees New York City under notorious circumstances, in Libby Mercer's second novel, Unmasking Maya. Luckily for the reader, Sarah/Maya chooses my favorite city of San Francisco to start her new life, and the book takes full advantage of its setting. It made me want to book a trip there…pronto!
Due to a scandal that literally ruined her career and her reputation, Sarah had to leave New York City and the fashion world behind. To add insult to injury, Sarah fought hard for her reputation because her father was a nefarious rogue financier in the manner of Bernie Madoff. In order to protect herself and be successful in her new career as an artist, she goes incognito as Maya Kirkwood. After a chance encounter with the gorgeous Derek Whitley, the tech world's “it guy,” he hires Maya for an art installation at his new corporate headquarters. Maya finds herself falling for Derek, who has secrets of his own. Then her dad shows up in a weak attempt to make a mends. Maya is hurt and confused by her dad’s reappearance, when the dashing Derek comes to her rescue.
With its comforting and familiar tone, Mercer’s voice is easy to enjoy. I felt as though I was peeking into a friend’s diary. Maya is a very likeable heroine, who has had a tough time. Maya’s need for a “mask” goes beyond her desire to sell art - it also serves to protect her, as she definitely has trust and abandonment issues. The author has a fashion background, so she writes with experience, since Maya is a former clothing designer turned textile artist. Her descriptions of Maya’s creations were fun to read. As previously mentioned, San Francisco and its neighborhoods are prominently featured in the storyline, serving as a vivid canvas of Maya and Derek’s respective professional worlds, which is appropriate since art and technology are both a prominent presence in the city.
It’s obvious from the start where the author was going with Derek and Maya, but she doesn’t rush to get there. Their first date is probably one of the best I’ve read about in a long time. I love how it all played out in terms of dialogue, interactions with other characters and activities (and no, not those activities). It was all very sweet. My only complaint would be that for two young people, they had a pretty serious “What are we doing here?” discussion kind of early in their relationship. However, they’d both experienced their share of heartbreak, so perhaps those experiences brought them wisdom beyond their years. In retrospect, the conversation was important, because Derek does drop quite a bomb on Maya, putting their chances as a couple into question.
The mystery surrounding Sarah and the unmasking of Maya was resolved pretty quickly. I think a little more anticipation and tension in regards to this plot line would have served the story well. Once that was done, it was all Derek and Maya, which was okay, but not suspenseful. There were also a couple loose ends that weren’t resolved.
I think this is a great book to take on vacation. Not to beat a dead horse, but perhaps to a cool city on the west coast?
Thanks to Libby Mercer for the book in exchange for an honest review. Unmasking Maya is only $2.99 for Kindle.
Allie Smith, a former CPA who five years into her career decided that she hated working with numbers and willingly gave it all up to be a stay-at-home mom, lives in suburban Atlanta with her husband and four children. In between carpool, play dates and refereeing the kids, she loves to read and write. The mother of a child with autism, she is currently working on a memoir of their journey.
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