Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

REVIEW: The Man Behind the Scars by Caitlin Crews

Dear Ms. Crews:

I am a big fan of your Harlequin Presents and I feel like you exploit the category length and the fantasy feel of the stories in the best way. This latest effort, however, spent so much time in the head space of one character that I felt disconnected with the hero. The rushed ending didn’t help.

The Man Behind the Scars by Caitlin CrewsWhen we first meet Angel Tilson, she’s not terribly likeable. She has skated by on her looks, believing that those alone would support her but when her mother incurs a $50,000 credit card bill in her name, Angel is faced with impending doom. Bankruptcy followed closely by public humiliation may be the only result unless she finds herself a rich husband. She determines to do just that at her sister’s wedding to a wealthy prince where rich men are thick on the ground. When Angel sees and targets Rafe McFarland, the Eighth Earl of Pembroke, I’m even more perturbed because she targets the man who is obviously alone and visibly scarred.

But her brazenness is mesmerizing and she spells out her plan without qualms to Rafe. She needs to marry for money. After a short conversation, Rafe tells her she can quit with the sales pitch and that he’ll marry her.

Beneath Angel’s studied insouciance, she’s filled with self loathing. Marrying for money is something she had always despised because of her mother’s own embarrassing behavior. Why and how Angel sees beneath Rafe’s scars isn’t well articulated. She just does. Perhaps she sees an echo of her own self hate because Rafe, like Angel, believes himself to be a monster both on the outside and the inside. He believes that a good man wouldn’t allow someone like Angel to grasp at him for rescue even though she is only marrying him for his pots of money.

If he was any kind of man at all, if there was any shred of humanity in him, he would not let her chain herself to a ruined creature like him. She didn’t know any better—but he did. She saw only bank balances and some kind of savior, but he knew that was only the tiniest part of what she’d get—of what she’d have to endure. He carried the weight of every single person who had ever been close to him. Surely Angel deserved better than that. Better than him.

While the emotions are strong on the surface, the underpinnings of the story are weak. Or perhaps weak in the execution. Rafe’s secret hurts are revealed much later in the story and lack emotional power because they are unveiled in such a short space and through minimal dialogue.  So much of the story is spent in Angel’s headspace and her viewpoint is so dense at times I felt like I was peering through a thick cloud of perfume.

There were some great ideas that were raised but never addressed. Was Rafe punishing himself again by marrying a woman who only wanted what was in his pocket book? Was Angel merely repeating her mother’s tragic bad decisions without recognizing their similarities? There were no moments of clarity in which Rafe or Angel discovered the better angels inside of them. Instead, Angel determined that she loved Rafe. Rafe lashes out and then they reconcile.

Perhaps it was the constraints of the category, but I felt unconvinced by the love story. The story suffers from shortness and relies heavily on the category constraints. The cruel barbs followed by the quick apologies near the end didn’t work as well here. The heroine was the only one that showed any kind of devleopment but too much time was spent contemplating internal angst.  C-

Best regards,




Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Ros
    Jul 27, 2012 @ 11:10:43

    Have you read the rest of this continuity, Jane? I didn’t love it like I loved the Wolfe books, but there are some good ones in there.

  2. Jane
    Jul 27, 2012 @ 11:15:05

    @Ros: No, I started the one with the sister who is the mega star and could not get into it. I don’t think series are really for me.

  3. Julie B.
    Jul 27, 2012 @ 12:15:31

    How wonderful to have a Presents hero who is not a Sheikh, Greek or Italian! Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy books with exotic heroes, but I’ve a soft spot for British aristocrats in contemporary romances.

  4. avoriana
    Jul 27, 2012 @ 21:28:24

    OMG Jane you are crazy I LOVED this book. I loved the heroine and the story. So unusual and so well done. I couldn’t put it down. Keeper.

  5. hapax
    Jul 28, 2012 @ 18:56:13

    I kinda sorta love the themes you pick out here: Beneath Angel’s studied insouciance, she’s filled with self loathing … Rafe, like Angel, believes himself to be a monster both on the outside and the inside. He believes that a good man wouldn’t allow someone like Angel to grasp at him for rescue even though she is only marrying him for his pots of money… and so forth, and wish that they had been explored more fully.

    Do you have any similar titles that you could recommend that fulfill these kinds of plot elements, for when I’m in the mood for some serious angst?

  6. Jane
    Jul 28, 2012 @ 20:05:41

    @hapax: I’ve enjoyed other Crews titles but one with a challenging heroine that might appeal to you is The Heiress Behind the Headlines although I find the hero to be pretty cruel in the beginning. It’s not published in the US yet. I bought it at Mills & Boon UK

  7. Loosheesh
    Jul 28, 2012 @ 21:14:22

    @Jane: Wow, her site states the US edition will release in Oct 2012, a whole year after the UK release – is that normal? I see also there’s a related book, The Replacement Wife, featuring a cousin to the heroine in HBtH – have you read this one, Jane? I need an HP fix; I’m having a great reading spell (*quickly knocks on wood!*) and haven’t picked up an HP in a little while and I’m starting to feel the deprivation.

  8. Jane
    Jul 28, 2012 @ 21:19:28

    @Loosheesh: I didn’t love it but Crews is a good writer. It may work for you. I didn’t feel like there was the wit and sparkle, the good lines, that her other books had.

  9. Jane
    Jul 28, 2012 @ 21:20:59

    Loosheesh -did you try the Mira Lyn Kelly book I recommended earlier this week?

  10. Loosheesh
    Jul 28, 2012 @ 21:31:07

    @Jane: Never Stay Past Midnight? I made a note of it, but I’ll most likely get it from the library so I have to wait for it to release on Aug 1.

  11. hapax
    Jul 29, 2012 @ 10:49:37


    Thanks for the rec. I shall place on my To Buy list.

  12. Daily Deals: The Sheikh’s Heir by Sharon Kendrick and other Santina Crown books
    Jul 31, 2012 @ 04:02:27

    […] REVIEW: The Man Behind the Scars by Caitlin Crews […]

%d bloggers like this: