Top positive review
Good story told well
Reviewed in the United States on May 5, 2021
Read through KU subscription.
I really enjoyed the Leone crime family stories and their spinoffs by BB Hamel. The Leones have moved on to Chicago, and the Valentino family has moved in. The Healy family is nipping at their ankles and threatening to start a ware. Ewan is their killer/enforcer. When he was young, the Valentino Don took him in, and Ewan grew up with the Don’s son, Dean, and was treated like a son for the most part. The story begins with Ewan murdering Tara’s father and Dean forcing him to take Tara home with him. The Don then tells Ewan he wants his killer to marry her.
The main thread of the story is Ewan (and Tara) recognizing he is a monster, and can a monster fall in love and can a woman fall in love with the monster? This isn’t an insta-love book, and in fact is a rather slow burn for most mafia romances. Ewan’s code will not let him force Tara into marriage or to expect her to have sex with him. It’s a good story about two people finding their way around each other.
BB can tell a story as well as some of the better e/mafia romance authors out there. One thing she’s good at in the mafia series, and the doctor series that is related, is imbuing her characters, especially the men, with realistic flaws. If you read the Leone series, you can see the MMCs have faults that aren’t glossed over by the end of the book as they are in some other authors’ mafia stories. Some of them - like Vince, the Leone Don’s son and then later the Don - are reeking with evil. In one of the books (one of my favorites in which the hitman goes against everyone for his woman) the past “heroes” of the Leone series seem like villains. All because BB realizes her MMCs are mafia so they can’t be truly good men, even at heart!
Her FMCs are strong and assertive, even when they are instinctively protecting themselves. A couple have gotten the crap beat out of them. Of course, because of the genre, they need the MMC to protect them, but sometimes the woman is as bent on revenge or finishing the job as the MMC. I like her women.
Most of the time, my biggest gripe is careless errors a decent proofreader could have caught. This one doesn’t have many, except for a few annoying instances of the author forgetting who is telling the story (MMC or FMC?) and one flub on tense (a paragraph told in present when the rest of the story is told in past).
But there is something different about this story. You can really tell BB loves these characters. The MMC isn’t a wise-cracking, dirty-talking, head over heels in love gangster. The FMC isn’t a trembling whose inner thoughts are full of how the MMC makes her melt and she doesn’t know why. This guy knows what a bad guy he is, but he unapologetically sticks by a code, and the girl is strong and clear-eyed as she comes to terms about how she feels about him. I think BB did a terrific job of bringing them along slowly but steadily into realizing they fit together. Her prose seems richer, her characters’ inner thoughts less smex-driven (in fact, although it’s plenty steamy when it happens, there isn’t a lot of graphic sex in this story) than emotion-driven, and the pacing was quite good.
BB is one of the authors I keep an eye on and read as soon as something’s released. She set a high bar with this book and I hope she continues to mature as an indie author.
This book is a standalone, but there is a thread for other characters that will connect it to future books in the series.