Guess who’s back with another favourite reads post!?
Yep. Last year I posted a round-up of my favourite reads, and this year I decided to do it again! Could it be the start of a new tradition… Who knows? 😊
Ha! I thought 2020 was a tough year to get through. Sheesh. If I knew how sucky 2021 ended up being, I wouldn’t welcomed it with open arms. Lol.
But like I said last year and every year I’ve been reading… it’s always been my form of sanctuary and escapism. I’m your stereotypical introvert who prefers books to company. Who prefers a cozy night in with a swoon-worthy book and comfort food over late-night partying with outfits that’s all-too binding, uncomfortable shoes, and the stench of sweat in the air. 😅
This year, I’ve compiled my top 12 favourite reads of the year. Ideally, I wanted one favourite book from every month but… some months had doubly amazing reads, whilst others had mediocre ones not completely worthy of this list.
Even though I had a few reading slumps along the way (nothing new), after compiling my top reads, I realized that the majority of the books were from new-to-me-authors, so despite a few hiccups along the road, this year introduced me to some incredible authors who’ve quickly become auto-buy authors!
So here we go!
• Contemporary Romance •
📖 Kiss Me First by Anna B. Doe
(Small Town, Coming of Age, Sweet New Adult Romance)
📖 Kiss To Remember by Anna B. Doe
(Second-Chance, Sports Romance, Love Triangle, New Adult Romance)
Annnnnd… there you have it! Yes, I snuck in a few books that technically did not make it to my top 12 list but came a very close (hence the mentions)!
Like last year, if you want to see all my reads for the year, check out my Monthly Wrap-Ups. I posted my December one earlier and I wanna say I have reviews up for all the books I read this year… but sadly there’s some still waiting to be written. Sigh. But links are up for those available.
I hope you all had a relaxing Christmas (if you celebrate), and now enjoying the holidays (hopefully you have holidays)! I sincerely wish everyone a safe yet happy New Year’s Eve/ Day! 🎉
Thank you for the support you’ve all given me for my reviews and my book blog in general! I’m in awe of the amazing people I’ve met through this bookish community and the copious amounts of books I’ve discovered over time. I’m truly thankful for the friendships I’ve made. As well as the opportunities I’m fortunate enough to be a part of.
I truly hope 2021 will be a year of nothing but happiness, love, good health, and good fortune for us all!
Happy reading, and as always catch you in my next one! Xo
My uncle is the boss of the Chicago Outfit, but there’s one man even he fears, Giovanni Guerra. And he just sold me to him —as his wife. For an alliance. For power.
The boss of the New York family is beautiful, and deadly, and he stokes a fire in me that might just destroy us both. Giovanni was sold a submissive little mafia princess, but he’s about to find out that I am no one’s pawn.
The only vow I make is one of lust and fury.
A Vow of Lust and Fury is part of the Underworld Kings Universe. A multi-author series of standalone books filled with mafia families waging war, danger and violence, arranged and forced marriages, angst, love, and everything in-between.
Light or dark, twisted or sweet, the Underworld Kings has something for every reader.
• MY REVIEW •
Eeep. This is a perfect example as to why I am obsessed with dark mafia romance reads containing broody, excessively intimidating alpha heroes! AVOLAF had all the elements I love from this genre.
The premise was what initially had me wanting to read this story. From the first chapter, the protagonists had me intrigued. As it progressed, the storyline kept me engaged. There’s constant build-up and suspense, a torturous slow-burn between Gio and Emilia, and on top of that, their enemies are practically at their doorstep. Ugh. It’s one savagely edgy dark romance! 😍😍
“A better man would look away. A better man would let her go, but she’d made a fatal error; she’d drawn my attention.”
The Kiss of Death duet was the story that introduced me to Lovell, and the dark, all-out gritty mafia world she had created. This book not only lives up to the high standard that that duet had set, but it was a pleasant surprise to see the characters from said duet crossover into Gio’s and Emilia’s story. It’s honest-to-goodness like going back and visiting one of my favourite bookish worlds and seeing the gang together again. 🙌
If you haven’t read the Kiss Of Death duet, I think AVOLAF is a great introduction to their world, and the tight-knit circle of friends within. Not only will you be invested in Gio’s and Emilia’s developing relationship, but the supporting cast included will have you wanting to know their story too! The strong familial bonds amongst Gio and his friends are just as equal a highlight as the addictive push-and-pull romance.
Despite the slow burn, the storytelling is relatively fast-paced and action-packed. Lovell has created an atmosphere of uneasiness and danger surrounding Emilia and you can’t help but feel the dread right along with her. The desperation Emilia exudes has you sympathising her and the situation she’s inevitably been forced into by the lack of options she’s been presented with.
Please note: This book contains sensitive subject matter that may be triggering for some readers, such as graphic violence, domestic abuse, and sexual assault. Explicit mature content intended for readers 18+ only.
I always yearn for a strong, gutsy heroine in my reads as I find the majority never live up to the “fierce, independent heroine” tag they’re supposedly described to be. But Lovell doesn’t disappoint in providing one in Emilia. In a male dominated world, she may not be as physically powerful in comparison, but she’s not one to back down and take brutality either. It’s what makes her a likable character that earns both awe and respect. Her vulnerability is what makes her relatable and genuine, and quite a contrast to the confident, and overprotective men in her life.
Gio is your typical anti-hero who does some questionable things but within reason. It’s hard to turn your back on him — he’s merciless, calculating, danger personified, yet within their society’s Underbelly there’s also an ulterior motive to his power and reputation. I love grey characters and he’s one of a few within this world that I was instantly hooked on. He’s arrogant with a little bit of a cheeky side to him that’ll have you suppressing a giggle or two, not wanting to admit that his charm has gotten to you. 🙈🤭
A mafia romance with an arranged marriage/ forced proximity trope. It’s dramatic, angsty, and keeps you on your toes the entire time. It’s very character-driven and emotion-based. Told from dual POVs, Emilia and Gio are both fighting the sizzling chemistry between them, and as their relationship builds, the intensity only deepens. For lack of a better word, it’s hot! 🔥🔥🔥
As the plot thickens, you see a gradual shift in their relationship. It might seem small in the grand scheme of things but the scenes where they get snippets of each other’s characters when their defences are down only added more dimension and complements the dark and gritty side of their story.
“He was the key to my shackles, and it occurred to me that while I’d been trying to escape him to find freedom, perhaps he was that freedom.”
True to its genre, it has equal parts mafia to romance elements. The antagonists here are legit villains. Lovell has created a diverse range of characters, all of which evoke strong emotions out of you. The writing is high quality, with such vivid world-building that I couldn’t get enough of.
Read the books from the Underworld Kings, they say.
They’re all standalone dark, mafia romance books, they say.
Um well… 🤔😅
At the rate I was devouring this book, I was completely blindsided by this, and I know plenty who considers it to be a deal breaker, especially if there’s no warning in advance, so I have to mention that this book is NOT a standalone. It ends on a massive cliffhanger that had me 😩😭😭 and needing the sequel baaaadly!
But despite the savage ending that leaves you desperately hanging, I still absolutely, without a doubt recommend this book. Lovell has quickly risen to auto-buy author status and AVOLAF has fast become one of my favourite dark romances. I will read this one over and over again. It’s a must read!
Thank you L.P. Lovell, the Underworld Kings team, and Candi Kane PR for the opportunity to read an advanced copy! ❤
🔔 Interested in reading A Vow of Lust & Fury? Grab your copy here: Universal Link
I was a nanny in need of a job.
He was darkness personified.
I had little to call my own.
He was filthy rich, powerful, and dangerous.
The assignment was simple, and my goal was too.
Take care of his son. Keep my head down. When he least expects it, destroy him.
It should have been easy. I thought it would be until I looked into his stark blue eyes.
Kissing the enemy is a bad idea, but so is falling in love with him.
He doesn’t know my crumbling foundation is built on lies.
When he discovers the truth, I’ll find out if he’s as brutal as I believe.
I came here to steal his life.
I didn’t count on him stealing my heart.
• MY REVIEW •
Oh my… I was taken for one, all-out journey of epic proportions with Kingdom Fall! All I could think of whilst reading this book was that it was visually appealing and truly felt like a literary cinematic experience! 😮😍
It had all the makings of what I adore (and hope for) in my dark romance reads. I love the immediate mystery surrounding Natalia and her motives for wanting the nanny position with Alessio. Right from their very first interaction, I was instantly sitting up and drawn to Natalia and wanting to know her personal story. You will discover that she’s quite a unique character— I, for one have never encountered a heroine with her background.
Alessio was a surprising anti-hero. His dangerous, broody, tortured self had a different vibe from your usual dark alpha-type heroes. His savageness is rarely on display so you tend to fall for his unfeeling, almost calm demeanor. But when he slips up, oh man, is it explosive! 🔥
This can easily be read in one sitting, but in no way does the storytelling feel hurried, on the contrary, the pacing is steady and brought on a gradual, intense build-up. You might even say there are nail-biting moments throughout and constant unpredictability. It’s one of the main reasons as to why I couldn’t put this book down until I finished it.
The constant push and pull between Natalia and Alessio that honestly gave me mental and emotional whiplash was another reason. 😅 The hot and heavy exchange between these protagonists in a story that is heavily surrounded in secrecy almost seemed like constant teasing and a game of second-guessing, not just for the characters, but for us readers as well. With the never-ending angst, not only will you quickly get in invested in seeing Natalia’s and Alessio’s relationship develop from professional to personal, but you’ll feel emotionally wrecked before the book even concludes.
I haven’t read a lot of romance stories with a single dad/ nanny romance trope, especially in a dark romance setting, so I found this one to be a nice change of pace from the dark, mafia type romance books I usually read. Whilst there are strong dark themes included, a lot of the story does centre around Alessio’s personal life outside of the violence. The dynamics amongst his close friends and family were such contrasts to see throughout and, in a way, kept the atmosphere from constantly turning overly gritty for too long.
In saying that, please note there are subject matters that some readers may find triggering. It contains graphic violence, torture, kidnapping, and brutal sexual assault. It’s not for the faint-hearted. Intended for readers 18+ only.
Ashleigh has written a suspenseful and though-provoking storyline that is so intricate and complex that I was almost taken aback by how meaty it was for a relatively quick standalone novel. I thought it was effortless writing to follow despite the multiple storylines happening simultaneously. It’s told from dual POVs, so you really get an insight into both Natalia’s and Alessio’s true feelings and opinions of each other and of certain situations.
There are a diverse range of secondary characters that equally grab your attention, and will undoubtedly have you eager to know their full story. Whether these characters are friend or foe, I thought they were all well-developed and written in so well to heighten the intensity of the story as it unfolds.
Cruel intentions, raunchy romance, endearing friendships, and at times heartbreaking realization. I loved it all. I loved seeing Natalia’s and Alessio’s character growth and in turn, seeing their relationship develop no matter how rocky their journey was. The family dynamics within were undoubtedly screwy and twisted, yet a focal point in making this one exciting and all-encompassing thrill ride.
If you like dark romance/ romantic suspense reads, I highly recommend this one! Although it’s a standalone book, it does mention a certain exclusive community that was first introduced in Zavarelli’s The Society Trilogy. If you want to more about this world and the history behind the families within (which Alessio is a part of), I recommend reading the trilogy too. It doesn’t have to be read prior to Kingdom of Fall.
Thank you Ashleigh Zavarelli for the opportunity to read an advanced copy! 💛
🔔 Interested in reading Kingdom Fall? Grab your copy here: Universal Link
Mafia & Bratva Romance. Set in the same world with connecting characters but these books are all STANDALONES and do not have to be read in order. All the books are told from dual POVS.
• Book One | Merciless Saints •
Alliances are made. Loyalty is owned. Love is taken.
I’ll show everyone I’m a threat, and they will fear me.
For my family. I have to protect them.
The second I hear the name Damien Vetrov I know I’m in trouble.
He’s an arrogant Russian God.
Only, I have zero intention of bowing to him. Ever.
Attractive and lethal. He’s such an intoxicating mixture.
Every second we spend together, the pull between us becomes stronger, and my fear grows.
While my body wants him, my head knows better. He has the power to kill my family.
But when blood is shed, I’m forced to depend on Damien for my life.
Being at his mercy, whether he’ll kill me or protect me, is still up for debate.
Damien & Winter | An Irish and Russian marriage of convenience/ formed alliances romance.
Their story surprisingly have me bawling my eyes out! A heartbreaking storyline that just kept hitting the feels! I was emotionally drained after reading this book and a lot of it was due to the brutal tragedy that befalls Winter.
It’s action-packed and constantly moving forward. There’s just the right amount of build-up, suspense, and tons of shock value. I certainly wasn’t ready for how this story progressed, but despite the hardships these characters go through, I was instantly invested in not only Winter and Damien but all the secondary characters who were also introduced. The bond and brotherhood smacked me from the get-go. I was in awe of how little it took for me to believe the history, love, and loyalty these characters had with one another, and besides the romance aspect, was a big reason as to why I knew I would love the series! The family dynamics and strong ties will have you swooning just as much as the romance elements.
Winter and Damien had a sizzling push-and-pull chemistry. The writing felt effortless to follow and the emotions that both Winter and Damien displayed felt so genuine. It’s a relatively quick read that can be finished in one sitting. I enjoyed the pacing for the most part as the story came off hearty and full of dimension. I enjoyed the backstories, especially from Winter’s POV as it truly transports you to her life as if you’re experiencing her emotions in those events right along with her.
Right off the bat, the thought of an elite Academy who trains high-end assassins and has dealings with the underworld had me on the edge of my seat hooked! And seeing Winter and Damien start out as students of this Academy who eventually become two of the most dangerous, most powerful players in their Mafia world had me giddy with excitement at not just their budding romance, but the start of an intricate world-building. Although it’s a standalone story, it was amazing introduction to St. Monarch’s Academy and the entire cast of characters who’ll be reappearing in all the books to come.
• Book Two | Cruel Saints •
Alliances are made. Loyalty is owned. Love is taken.
Little did I know my love and freedom would be taken to form a new alliance.
Brutal, possessive, and dangerous, Lucian is feared by all. Including myself.
When his father is assassinated, Lucian takes his rightful place as head of the Cotroni family. They rule the Mafia with an iron fist, and he’s set his sights on my family.
Until now, we’ve been the only threat, but when a new one emerges, my father is forced to arrange a marriage between Lucian and myself.
He might be handsome but he’s not the kind of man who loves. He takes what he wants and right now, it’s my body.
I might belong to him in name, but the question remains – will our union be consummated in blood or love?
WARNING: This book contains subject matter that may be sensitive for some readers. There is dark and triggering content between these pages. 18+ only. Please read responsibly.
Lucian & Elena | A Italian Mafia arranged marriage/ formed alliances romance story
It had my arms flailing and my eyes glued to the pages! I absolutely devoured this book! I loved the opposites attract trope between Lucian and Elena. They were the epitome of a knight in shining armour and the damsel in distress (in a dark Mafia setting). This was a refreshing dark mafia story as Lucian’s family was surprisingly the sweet, loving dynamic that’s not usually the norm in mafia romances. I’ve read countless books from this genre but I don’t think I’ve encountered one where the hero’s family was the one oozing love and happiness, and a genuine bond between father and son.
This story was one of the more grittier storylines and it includes sensitive subject matter that may be triggering for some readers such as domestic abuse, sexual assault, and graphic violence.
Although I don’t have triggers, I’m not going to lie, some of the scenes in this book was tough to get through. Michelle has written these stories with such vividness, that you’re already emotionally invested in these characters and their world right from the beginning, and seeing one suffering is gut-wrenching. Learning their backstories added more dimension and an understanding of these characters’ mindset in the present day.
Perfect balance of light-heartedness and darkness throughout. There’s evident character growth from both protagonists as the story progresses and seeing their bond grow from strength to strength makes this a touching and empowering romance story.
It’s intense with lots of action and suspense. There’s a nice gradual build-up in their romance that makes their relationship go from a marriage of convenience to genuine love and loyalty.
The secondary characters in this book will also steal your heart.
• Book Three | Ruthless Saints •
I move in the shadow of death. I’m the villain. The monster everyone fears.
I’ve been born into a life of depravity and ruthlessness. It’s kill or be killed.
The moment she smiles at me, my world changes.
I keep coming back. Watching her brings me stolen moments of peace.
Until I can’t stay away…
She doesn’t know who I am, that she’s flirting with death.
Slowly we fall deeper until she loves the lies I’ve told her.
The danger that follows me, creeps closer and the façade I’ve built comes crashing down around us.
And lovers turn to enemies.
But there’s no going back for me.
I want her. I will have her.
She doesn’t have a choice.
Carson & Hailey | An opposites attract, mafia/outsider romance story
OMG! Might just be my favourite story (after Alexei’s and Isabella’s)! I was just as immediately intrigued by Hailey as Carson was when she first walked into the room. The opposites attract in this particular story popped with bubbly, happy-go-lucky Hailey and enigmatic, broody, lurks-in-the-shadows Carson. The curiousity gets the better of Carson and seeing him struggle with wanting to know more about Hailey and steering clear of her was a gripping development to see play out throughout.
The inner dialogues by both these protagonists had me giggling at times and gave such comic relief and lightheartedness when you least expect it.
Similar to the first two books, it’s another action-packed, suspenseful quick read. By this third one you get the gist that each of the books within the series contains the build-up in the first half of the story with a somewhat swift conclusion by the end, which I would normally be disappointed with but since these books present character growth, steady romantic development, and an overall detailed storyline, it doesn’t feel like it’s ending abruptly.
Hailey and Carson, in my opinion had one of the more complex and heart-wrenching storylines from all all the couples, and despite the heartbreaking scenes that were tough to see play out, I could not put it down until I finished it. It’s an angsty, dramatic rollercoaster ride that had me ugly-crying for a good chunk of the book.
With Carson being Alexei’s younger brother, they certainly have the talent to turn heads. *waggles eyebrows*
I’m also loving the entire innocent-outsider-enters-the-mafia-world. It’s thought-provoking seeing their dark and gritty world from an outsider’s perspective, and once again I adore the fact that the hero is another protective, caring sweetheart who’s just the right amount of dominating alpha.
• Book Four | Tears Of Betrayal •
My father is the head of the Bratva, but being born out of wedlock, I’ve never been a part of that world.
Until a hit is taken out on me. I’m kidnapped in the dead of night and waking up, it’s to come face to face with Demitri Vetrov.
Dangerous and heartless, Demitri is the most feared man in the world. I’ve heard whispers of what he’s capable of.
I’m thrown into a nightmare where I don’t know who I can trust, and fear for my life is my only constant companion.
I’m forced to be at Demitri’s mercy, I’m just not sure he has any. It also doesn’t help that he’s disarmingly attractive.
Tall, dark, and deadly.
Knowing this, he uses it against me like a weapon, breaking down my walls faster than I can put them up.
There’s a war coming, and I’m right in the middle of it.
The only question is, will Demitri be the one to save me or kill me?
WARNING: This book contains subject matter that may be sensitive for some readers. There is dark and triggering content between these pages. 18+ only. Please read responsibly.
Ooh okay… I feel like after reading Alexei’s story, there was a lot of anticipation in reading Demitri’s story— just for the fact that he was this quiet but deadly character who was strictly all business.
First thing that comes to mind after reading this book is how much I couldn’t get enough of their inner dialogue—especially Ariana’s as her mindset was so genuinely relatable… and so girly. Lol.
If you love sexual banter, you will enjoy the hell out of this one. The unsuspecting one-liners that come out of Demitri had me snort-laughing, and it’s these moments that break the tension and gloomy atmosphere that overall surrounds the situation that Ariana (and Demitri) find themselves in.
Another storyline with tear-jerking moments (honestly, I don’t think there was single book from this series where I didn’t cry at one point or another).
And after having reading all the books, I realized that each one had strong family presence. These may be a bunch of mafiosos and assassins but trust, loyalty, and family are paramount in their world.
Demitri and Ariana had somewhat of an insta-love romance yet slow-burn at the same time. Best way I can describe their romance is there’s a ton sexual build-up and teasing before their relationship develops deeper.
• Book Five | Tears Of Salvation •
Alexei & Isabella | An enemies-to-lovers, Cartel and Bratva romance story.
At the time I read this book it was also part of the Underworld Kings author-collaboration series. It was my introduction to Michelle Heard and the rest of The Saints. After having read Tears of Salvation I knew I had to go back and start from the beginning of the series. Best. Decision. Ever! ❤
I have myself another favourite romance series that I will surely read (oh who am I kidding, I already have) over and over again. I love how they are all relatively short reads so whenever I need an all-consuming, passionately hot romance read to perk my mood up or get me out of a reading slump, these will be my go-to books for sure!
One word to describe this series— the characters, the storylines, the romances, all the developments…
Three months ago, I suffered a moment of insanity and had a one-night stand without even knowing who the man was.
It was hot and unforgettable.
I tried to forget him, but there are moments I swear I can still smell his aftershave.
Little did I know he’s the head of the Bratva.
My family’s worst enemy.
There’s a thin line between love and hate,
and I’m straddling it.
There’s an even thinner line between the truth and a lie.
As the head of the Bratva and the best assassin,
I’m the devil everyone fears.
I get more than I bargained for when I come face to face with Isabella Terrero.
Instead of the Princess of Terror, she might just be the embodiment of the goddess of mischief and chaos.
For her, I broke all my rules.
For her, I burned down the world.
STANDALONE: A complete standalone novel in the Underworld Kings series. WARNING: This book contains subject matter that may be sensitive for some readers. There is dark and triggering content between these pages. 18+ only. Please read responsibly.
• MY REVIEW •
They say good things come to those who wait…
I’ve been wanting to read books by Michelle Heard for some time now but timing was always off. But you know what? Not only was Tears of Salvation THE BEST introduction to new-to-me author Michelle Heard but this may just be THE BEST introduction to the world of the St. Monarch’s Academy! 😍😍❤
I love my dark mafia romances and this story had the perfect balance of action, suspense, and romance within such a well written and vivid storytelling. Michelle Heard, where have you been all my life?! ❤
The cast of characters whether they played a major or minor role were unique and stood out in their own right that I had no issues differentiating them from one another. These characters are also one of the main reasons as to why I am eager to read the other books in the St. Monarch’s Academy (even though this one in particular is also part of the Underworld Kings author-collaboration series).
From the opening scene, Isabella’s and Alexei’s story had my full attention. The immediate sexual chemistry between them leaped of the pages setting the tone for the rest of the story. With all the intensity, it was easy to keep invested. The fast pacing, the constant build-up of suspense, and the dual points of view all added to making the entirety of this story exquisitely and deliciously addictive!
Whilst there’s some sensitive subject matter within, the overall atmosphere is not overly brutal or gritty. I thought it had the right amount of lightness and darkness throughout. There’s also some lighthearted banter amongst the brotherhood which was unexpectedly awe-inspiring and a display of friendships that seemed so genuine. Seeing the familial bonds and deep affection was just as gripping as the romantic aspects of the story.
An enemies-to-lovers with a twist that I did not see coming. I love that Michelle has written a story where anything and everything can happen that you feel like you have to constantly be on your toes so you don’t miss out on anything.
It’s a refreshing take on mafia romance. One feature being the fact that these characters despite their differences and alliances all trained in this exclusive, specialized school. I have never wanted to go to a fictional school more since I first read about Hogwarts in Harry Potter during my teen years. I can without a doubt say St. Monarch’s Academy is up there with the school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. If I was offered a place, I’d be there in a heartbeat! 😄
If you love any of the following, you have to add Tears of Salvation to your TBR, stat!
Russian Mafia Romance
The world-building in this book is exceptional, clearly showing both Isabella’s and Alexei’s worlds that eventually fuse together as they discover that they may have more in common than they initially realized.
Isabella is such a likable character with the perfect amount of heart and badassery in one. I’ve read plenty of dark romance books where a strong, independent heroine is present, but Isabella is in a class of her own. There’s a believability in her determination and strength, in her actions, and even in her presence when she’s around people that makes her favourable, not just as a heroine but as character in general.
Alexei is a total swoon-worthy alpha of a hero, not only does he walk the walk but what I ended up loving about him most is his fierce loyalty and protectiveness over his loved ones. He’s a feared and ruthless leader but those who follow and serve him know his greatness and his heart.
Overall, I really could not fault this book. Yes, I would’ve preferred some parts of the story to have played out a little longer than they had, but those are just minor hang-ups for me. I loved reading every page of it and wish it hadn’t ended. There was an effortless flow from beginning to end, with plenty of dimension as the story develops. You’ll get to see gradual character growth from both Isabella and Alexei as they navigate through their intricate relationship. They are an exceptional match. Equal pairing that I couldn’t get enough of!
I was never bored. I didn’t once feel the need to skim through pages. I enjoyed seeing the multi-layered storylines that all weaved together— from the romance, to their own personal vendettas, to all the secondary characters and their stories that added to the entire world-building.
Please note it does contain matters that may be triggering for some readers such as, human trafficking, child abuse, kidnapping, domestic violence, and sexual assault. Take into consideration before starting. Whilst this may ultimately be a dark, mafia romance, it’s no fluff read. The backstory covers real dark societal issues. As I delved further into the story I connected more and more with the characters, sympathising with the realism in what they’ve experienced and witnessed in their lives.
A highly recommend book that can easily be read in one sitting. It’s one that had me thinking about long after I finished reading it. From this book alone, I can already tell that Michelle’s writing style is one I’ll constantly enjoy reading.
If mafia romances are your go-to romance books, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with this one. It had all the elements of a hearty story— memorable characters, substantial character growth, a fleshed-out storyline, complex world-building, and enough scenes with shock value. Tears of Salvation had all that and then some! *singsong voice* Loveeeed it! Now one of my all time favourite mafia romances read to date!
Thank you Michelle Heard, the entire Underworld Kings team, and Candi Kane PR for the opportunity to read an advanced copy! 🧡
Five years after my world shattered, leaving me a scarred and broken man.
By then, the girl I knew was gone. In her place stood a woman. One who looked like an angel. An impossible, beautiful angel.
I killed for her. Soaked my hands in the blood of those who hurt her and rescued her from hell.
But hell has a way of following you. Becoming a part of you. Maybe the only part you recognize.
I had every intention of bringing her home. Setting her free.
I swear I did.
But the men who stole her all those years ago weren’t done with her yet. They’d stop at nothing to get her back. And I’d kill any man who tried to take her from me.
She calls me her avenging angel.
But I know the truth.
I’m no angel.
Because even as I tell myself I’m protecting her I know one thing for sure.
I am a monster, too. No better than them.
Because just like them, I’ll never let her go.
Author’s note: Stolen is Dante Grigori’s story and although a standalone, would be better enjoyed after reading With This Ring and I Thee Take.
• MY REVIEW •
“I like the kill. But I won’t hurt her. Ever. And whether she likes it or not, I’m hers now. Her protector. Her monster.”
Mara, the little girl who went missing all those years ago, along with Dante’s life since the tragedy with his family are two stories interconnected that I was intrigued to know about since the To Have and To Hold duet.
This is a standalone story with a relatively steady-to-slow pacing. It can be wordy at times and filled with details but I found the shorter chapters kept the story rolling along. If you haven’t read the duet, you may find it a little difficult to understand or connect some of the events that happened prior to this story, and unfortunately it only skims through the details in this book. Whilst you can still read this one without having read the duet first, in my opinion you’ll be missing out on the backstory between Mara and Dante, and the history between their families.
There is a blend of worlds and within it particular characters who play significant roles in both Mara’s and Dante’s stories. Knight has written in some great anti-heroes, straight-up villains, and lighthearted characters. The combination of worlds colliding along with these secondary characters provided a contrast of group dynamics and dimension to the overall storyline.
This might sound a little strange but I found the struggles that both Mara and Dante faced throughout and their difficulties moving forward the most interesting to see. Mara especially, has been forced into a particular hellish world for most of her life and it’s clear from day one that not only has it taken a physical toll on her body, but worst, she’s been mentally brutalized. Her mindset is a jumbled mess and seeing Dante (who is broken in his own right) make an effort to get her adjusted and to overwrite her current mentality had me sympathizing them both. There’s a strong sense of unfairness surrounding these two and a saddening realization that their lives could’ve been so different. I don’t think either one of them would’ve survived if it hadn’t been for their strong-willed determination.
It’s a story of second chances, complexed, tortured souls, and a war that’s bigger than either of them could have ever imagined.
With the enormity of the situation surrounding Mara, I was expecting tons of suspense and build-up, so I was surprised to discover that the atmosphere stayed pretty much one level from beginning to end. The premise had piqued my interest, and I was curious by Mara’s character development and Dante’s evolution from the man he was to the “monster” he is now, but I found a lot of the plot twists were predictable losing grittiness and a slight edge. 🤔
The connection between Mara and Dante is evident despite their age-gap and being apart from each other for so long. But I did however wonder at one point when their relationship started to develop romantically if Mara’s feelings didn’t stem from some type of hero-worship. Having suddenly be rescued by Dante from the constant torment— is she of sound mind having romantic feelings for him? Same goes for Dante. With what Mara has been through, is his romantic pursuit of her justifiable? It’s a thought-provoking story and certainly has you questioning some of their behaviour. I’m glad to see Knight has considered this and included her characters to have similar doubts, but it also helped reiterate that Mara and Dante are truly connected on a deeper level. What it lacked in suspense, made up for in the complexity of the characters, their development, and the drive behind their set goals. In plenty of ways I found the characters, their emotions, thought-process, and actions fairly understandable and relatable at times.
Told from first person, dual points of view, this is a dark mafia-themed romance. It contains sensitive subject matters that may be triggering for some readers such as kidnapping, human trafficking, graphic violence and abuse. It also broaches on psychological trauma and effects of captivity. This book is intended for audiences 18+ only.
Overall, I liked reading their story and there was a sense of contentment finally knowing what had happened to Mara since her disappearance, and knowing that despite all she has suffered she gets her HEA with Dante.
Knight has created quite a world-building with tons of potential to expand. She’s introduced characters and as mentioned earlier interconnected worlds, one being from The Society Trilogy, making the crossover seem effortless. I found the setting intricate and with certain secondary characters standing out a little more than others, you can’t help but wonder if there’s more to their story than what is mentioned in this one (and if it will ever be told).
If you’ve read any of Knight’s dark romance books in the past then what you’ll have a pretty good idea of what features you can expect from this book— effortless, easy-to-follow writing, multifaceted characters that instantly have you intrigued, and a great balance of dark elements and romance.
Thank you Natasha Knight and Give Me Books PR for the opportunity to read an advanced copy! ❤
Maddox – Mad Dog – White hates everything the name Vitiello stands for, after he witnessed his father and his men getting butchered by the Capo of the Italian mob in their territory.
Raised by his uncle, the president of the Tartarus MC, Maddox is destined to follow in his footsteps. Now their chapter is on the rise again, but for their ultimate triumph they need to destroy the Vitiello empire. And what better way to do it than to steal the spoilt Vitiello princess and break her piece by piece until her father begs for mercy.
Known as the spoilt princess of New York, Marcella Vitiello grew up in a golden cage. If your father is the most feared man in New York, people gift you with reverence.
Destined to marry the boyfriend approved by her father, Marcella is sick of being treated like an untouchable porcelain doll.
She resents the life forced upon her by her family until everything she took for granted is ripped from her. Where she’s now, her name doesn’t bring awe, only pain and humiliation.
If you’ve grown up in a high castle, the fall is all the deeper.
Sins of the fathers have a way of catching up…who’s going to bleed for them?
** This book is part one of Maddox’s and Marcella’s story.
• MY REVIEW •
Five chapters in…
Me: “Growl? Where’s Growl? Someone get me Growl!”
(He would’ve ended it all, right there and then!)
😜 I’m just joshing. But I’ve never been one to mince words or sugarcoat my thoughts in my reviews no matter how much I adore an author or the fictional world they’ve brought to readers, and I’m not about to start now. Please remember this is my honest opinion and experience from reading this book. If you find mine are different from yours, please be respectful and don’t take offence. Not everyone’s opinions are going to be the same. ✌❤
I’m in the minority here by saying Marcella Vitiello was one heroine a was never eager to read about. From her brief appearances in past books when she was a child, utterly spoiled and bratty constantly had me eye-rolling. So when it was announced that the first book in Cora’s next gen series would begin with Marcella’s story, well, you can just imagine my thrill.
But when it was known that it would be a mafia meets MC (Motorcycle Club) story, it did have me perking up with interest. Mafia romance and MC romance are like my bread and butter as far as romance genres go. Add in the anti-hero biker, who’s also an enemy to the mob? Finally, FINALLY I was intrigued as fuck! 😅
So now that I’ve finished reading part one, what did I think of it??
With its well-paced storytelling, and multiple points of view, it was gradually winning me over… until it all came to a staggering halt. 🙈 Whilst there were plenty of things I did enjoy about this book, I’m not going to lie, there were also plenty of things that rubbed me the wrong way too.
It can be considered new adult, but make no mistake it’s dark themed romance. Before I get to the nitty gritty of my review, I must mention that this story does contain sensitive subject matter that may be triggering for some readers, such as graphic/ gruesome violence, kidnapping, attempted rape, and animal cruelty. Definitely for mature readers 18+ only. Please keep in mind before you start it.
Before this book, there was very little detail about Maddox, his family, and the Tartarus MC other than what we’ve seen mentioned by Luca Vitiello. There’s a gripping little backstory included that, in my opinion set the atmosphere for the rest of the book and a full understanding of Maddox’s mindset.
It’s character driven and a lot of the situations that transpired were emotion-based. There’s no doubt that there’s a strong attraction between Maddox and Marcella but as the story progressed I felt there wasn’t enough genuine development between them. They’re both put in difficult positions and it constantly tested their relationship. Some big events go down and the actions of these protagonists was ultimately what resulted in my overall conflicted feelings of this book.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the first half. I was completely absorbed and lusting after the little moments between the two. But looking at the bigger picture, their relationship’s choppy. They go through the motions but I didn’t see any real substance out of it. And if I had to make comparisons with other couples from this world, their relationship is lacklustre. The romance was alright but it was hard to believe the depth of their love with the timeframe they had together. It wasn’t insta-love but it wasn’t exactly a gradual romantic development either.
I wish I could say after reading this story that Marcella eventually grew on me. There was a moment or two I sympathized for her, but it was tough to like her as I didn’t agree with a lot of her actions. She’s a difficult character to get to know or connect with because she’s constantly projecting an image and created a standard for herself that I didn’t even think was wholly necessary. Aria and Luca have always been one of my favourite couples but I question how they ended up with a daughter like Marcella? 🤔😌
Maddox is one of the main highlights of this book. I love the complexity of his story and his character, and I was easily invested in seeing how his story would progress. I often wondered what some of the negative effects the Mafia may have had on people outside of their world and Maddox is a perfect example of the blowback. Sigh. I’m just going to say it— he deserves better.
There’s quite a few secondary characters included that helped elevate the world-building. The different dynamics added dimension and was interesting to see the contrast between Maddox’s and Marcella’s respective worlds. The initial premise was mafia meets MC, and whilst there was strong mafia presence, I had hoped to see more elements from the MC side. There’s not a lot of light-heartedness as it’s a pretty gritty storyline, but appearances from certain characters provided calming moments to break up some of the tension and seriousness of the situation.
All in all, it’s not what I had expected or how I envisioned the story would play out but nevertheless I was still gripped from start to finish. Although this is only part one, and Maddox’s and Marcella’s story is unfinished, this book doesn’t completely end on a cliffhanger (if that makes sense). Let’s just say if the story happened to have ended here, I would’ve been content with the open-ended conclusion.
Buuuuut in saying that… since I have mixed feelings about this first part of the story, I am curious to see how it will all conclude in the second part. I’m hoping to see build-up, some in-depth development, and more maturity out of the characters.
Cora’s writing as always is easy to follow. The intrigue around her characters and their story is instantaneous that it’s hard to put down and By Sin I Rise was no different. It was refreshing to see some new faces introduced and expand from what is already an existing and vivid world-building.
It may not have ended up being one of my favourites from Cora’s mafia books, but I still think it has positive aspects and a lot of potential. It’s an intriguing introduction to the Sins of the Fathers, and it’s cool (and some getting used to) seeing the original characters I fell hard for in the Born In Blood Mafia Chronicles somewhat pass the torch to their children. I am officially ancient. 💀
Fans of Cora’s and of her mafia world will want to read this one. Romance readers who are still relatively new to this world, I recommend you read Born in Blood Mafia Chronicles first before starting this one. I don’t have any triggers but I must admit there were certain scenes from this book that I wasn’t prepared for and totally bawled my eyes over.
You can expect some plot twists, suspense, and if like me, a good hearty cry. If you like dark mafia romances with a forced proximity, captor/captive romance trope, give this one a try.
Thank you Cora Reilly and Emily Alice for the opportunity to read an advanced copy! 💛
Mafia meets illegal street racing in this action-packed standalone in the Camorra Chronicles!
As the youngest brother of the notorious Falcone clan, Adamo grew up surrounded by blood and violence. Drugs soon became his way of coping.
Becoming a Made Man like his brothers was his destiny but never his passion. When he becomes the organizer of his family’s successful illegal street races and one of their thrill-seeking drivers, he finally asserts his own path in the harsh mafia world.
His purpose isn’t the only thing Adamo discovers on the fuel-soaked roads he calls home…
Dinara Mikhailov is the only female race driver and hard to ignore. Not only because of her flaming red hair and ruthless driving style, but also because the Bratva princess is allowed to drive in enemy territory.
Soon Adamo and she find themselves entangled in a passionate game that goes beyond the race track. Yet, both haunted by events in the past, their dark cravings put everything on the line.
As what they crave the most, comes with a brutal price.
• MY REVIEW •
My my. Adamo’s quite a bad influence… 🙈🙉🙊
I wanna say it’s what I was anticipating… but it wasn’t. Well… not completely. I was of two minds during and after reading it.
Whilst I was giddy with the initial premise of the book — I mean c’mon, mafia meets illegal racing?? Umm. Yes please! It wasn’t what I had expected. Yes, there’s the mafia side of things and elements of the illegal car racing but it felt more or less a means of bringing in the Bratva more so into what was initially the Italian mafia world, as suppose to having the majority of the storyline center around Adamo and that race world he found solace in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as intrigued by the Russian mob as much as the next fan of this world, but I just would’ve loved a lot more of that racing scene… and in detail.
It started strong with an opening scene to Adamo’s world since we last heard of him in the previous books and to be honest I was wondering if I was going to see him as all grown, broody and oh so swoon-worthy… orrrrrr if I was still going to picture him as an adolescent, still reckless, and still finding his place in the Camorra.
I’m going to be in the minority here but I definitely did not see him like I do Remo, Nino or Fabiano… or even Savio. 😅 Despite now being a young man, I just couldn’t believe it… ugh… he just wasn’t believable enough to be all grown up and a full-fledged Made Man in my books. He didn’t completely come off as a Mafioso. Put aside the Camorra and his family, you would think he was just a wealthy guy with connections, who runs illegal car races and who happens to be a nifty driver. The darkness the supposedly surrounds him wasn’t obvious. I didn’t feel it, it didn’t leap off the pages, and I wasn’t convinced whenever it was demonstrated. Which wasn’t as much as I thought it would have been considering the brutal events of his past.
I really wanted his story and his struggles to be delved into a lot more than what was provided. There was just something missing that didn’t give his story the oomph I was hoping for.
But! In saying that…. do I love Adamo? Yes. No doubt. He may not be as gritty and yeah okay… not as hardy as his older brothers but he certainly had remarkable qualities that I was happy to see a Falcone brother possess. Traits in which I did find myself grinning at seeing whenever Adamo effortlessly displayed it. (And I’m not talking about his talents with his hands, mouth or dick).
In some ways I think Adamo’s personality is one of my faves from the Falcone brothers. He seems to have a lot of the traits I loved from all of his brothers within himself. And in general I loved seeing the contrast of relationships Adamo had with each one of them. Not to mention his relationships with the extended Falcone clan.
Now—What can I say about Dinara Mikhailov? She’s spunky, I’ll give her that. If you know me or have read any of my past reviews concerning heroines in Mafia worlds, that I would absolutely pick a chick who’s independent, can stand up for herself, kicks ass, and doesn’t back down easily over a meek, damsel in distress type any day… (Ooh wait now that I think about it… there is one exception though). *waggles brows*
Dinara caught my attention right after she stole Adamo’s. 🤭 Her style alone is winning! *chef’s kiss* Add in her determination and how she holds attention, and next thing you know, you’re hooked and invested in seeing her story unravel.
As someone who’s read quite a few DARK reads, what you discover about Dinara in this book can so easily be tough to get through. I don’t know what level of darkness Cora had intended for Dinara’s story (and I can’t speak for others) but in my opinion her story wasn’t difficult to read. There was a sense of detachment—I don’t know if it was me and I couldn’t quite connect with it, or if it was Dinara herself and how she came across whenever her past was brought to light. Either way, it didn’t come across as dark as some of Cora’s previous mafia books.
Individually, both Dinara and Adamo are likable leading characters. For two people who knows nothing else but the mob life, they both have such softer personalities in comparison to the other couples. There’s an evenness in their relationship that was somehow calming to see. There was no sense of dominance with either one of these two, making it seem like they’re on equal footing with one another. But of course, things are never all that simple. Adamo and Dinara prefer to keep their turmoil to themselves, hence why they seem less blaring, and why they have a pull towards one another. Twisted Cravings is definitely a bang-on title for their story. They feed each others’ cravings that they can’t find anywhere else or weren’t being provided for by the people who were closest to them. As much as I perked up every time they danced around each other and their feelings, the further their relationship developed, the more I questioned: How healthy is their relationship? 🤔
Dinara and Adamo are similar in so many ways having similar vices and coping mechanisms to get them through and connecting that way. Their relationship is a seesaw of emotions where it could go very bad, very quickly with just the smallest trigger. You can’t help but be on edge seeing how things will go down between them.
This book had some new elements that were thrown into what I consider staples of Cora’s in her Mafia world, and I was digging it! It was both refreshing at times and at other times unsurprising yet simply comforting. I always love seeing how Cora will expand her already vivid world building, and one thing that never fails to get me hooked for more are the secondary characters that make appearances or ones she introduces that seem to hold my attention as much (if not more) than the characters in the foreground. This book was no different. It was also interesting to see how certain dynamics and environments have altered over time.
🤐 If I could, I would shout it from the rooftops who I was swooning over in this book, what scenes had me ooh-ing and ahh-ing, and the eye-catching tidbits I noticed here and there where the Falcones are concerned. All in good time. All in good time.
Twisted Cravings is as much Dinara’s story as it is Adamo’s and told from both their points of view. It’s a slower-paced story, in comparison to the previous books in the series, and despite the sensitive subject matter and trigger warnings this book contains, it’s nowhere as gritty either. With Adamo and Dinara being young, this had a lighter, more NA vibe to it… although the smuttiness is very much present.
I wanna say it’s a pretty straight forward storyline. The first part gripped me, it slowed down in the middle, but by the final third of the book it picked back up and finished strong! There wasn’t much plot twists, but there were a couple of moments that had me taken aback. Look forward to some lighthearted banter, some Falcone charm, and vodka! 🙌
As much I thought I would come away from reading this book loving all the romance. I actually ended up loving the family interactions more. There’s such strong family bonds in this one that I couldn’t get enough. In a cruel world like theirs it was so satisfying to see somewhat of a normal familial relationship included.
Overall, a great addition to the Camorra Chronicles. Adamo’s story has been very much anticipated and in terms of seeing him finally have his happily ever after, it certainly doesn’t disappoint! This book can easily be a bit too topsy-turvy, but when it did reach those highs, those moments were completely epic! This book has such heart. And there were parts that had me sitting up in attention and daydreaming of the future and what’s to come!
I don’t think I need to say this but I will anyways—It’s a must read for any fan of Cora’s and the Camorra Chronicles. If this was to be the absolute final book in the series, I can happily sigh with contentment that all my Falcone babes found their haven.
Thank you to Cora Reilly and Emily Alice for the opportunity to read an advanced copy! ❤
🔔 Interested in reading Twisted Cravings? Grab your copy here: Universal Link
I’m an assassin of the Bratva, raised and trained to be strong, to be a cold killer. But even I have a weakness, and Nero Verdi will regret using it against me. He’s my enemy, so why do I get such a thrill when his fingers wrap around my throat? Why am I addicted to the brutality of his touch?
They call her The Kiss of Death, and I have the one thing she wants above all else. She’s nothing more than a weapon, a ploy for power, and yet I find myself wanting to dance with death, to possess her. I crave the kiss of her blade just as much as her lips. And that might just get me killed.
A game of power. An obsession that would see the world burn at their feet. A bloodied king. A broken queen.
Kill me or kiss me?
• MY REVIEW •
“Bacio della morte”
Kiss of death. It’s what the Italians call me.
Fuck yes! 🙌🙌
L.P. Lovell as blown me away with the Kiss of Death duet! By far one of my favourite mafia romance stories to date! This is also my first book of Lovell’s and honestly, with how high a quality storytelling this one was… I will be sure to checkout out her backlist of books!
Kiss of Death was originally released as two separate books, but Lovell’s releasing this duet as one and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read it (especially after reading the blurb). Did you guys read the blurb?! The heroine is a fucking Bratva Assassin!! Like c’mon, hot sauce!! 🔥
I’m always reading at least one mafia book a month and this one had all the makings of an addictive read that you would without a doubt come back to time and time again.
A strong plotline you can easily get invested in
Build-up and suspense
Plot twists and constant unpredictability
Chemistry between the hero/ heroine
Secondary characters that elevate an already exceptional story
So! If any of what I listed above appeals to your dark, romantic heart, then I think you’ll be happy with Una and Nero’s story. But I should mention whilst I was provided an ARC, as I mentioned earlier that the Kiss of Death duet has already been released as two separate books. Book one is Kill Me, and book two is Kiss Me. For the first time ever, Lovell has combined the two books into one (pictured above is the brand, spanking cover for it)! Buuuuuut… If you can’t wait for this release, go grab those books now! 😉
I’m the Capo of New York.
A beautiful woman with a homicidal streak has always been my weakness.
Ok. Let’s get down and dirty and start off with Nero Verdi…
I tell ya, I’ve read countless stories of Made Men and they’ve all been described as powerful, intimidating, not-to-be-fucked-with mobsters… but I have to say Nero is one of a few that I actually think fitted the bill. He exudes confidence and strength and not once did I not believe that when he sets his mind to something that he wouldn’t succeed. Because he bloody well does! 🩸🩸
Nero may not necessarily have a moral compass, but what’s better than a twisted, bastard of a mobster who plays by his own rules to ensure he gets what and wants and rules all?
The only thing that confused me about Nero was his position in the Italian Mafia. On a couple of occasions he goes back and forth from being Capo and Underboss with him being Underboss for most of the story. Hmm. I’ve read quite a few mafia romances over the years, so correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t Capo higher ranking than an Underboss? Because if that’s the case, why is Nero demoting himself to Underboss??? I just had to mention because it was niggling at me the entire time I was reading this book. 🤔
But I suppose either way, Nero rules and he has his soldiers to order around. Hehe.
Now. Did I mention how much I think the secondary characters in here not only made quite an impression on me, but they did a superb job in really elevating this world? 👏👏👏 There’s quite a span of secondary characters included and not once did it feel overwhelming or unnecessary seeing them. I’m not going to lie, some characters stood out more than others, and it wasn’t hard to get invested in them just as much as I did Nero and Una. Whether they are heroes, villains, or gray characters — you’ll get your fill here!
What will it be, Morte? Kill me or kiss me?
I can’t rave about this duet more! One of the best mafia romances I’ve read. It’s absolutely filled with this dark, gripping world that’s so vivid and detailed, which effortlessly teleports you into each scene; each moment. The storytelling is slower-paced but in a good way where there’s a gradual build-up to each scene giving you a picture of the situation. Told from both Nero and Una’s points of view, it couldn’t have been more intense seeing things from both their perspectives (especially when concerns the other). Their lives are supposed to be worlds apart yet they have the same type of darkness surrounding that that ultimately keeps them connected to one another.
Their story gives an entirely new dimension to the enemies-to-lovers/ forbidden romance tropes. There’s this satisfying balance between Una and Nero where they’re both each others’ strength and weakness. Dark, mafia romances is kind of my bread and butter in the romance book department and what makes me love this one so much is the fact the Una stands out from the rest of the heroines you usually would encounter in these gritty stories. She literally kicks ass! She knows how to defend herself, she’s street smart, and she oozes (rightly so) confidence in her capabilities. What I adore the most is she’s not a damsel in distress. In a male dominated world, she’s favored and feared. It’s honestly refreshing to see a heroine who is empowering, and who is powered by her emotions despite being conditioned to lose all emotions and all things considered weaknesses such as love and family from her life.
Ugh. I strongly recommend, if you haven’t already, to grab this book and start reading! In my opinion, it has one of the best dark fictional worlds I’ve read, and one I will absolutely go back and visit!
Thank you L.P Lovell and Candi Kane PR for the opportunity to read an advanced copy! ❤
Cristiano is my enemy. He’s also the only man with whom I’ve ever felt safe. Protected.
But I have to remember that he married me with one purpose in mind. Revenge. I would be the bridge to his real enemies.
I can’t let myself forget that he isn’t the hero of this story. His hands are covered in blood. I saw that with my own eyes.
I thought I knew Scarlett’s past, but I didn’t know anything.
I thought I knew the worst of monsters, but I hadn’t seen anything yet.
Sometimes you have to lie to yourself to survive.
Sometimes it’s those closest to you who will bury their knives in your back.
Too many times it’s the innocents who pay for your mistakes. For your refusal to see.
I can’t let Scarlett pay for mine.
But I may be too late to stop it.
• MY REVIEW •
👏👏👏 Natasha Knight has done it again! Another mafia romance I’ll be adding to my list of faves! This story had the right balance of elements to ensure it captures your attention. What an amazing conclusion to what was an incredible smack-in-your face beginning!
A strong continuous storyline
Drama and suspense
A gritty world
What I find I can’t seem to get enough of from Knight’s mafia romances is the strong family bonds she includes in her stories (specifically the brotherly love). In this case with Cristiano and Dante. These characters have been hardened by their horrific past and consumed by anger and vengeance, yet as strong as their hatred is of their enemies, it’s evident these brothers are still capable of love. It’s crazy swoony to see their protectiveness and their ride-or-die mentality for one another! Seriously… 🔥
I Thee Take is a much slower pacing in comparison to With This Ring. Whilst that one had a lot of build-up between Scarlett and Cristiano and seeing the beginnings of their relationship, this book focuses on what brought them together in the first place. Both their pasts have come back to haunt them and as secrets slowly unravel and the bigger picture sets in, they realize they need each other more than ever to survive it all.
Our hero and heroine both have hard outer shells with soft centers, and they both seem to only show that vulnerability to each other. Their chemistry was sizzling from the start and I’m glad to see it hasn’t wavered in this book. Their relationship is one that only grows stronger the more they’re together.
The storytelling may have slowed down in pace but it’s jam-packed full of action! The fight kicks up a level in this book and as it did I’m not gonna lie, I started to get more and more anxious at what the outcome could be. Lol. 😅🙈
A rollercoaster ride of emotions. And I’m blaming the characters! Not only our protagonists but all the secondary characters that brilliantly played their roles in getting me emotionally invested. Knight has cleverly kept her characters’ cards close to their chest until that perfect “mic drop” moment. Yeah, some you could pick out of a lineup easily enough from the start but then there’s the ones that make you second guess things. 🤔😈
Not only had I become invested in seeing Scarlett and Cristiano together, I quickly became attached to Dante (Cristiano’s brother) and Cerebus — that loveable fluffball!
There were also these moments in the book that had me fist pumping the air with such satisfaction that if people knew what that was about, they’ll probably think I’m all out psychotic. Haha. If you love some good old fashioned violence (think Taken and John Wick), then it’s another reason as to why this is a must read.
The world-building is very cloak-and-dagger. It’s a gritty, hell on earth underworld they live in and the further the story develops, the more you feel transported into it right alongside these characters. If Knight hadn’t included some light-hearted moments throughout, this book could easily have been a much darker story.
Right amount of sin.
Right amount of raunchiness.
This duet as a whole is one gripping, edge-of-your-seat story, and the only reason why I’m not rating this book as high as the first one is because I saw where this second half of the story was heading. If you’re new to Natasha Knight’s mafia romances, then I have no doubt that you would rate it a four and half (or even five stars), but I’ve read most of Knight’s mafia books… she has certain tells and a lot of her books have common elements, and this one was no different. So once they started cropping up, I knew where the story was heading from there on out. Don’t get me wrong I honestly don’t mind seeing the same types of plotlines in Knight’s books — hey, I wouldn’t be reading any more of her work if I didn’t, right? But it did take some of the surprise out of it.
But in saying that… there was one little thing Knight included in the end that did have me perking up with anticipation. I won’t spoil it for you guys, but if you’ve already heard the early buzz then you know what has me all giddy! *skips merrily* 😍😍
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Scarlett and Cristiano’s story to bits. I couldn’t put it down and I was constantly on edge right alongside Scarlett and Cristiano as bombshell after bombshell dropped all around them. A thrilling mafia romance that’ll have you questioning anything and everything, narrowing your eyes at certain characters, clenching your fists when the situation calls for it, and more importantly… salivating at the angsty moments between Scarlett and Cristiano! Eeep.
A highly recommended dark read for my fellow mafia romance lovers. Just be aware before starting this duet that it contains sensitive subject matter that may be triggering for some readers, such as human trafficking, relatively graphic sexual assault and violence. Also remember that this is part two of a duet and you must read With This Ring first in order to read this one.
Thank you Natasha Knight and Give Me Books Promotions for the opportunity to read an advanced copy! ❤