2021 Favourite Reads

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. 😅

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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!

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Original post from my IG @booksofthemuggleborn

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• Contemporary Romance •

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📖 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)

📖 The Hate Love Duet by Lauren Rowe

(Hate-to-Love, Rockstar, New Adult Romance)

— ♥ —
*Not Pictured* (Honorable Mention):
📚 The Reed Rivers Trilogy by Lauren Rowe

(Age-Gap Romance, Friends-with-Benefits, Workplace Romance)

— ♥ —
📖 Brutal Blueblood by Becker Gray

(New Adult, Enemies-to-Lovers, Bully Romance, Academia Setting)

📖 Sweet Devil by Becker Gray

(New Adult, Hate-to-Love, Secret Crush, Academia Setting)

📖 Till It Hurts by Cora Brent

(Second-Chance Romance, First Love, Fake Relationship Trope)

📖 Lessons In Sin by Pam Godwin

(Taboo Romance, Forbidden, Secret Romance, Age-Gap, Academia Setting)

•••

• MC Romance •

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— ♥ —
*Not Pictured* (Honorable Mentions):
📖 Saint by Nicole James

(MC Romance, Suspense, Marriage of Convenience, Age-Gap Romance)

📖 Climbing The Ranks by Nicole James

(MC Romance, Suspense, Whirlwind Romance) *Trigger Warnings*

— ♥ —

•••

• Mafia Romance •

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📖 With This Ring by Natasha Knight

(Dark Mafia, Suspense, Arranged Marriage, Enemies-to-Lovers)

📖 Kiss Of Death Duet by L.P. Lovell

(Suspense, Enemies-to-Lovers, Forbidden Romance, Russian Assassins/ Italian Mob)

📖 Tears of Salvation by Michelle Heard

(Enemies-to-Lovers, Suspense, Dark Romance) *Trigger Warnings*

— ♥ —
*Not Pictured* (Honorable Mention):
📚 The Saints Series by Michelle Heart

(Suspense, Marriage of Convenience, Arranged Marriage, Opposites Attract, Assassins, Dark Romance) *Trigger Warnings*

— ♥ —
📖 A Vow Of Lust & Fury by L.P. Lovell

(Dark Romance, Arranged Marriage, Age-Gap Romance, Enemies-to-Lovers) *Trigger Warnings*

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• Dark Romance •

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📖 Secret Beast by Amelia Wilde

(Beauty & The Beast Retelling, Suspense, Enemies-to-Lovers, Forbidden Romance, Captor/Captive Romance)

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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

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By Sin I Rise: Part Two by Cora Reilly

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Original post from my IG @booksofthemuggleborn

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• BLURB •

By Sin I Rise Part 2 (Marcella & Maddox)

A fatal bond that was never meant to be.

Marcella gave Maddox the impossible choice, and he chose her.

Still, she wonders if Maddox is ready to commit to a relationship, or if he’s scared of losing the uninhibited freedom his biker lifestyle offered him.

All his life Maddox knew who his enemies were, but suddenly he’s at a loss whom to trust. Will he ever find a place in Marcella’s life and family, or will old companions give him a new home and purpose?

Can enemies ever truly become lovers if the odds are against them?

•••

• MY REVIEW •


“Marcella is the queen I didn’t know I needed in my life. There’s no one I’d like to be led around by the balls by.”


*singsong voice* Everybody! Take a shot every time Marcella is remotely mentioned as being a “Queen.” LOL 🙄🥃

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Hmm. I have a lot of strong thoughts and emotions swirling in my head right now that I’m trying to unjumble and put into words. I’ve been reading Cora’s books consistently for a few years now and I found fairly early on that her writing is white-hot and all-consuming. With detailed world-building that practically transports you to her characters’ world, and the characters themselves stand-out effortlessly from a crowd. It’s a big reason as to why she’s easily an auto-buy author of mine. 

So, I really had trouble digesting that this book was written by the one and only Cora Reilly. When you have a much-loved OG series, it can be difficult to top or re-create the same likability in a spin-off or next generation series. The first book in this two-part story had potential, unfortunately I just think this conclusion missed the mark. It didn’t have the same vibe as the previous books set in this world. Other than the appearances from OG characters like Luca, Matteo, and Growl, it almost didn’t feel like a mafia-based backdrop, let alone one that had MC elements. 😐

The story is character-driven and focuses solely on Maddox and Marcella trying to navigate through their emotions about their relationship whilst figuring out how the Famiglia will accept Maddox into their fold—and for that reason, I found the book relatively repetitive.

I know I’m going to be in the minority here, and that’s fine. Not everyone is going to like the same books, or even the same characters— and I think that’s ultimately the reasoning behind this book being a miss for me. The characters. As I mentioned in my review for Part One, I am not a Marcella fan. As a child when her personality started to peek through, I knew when she would be of age, that either her “princess” personality would only grow tenfold, or Cora would revamp her character and show plenty of growth and maturity.

I found the preconceived notions the characters had of her in this book spot-on. She’s a spoilt, bratty princess who keeps insisting she can “rule” because she’s a Vitiello. Nope. Sorry. It’s one thing to say it, but it’s another to follow through and for people to believe it.

I couldn’t connect with either Marcella or Maddox, and I had trouble getting invested in their story. Their romance doesn’t seem genuine, and it was painful to easily see Maddox proclaim his “love” only for it to not be openly reciprocated by Marcella. The majority of the time it felt like Maddox was putting all the effort into their drama-filled “relationship”. It was not an equal partnership. Not even close. I almost pitied Maddox for being the one who constantly sacrificed a piece of himself whilst all Marcella did was take, take, take.


“Marcella makes the rules and I’ll follow her, if necessary, to the gates of Hades.”


*singsong voice* Everybody! Take a shot every time Maddox is willing to do anything and everything for Marcella! 🤦‍♀️🥃🥃

Shots

Is Marcella Vitiello really worth all this trouble? Ehhhhh. Not really.

They’re a pair of characters who I felt would’ve been fine and may have even done well all on their own. Their coupling lacked believability, visible connection, or even intensity that the past couples from this world had displayed time and time again.

The pace of the storytelling lagged, and lacked any in-depth development. In all honesty, the only positive aspects I found in this book is the fact that we get to see OG characters; more specifically Growl. 😍😍 I always hoped for another book for him just because I wanted to see how his life had turned out after he moved to New York and started working for Luca. (I know Growl and Cara have a novella in the Bound by Blood Anthology, but it wasn’t enough for me lol). This book actually shows a good number of snippets into what he’s been up to after all these years. All the parts that included Growl were by far my favourite scenes! I actually loved the contrast he brings in. There’s a cool dynamic between Growl and the Vitiello brothers.

I’m not crossing this entire series off, because that seems premature. I knew going into the Sins of the Fathers series that Marcella’s story would’ve been the book I probably would have liked the least. So now that hers is officially done, I am eager to see the next next-gen character in line. After reading this book, I have my eyes set on Amo’s story. He’s the only Vitiello offspring who I saw real potential in bringing back some of the old Mafioso flare that Luca Vitiello first ignited in Bound by Honor. He already has the vibe going for him, so I have my fingers crossed that his story ends up being an epic one!

I strongly recommend reading Cora’s Born In Blood series first before diving into Maddox’s and Marcella’s story, especially if you’re new to her books. This is not her strongest work, and it doesn’t provide enough world-building on its own. Reading the original series that started it all will not only give you the backstory behind the Vitiello family, but it explains the history behind the war between the New York Famiglia and Maddox’s MC (motorcycle club).

This may not have been my cup of tea but I have no doubt other readers will like it. Especially if they’re already a fan of Marcella. It’s light on both the Mafia and MC elements. It has more of a NA contemporary atmosphere to it.

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐

Thank you Cora Reilly and Emily Alice for the opportunity to read an advanced copy!

🔔 Interested in reading By Sin I Rise: Part Two? Grab your copy here: Universal Link  |  Amazon US  |  Amazon UK  |  Amazon AU  |  Amazon CA  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Apple Books

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🔥 Read my review for Part One!

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Original post from my IG @booksofthemuggleborn

📕 By Sin I Rise: Part One by Cora Reilly


•••

Happy reading, guys! Catch you in my next one! Xo

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A Vow Of Lust & Fury by L.P. Lovell

⚠ This review contains minor teasers!

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Original post from my IG @booksofthemuggleborn

•••

• BLURB •

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 •

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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!   

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

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

•••


👑💀 More reviews for the Underworld Kings!

UnderworldKings_SeriesBanner
📷 Underworld Kings Website

Razor’s Edge by Mila Crawford

Tears Of Salvation by Michelle Heard

Marriage & Malice by Trisha Wolfe

Kingdom Fall by A. Zavarelli


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Happy reading, guys! Catch you in my next one! Xo

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Kingdom Fall by A. Zavarelli

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Original post from my IG @booksofthemuggleborn

 

•••

• BLURB •

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! 🔥

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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.   

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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.

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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.

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

Thank you Ashleigh Zavarelli for the opportunity to read an advanced copy! 💛

🔔 Interested in reading Kingdom Fall? Grab your copy here: Universal Link

•••


👑💀 More from the Underworld Kings!

UnderworldKings_SeriesBanner

Razor’s Edge by Mila Crawford

Tears Of Salvation by Michelle Heard

Marriage & Malice by Trisha Wolfe


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Happy reading, guys! Catch you in my next one! Xo

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Marriage & Malice by Trisha Wolfe

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Original post from my IG @booksofthemuggleborn

•••

• BLURB •

Rapture, desire, need – the yearning for our passions is the reason we strive, the reason we breathe. I’ve devoted my entire existence to the pursuit of my passion for dance. Ballet is my escape from the dark underworld I was born in to. As a Carpella and the daughter of a made man, I’ve accepted certain traditions. Yet, having just been promoted to principal within a prestigious dance company, I’m so close to being free…

Until a devil with blood on his hands and an Irish curse inked into his skin tears into my world, now passion holds a whole new, sinister meaning. With ruination in his steel-blue eyes and me in his crosshairs, Lucian Cross traps me in his gilded cage and uses me to deliver his retribution.

Forced to sign a marriage contract to unite two warring families, my father traded my life to save his own. Now I’m bound to Lucian, owned by a monster who swore an oath of pain and suffering to the Carpellas.

Lucian’s passion is revenge.

And because my family destroyed what he loved, he’s vowed to destroy what I love. Every night he forces me to dance until my breaking point. He wants to condition me to loathe the very thing that once gave me hope.

I can’t let him break me, but the closer we get to the wedding date, the more entangled I become in his dangerous, tempting world, and I’m losing myself in this man.

His vow is my pain.

My vow is not to fall for the enemy.

But how can I dance with the devil himself and not be singled by his fire?

•••

• MY REVIEW •

I have never read a romance story with a slow-burn romance that tortured me as badly with how sluggish it developed than this book right here! My gosh, it was like a gradual teasing build-up that led to more teasing and a whole lot of sexual frustration and torture for both protagonists… and *cough cough* me. 🤦‍♀️😅 If you enjoy angsty, SLOOOOW slow-burn mafia romance reads, this story might just be for you!

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Trisha Wolfe is a new-to-me author and this was my introduction to her writing. Marriage & Malice sets a gritty almost squirm-inducing atmosphere right from the opening scene. I was instantly immersed, needing to know what’s to become of Violet and Lucian in this all-out mafia war and enemies-to-lovers story.

Italian mafia vs the Irish syndicate, and caught in the crossfire is Violet who spent most of her life outside of it, training as a ballerina. The premise of the two worlds merging was what initially had me interested in reading this story and it doesn’t disappoint in terms of seeing a nice balance of both elements. There’s an obvious dynamic between Violet and Lucian the minute they meet and it only intensifies the longer they’re in forced proximity.

I did enjoy the build-up to their relationship and the suspense surrounding them. I only wish it didn’t take as long to admit their feelings for one another, and because of that I felt like by the time they were in it for more than the initial arranged marriage and Lucian’s vengeance, the emotions they were feeling wasn’t as in-depth or believable as I was hoping for.

For the most part it was steady-paced storytelling, only occasionally slowing down in certain parts. It’s told from dual POVs and gives you excellent insight into both Violet’s and Lucian’s pasts. Their romance is undoubtedly steamy and their growing attraction for one another is one of the most tantalizing things you can expect to see.

Overall, it had suspense, some unpredictability, and the secondary characters helped create layers in the world-building. It’s a pretty grim and dark atmosphere throughout and putting aside the romance aspect of the story, it has subject matters that may be triggering for some readers. It contains attempted sexual assault, graphic violence, abuse/ torture.

Whilst both protagonists have some character growth, it’s Lucian, in my opinion who had the most development. The further you delve into the story the more you see the subtle changes in not only his demeanor but his mentality towards Violet as he struggles with keeping his revenge. It may be a love story (albeit a dark one), but Lucian is the central character here and the story revolves around his agenda.

As much as I like this book, I do however feel an epilogue is very much needed, whether or not Trisha decides to revisit this world in the future. The ending just didn’t feel complete for a story that’s supposedly a standalone and I was left wanting more for their HEA. 🤔

Nevertheless, I think it’s a great addition to the Underworld Kings. It certainly brings in the darkness, the world of Made Men, along with complexity, villainous characters, and ulterior motives one can hope for in a romantic suspense read. The scenes with Violet dancing were beautiful, and such a contrast to the death and violence that consumed a large portion of the storyline. Lucian is Irish and a real alpha-hole… but for good reason. Violet is thrust back into the world she was born into and discovers she has more grit in her than anyone (including herself) could’ve ever imagined.

If you enjoy reading hate-to-love romances with a dark mafia backdrop to them, give this one a read.

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐¾

Thank you Trisha Wolfe and the entire Underworld Kings team for the opportunity to read an advanced copy! 💜

•••


💀 More reviews for the Underworld Kings! 👑

UnderworldKings_SeriesBanner
📷 Underworld Kings Website

📖 Razor’s Edge by Mila Crawford

📖 Tears Of Salvation by Michelle Heard


•••

Happy reading, guys! Catch you in my next one! Xo

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The Saints Series by Michelle Heard

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Original post from my IG @booksofthemuggleborn

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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 •

BLURB

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.

•••

MINI REVIEW

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.

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

•••

• Book Two | Cruel Saints •

BLURB

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.

•••

MINI REVIEW

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.

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

•••

• Book Three | Ruthless Saints •

BLURB

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.

Until her…
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.

•••

MINI REVIEW

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.

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

•••

• Book Four | Tears Of Betrayal •

BLURB

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.

•••

MINI REVIEW

Demitri & Ariana | A captor/captive, forced proximity Bratva romance story.

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.

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

•••


• Book Five | Tears Of Salvation •

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Original post from my IG @booksofthemuggleborn

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! ❤

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

📖 Read my full review here: Tears Of Salvation by Michelle Heard

•••

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…

OVERALL SERIES RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐½


•••

Happy reading, guys! Catch you in my next one! Xo

Tears Of Salvation by Michelle Heard

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Original post from my IG @booksofthemuggleborn

•••

• BLURB •

ISABELLA

I was the party crasher.
He was the Devil.

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.
Alexei Koslov.
My family’s worst enemy.

There’s a thin line between love and hate,
and I’m straddling it.

ALEXEI

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! 😍😍❤

GirlWithGun_B&W

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!

  • Dark Romance
  • Russian Mafia Romance
  • Romantic Suspense
  • Enemies-to-Lovers
  • Assassins
  • Comradery
  • Kickass Heroines
  • Overprotective Alphas

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!

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you Michelle Heard, the entire Underworld Kings team, and Candi Kane PR for the opportunity to read an advanced copy! 🧡

•••


💀 More on the Underworld Kings 👑

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Website: Underworld Kings


•••

Happy reading, guys! Catch you in my next one! Xo

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Razor’s Edge by Mila Crawford

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Original post from my IG @booksofthemuggleborn

•••

• BLURB •

Ellison

My parents moved our family to a new town when I sixteen years old. The first person I met was local bad boy, Calvin Montgomery. His father was president of the local MC, but despite his reputation, Calvin had a heart of gold. We were a perfect match until one violent night destroyed the future we’d envisioned together.

Calvin

I lost Ellison and the dream for our future when I locked up for a decade. An act of violence I will never forget. It’s been ten years without her, but a day hasn’t gone by where I haven’t thought about her. But Ellison isn’t the same girl I left behind. They say time heals all wounds, but nothing cuts as deep as your first true love.

•••

• MY REVIEW •

I was expecting a dark, suspenseful romance story and was surprised to find a sweet contemporary, coming of age story instead between two next-door neighbours. 😊

Bikers_SunsetRide


“We were on the razor’s edge and that’s where our love lived.”


Mila Crawford is a new-to-me author and this was my introduction to her writing. I can’t make any comparisons, so I don’t know if her writing style in this particular story differentiates with her other books, but this one definitely had a mixture of different romance sub-genres in one. Whilst the overall setting is contemporary, it had elements (albeit more in the background) of both MC romance (Motorcycle Club) and Mafia romance. The majority of the book is also set in a high school/ NA narrative.

It has a steady enough pacing, and whilst it was detailed in certain areas, in my opinion the aspects that required in-depth detail were the parts that actually lacked it. I also found the story to be choppy at times for my liking. For example, it would start out with a gradual development of an event just for it to end abruptly. Next thing you know, time has passed and the next event in their lives takes place. The flow has a start-and-stop feel to it that I was finding it difficult to really settle into the story because it doesn’t quite give you enough time to absorb events before it moves onto another development.

Whilst I thought Calvin’s and Ellison’s adorable meet cute and the sweet developments in their relationship throughout their teen years interesting to see play out, once the story hits the pivotal turn of events and time has fast-forwarded to their adulthood, there was a visible atmosphere shift. It was hard to keep the connection with these protagonists (especially Ellison) as it felt like I was reading a brand new story. The past may have altered both their futures but Ellison’s character development headed in a direction that had me a little taken aback to be honest.

The vibe is almost a separate one from the first 2/3 of the story. I think the main reason as to why their past and present, and the overall story ending up coming together is because one particular secondary character ended up playing a bigger role than expected. Not only was he the link to both Calvin and Ellison in both timelines, but he was the bridge in merging (or should I say re-merging) their lives together again.

The synopsis initially had me intrigued and after having read it I thought it was a nice storyline overall, but I did think there was some repetitiveness. Plot twists and additional plotlines were also either too vague or lacked further development after it was first mentioned, which I’m not going to lie frustrated me because those points could so easily have added extra dimension into the story but unfortunately was never elaborated on and leaves you with unanswered questions.

Despite it all, there’s plenty of heartwarming moments between the two which lightens the overall sombre mood of the book.

Calvin is a unique character with an eclectic range of traits from caring and protective, to cocky and hot-headed. I liked the fact that he knew what he wanted from the very beginning and his mindset never wavered. His loyalty and willingness to break away from a toxic lifestyle had me rooting for him.

Mila created a diverse and complex heroine in Ellison and because of that had me curious in knowing her personal story. What she ended up divulging added realism and relatability within the overall storyline as it raises sensitive subject matters that people don’t necessarily or easily discuss openly but are topics that one may relate to.

This book may be triggering for some readers as it contains matters such as domestic violence/ abuse, kidnapping, sexual assault, attempted suicide, and mental health. It’s intended for readers 18+ only.

Although I have mixed feelings about certain things, I did enjoy reading this book as a whole. The highlights are definitely from their teen years as most of the story development and the growth of their relationship takes place during that time. Calvin and Ellison are both likable characters but I must admit Calvin’s brother Fox won me over right from the very beginning. 😍😍 There’s a range of secondary characters who all added complexity as they played predominant roles in both Calvin’s and Ellison’s lives. I thought Mila brilliantly created characters that evoke strong emotions out of you and you’ll find yourself truly sympathizing for both Calvin’s and Ellison’s personal struggles.

I think Razor’s Edge is a great book for romance readers who are transitioning from reading contemporary to more darker romance stories, as it has a blend of both worlds. It’s heavy on the contemporary setting but also has dark elements in between to give the story a bit of bite. The romance between the protagonists is insta-love but nevertheless sweet, full of heart, and just how you would imagine first loves to be. It’s a story of second chances with underlying lessons in not taking anything for granted and learning from one’s mistakes.

**This book is a standalone in the Underworld Kings author collaboration series. 

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐¾

Thank you Mila Crawford, the entire Underworld Kings team, and Ardent PRose for the opportunity to read an advanced copy! 💜

🔔 Interested in reading Razor’s Edge? Grab your copy here: Universal Link

•••


💀 More on the Underworld Kings! 👑

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✨ Website: Underworld Kings


•••

Happy reading, guys! Catch you in my next one! Xo

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Stolen: Dante’s Vow by Natasha Knight

booksofthemuggleborn_stolendantesvow
Original post from my IG @booksofthemuggleborn

•••

• BLURB •

Five years.

That’s how long it took me to find her.

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.”


KurtRussell_ArmedAngry

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.

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you Natasha Knight and Give Me Books PR for the opportunity to read an advanced copy!

🔔 Interested in reading Dante’s Vow? Grab your copy here: Amazon US  |  Amazon UK  |  Amazon CA  |  Amazon AU  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  Apple Books  |  Google Play

•••


💍 Read reviews for the To Have and To Hold Duet!

Book One: With This Ring by Natasha Knight

Book Two: I Thee Take by Natasha Knight


•••

Happy reading, guys! Catch you in my next one! Xo

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By Sin I Rise: Part One by Cora Reilly

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Original post from my IG @booksofthemuggleborn

•••

• BLURB •

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. 

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• 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??

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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.

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐¾

Thank you Cora Reilly and Emily Alice for the opportunity to read an advanced copy! 💛

🔔 Interested in reading By Sin I Rise? Grab your copy here: Amazon US  |  Apple Books  |  Barnes & Noble

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Happy Reading, guys! Catch you in my next one! Xo

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