"Hot" Scale: 4.5 out of 5 Flames - Fire Extinguisher HOT!
Recommended For: Fans of the Inside Out trilogy & Contemporary/Erotic Romance with a Mystery Twist
Genres: GBLT, Erotic Romance, Contemporary, Mafia-Mob
(From Goodreads book blurb) Love lights even the darkest soul.
A killer's moral compass rarely points true, and among made men, being gay is a capital crime. But Silvio Spadaro, deadly prodigy and heir to a Family fortune, is determined to find his own way--at the feet of the man he loves or by the barrel of a gun--no matter the dangers or costs.
Stefano Marino lives a comfortable--some might even say enviable--life. As a mob boss at the top of the food chain, he has it all: money, respect, a beautiful wife he loves as much now as the day they wed. But he also has a turf war on his hands, and far too soft a heart for this dark business.
When Silvio is sent to help Stefano with his turf war, sparks fly. Stefano loves his wife, but he wants Silvio. It's a desire he hardly knows how to process, but Silvio, ever the patient predator, maneuvers Stefano closer and closer to his bed each day. Stefano resists; giving in to these dark desires means giving up on his marriage, and exposure would surely mean death. Yet there's no denying Silvio's magnetic pull, or the long-repressed urges inside himself. Yielding is inevitable, but he may yet find a way to hold on to everything--and everyone--he loves.
First off, I LOVE Aleksandr Voinov's works! He has a way of creating dark, twisted, harsh worlds full of hot, steamy sex... and yet characters that compel me to continue reading and draw me in... romances that are difficult and messy, and yet tender and loving. HOW DOES HE DO IT?
There were lots of aspects to this story that were out of my comfort zone. And yes, even things I didn't like at all. But... overall, this story captured me and made me want to continue reading to find out what happened. It made me care. I can't say that I fell for Stefano and Silvio quite like I did for Vadim and Dan from Special Forces, but I could easily have read more about Stefano, Silvio, and Donata.
What I liked:
1. The progression of Stefano's relationship with Silvio: This was slow and sometimes painful, but it was organic. It takes time for a man like Stefano to recognize his own leanings, much less to accept them. And Stefano is too honorable to rape his enemies as a show of power; some bosses might not. But perhaps that would make the boss subject to rumors, too.
But I liked how Stefano anguished over his wife and his love for her. He wanted to have the best of both worlds, but he wasn't going to allow his desire for Silvio to ruin his marriage, if he could help it. I do see how he might have resented Donata or that this would have finally been the wedge that separated them permanently down the line. And I didn't have a strong sense of Donata - we saw her through Stefano's eyes until late in the story. But when she became more center-stage, I appreciated her strength and her POV. While it might seem as if this was another HEA, I didn't feel as if this resolution was out-of-character or far-fetched.
2. The darkness: Yeah, sometimes this is intimidating. But this mafia world is dark, and the story doesn't pull back from that. Voinov probably sanitizes it somewhat, but it still has that dark, gritty feeling. This isn't just some contemporary romance... it's not intended to be.
The research into this world is obvious. I appreciated having most of it broken down for me, the layperson. Sometimes, I felt overwhelmed by the Italian phrases, but these are easily searched through the web.
3. The multi-layered feel: We don't only have Stefano's POV. We get into the heads of many of the characters. We see the issues and their impact from these multi POVs and it makes the story richer. It feels and reads like something the reader is viewing, rather than just reading. Each character adds to the layers, the richness, and the world.
What bothered me:
1. The resolution - how Stefano and Donata ended up: It just felt... too easy. Especially (view spoiler) Just seems that Stefano won't be able to hide forever, regardless of who might empathize with why he did what he did... but as a "boss", he broke Omerta - the strongest ever mafia bond. That puts a price on his head for the rest of his life.
How would I have ended it? Well, I just didn't see a HEA in the works, unless Stefano could find something against Sebastiano to make him stop. And that's what I expected: Stefanoto continue as he was, but putting a stop to Sebastiano and the US Attorney's office. There had to be a way to use Silvio or Donata or some connections to do that. I do understand why Stefano didn't want to involve Silvio, but still... Maybe I'm being too naive.
2. Silvio and his "relationship" with Franco: I never made the connection between Silvio and autism until the very end of the book, when it came up. Then I understood more. I just figured Silvio was who he was because of his life experiences with his family and Battista. It would have been nice to know this much sooner - or at least have earlier hints, such as when Franco visits.
Speaking of Franco... I was really uncomfortable with this relationship. Maybe because of the taboo, but mostly just... it was icky. And it made Silvio seem indiscriminate. Silvio might get sex whenever and wherever he wants, but when he does, generally, he's very careful with his identity. Especially because it's dangerous to be gay or bi-sexual in the mafia world. Silvio is a feared hit man, but still...this seems exponentially worse.
3. Sebastiano: He's mentioned before he becomes a major player in the story, but while I understand his motivations, I felt as if some of details were either missing or the dots just weren't connected. For example, he makes a big deal of his family and the role-playing exercise, but it was tough to figure out how that connects to his reality/experience. Was Silvio supposed to be the young boy in the ball? When Sebastiano talks about Silvio, as he does, eventually. There's no shock about Silvio's actions or preferences or that he's involved with Stefano. Just veiled references to Sebastiano's seeming hatred and mistrust of his own brother. Is that because Silvio is still in the "family business"? Or is there more to his hatred - like knowing about Franco's connection to Silvio?
4. The names were just TOO SIMILAR: Stefano, Silvio, Sebastiano... Vince and Viero... I get that Italian names can be difficult. But I'd have appreciated having the principal names, meaning those names that I need to keep straight because they're important in the story.