A Zavarelli-Conor

For some reason, I feel ridiculously close to these books. Maybe it’s because Boston is only about 3.5 hours south of me, depending on how fast you drive, or it could be that I eat at Dunkies every chance I get, strawberry coolatta and bacon, egg, and cheese on croissant is my regular order, but sometimes I get a nice flavored latte, with tons of whipped cream, because everything is better with whipped cream. Maybe it’s because I’m of Irish descent, or I could just be ridiculously attached to bad boy anti-heroes who aren’t afraid to do what they need to in order to keep their families safe. Just like Conor.

One fateful night at Slainte, Crow points out a tiny little waif to Conor, tells him that she was Muerto’s girlfriend and was there the day that they did what needed to be done, so she knows things she shouldn’t oughta know, and now it’s his job to take care of her and do what needs to be done. Crow tells Conor it’s going to be easy to watch over her, since he just hired her as a dancer. She’s been asking him to hire her for several days, and he finally said yes. All Conor sees is a tiny little thing who is super skinny, who he figures is on drugs and is some kind of addict.

Sure, Ivy was Muerto’s girl, but there was so much more than that. Now the Locos are after her and she’s hiding from them. She’s trying to save up money so that she can get away. She has a plan, and she’s going to do everything she can to make that plan happen, and dancing at Slainte (pronounced slawn-che and meaning cheers in Irish Gaelic) is an easy way to do it. Plus, since the club is owned by the Irish mob, she figures she’ll at least be safe at work. Maybe they’ll help to keep the Locos off her back until she can escape Boston and be somewhere safe.

While following her, Conor finds out that she’s sleeping rough and that she’s hungry, not a junkie. He also finds out that she has a big secret, which is what changes his mind and makes him want to protect her instead of end her. The way that he does that is to marry her, because if she’s married to a member of the mob, no one will mess with her. Conor tells Ivy that’s what’s going to happen, and they visit the justice of the peace and get married, just like that.

I like Conor. He’s honorable and stands up to his own particular code, which is the code of the Irish syndicate that he’s part of. He’s done everything he can to help prove himself to Crow and the guys. I also kind of dislike Conor because he’s a little bit of an idiot when it comes to Ivy. If he would’ve talked to her more, he would’ve known more of what’s going on, instead, he had to be a mule-headed man and think that he knew what she was thinking and feeling. Gah, it makes me so angry when the big, bad, tough guys make decisions on their assumptions like that. Then again, you have to have some conflict to further the story, and hey, makeup sex is totally a thing, right? Ivy is a strong woman, used to doing everything on her own, and I like that about her, that she’s willing to stand up for what she needs to. I’m also frustrated by her because she needs to let someone help her out, and it takes a while for her to realize that she needs to let someone else be strong for her, and that Conor is more than willing to do that.

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I wonder how much of this Crow planned. He seemed to know that things would happen in certain ways if he put Conor and Ivy together. Is he that sneaky? Yeah, probably. I mean, he never outright says what Conor should do to take care of Ivy, Conor just kind of reads in between the lines and assumes he knows what Crow wants. But, all Crow said was take care of it. The way that Conor handled it was definitely taking care of it.

And Slick? Ugh, what a jerk. Too bad Conor didn’t do more than just break his arm, because really, he needed more.

Well, that’s all I have to say about this one today. You will do yourself a real favor if you read all these stories, especially if you like the bad boy anti-hero type. Happy reading!

A. Zavarelli-Confess

Oh, poppets, Confess is a good one. It’s dark and gritty and raw and painful and beautiful all at once. A Zavarelli did an amazing job with it. There were times when I was totally gutted by it.

Gypsy is a con artist, and is very good at her job. She generally does a short con and gets some poor schmuck to fall in love with her and they rush to get married only for her to come up with some dirt she has on him. She gets money from him, he gets the evidence she had, and she leaves. This time, when she left her groom at the altar, she goes to a bar, where she is literally dancing on the bar in her wedding dress and cowboy boots and scamming money as she goes. When she gets into a fight over a pool game, a gorgeous man comes to her rescue, calling her out on what she did. So she runs and runs fast, back to her sister Birdie in Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, we have Lucian, who knows exactly who Gypsy is and isn’t worried about the fact that she ran from him because he knows where she lives. He knows her past. He knows things about her that she doesn’t know. And he has plans for the lovely con artist. He’s going to marry her. She just doesn’t know it yet. Lucian tracks her down and shows her the evidence that her sister has been doing naughty things and tells her that the only way to keep Birdie out of trouble is for her to marry him. He has a contract for her sign which basically signs her life over to him for 2 years. She has to do everything that he tells her to or there are consequences. Gypsy initially resists, but when she can’t figure out any other way to get around it, she ends up marrying him.

I like Gypsy, most of the time. I never really hate her, but there are a couple of times where I kinda don’t like her. She’s very stubborn and is bound and fucking determined to be in control and have all the power. She’s also very damaged and broken. With her past, I don’t blame her for wanting to be in control all the time. I would too. But, she keeps going head to head with Lucian, even when she’s got all this evidence that fighting him won’t win her anything and that there is very little chance that she’s going to win. She just has to poke and poke and poke.

I want to hate Lucian sometimes, but there is something about him that makes it really hard to hate him. I mean, yeah, we see his POV so we know what’s going on in his head, which is part of what makes it hard to hate him, but even from Gypsy’s POV, there’s just something about him, even when he’s trying to make her hate him. I thought that the contract and the wedding vows were very paternal and he really kind of treats her like he’s a Daddy at times. Or maybe I just have Daddies on my brain right now. But the vows really do strike me as Daddy-ish.

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Oh, I cried when Lucian opened up about his past. It was so sad. I wanted to be so angry for him. I also wanted to feel sorry for him because he spent so many years punishing himself. I truly get feeling guilty about what happened, but he took punishing himself to a whole new level.

I can’t wait to see what is going to happen with Birdie and Ace. I don’t particularly care for Birdie, so we’ll have to see if she can be redeemed for me.

OK, that’s all for this one. Go check it out! Happy reading!

A. Zavarelli-Thief

A. Zavarelli is the Queen of Boston Mafia. There are other Mafia queens too, but A. runs Boston. I’ve enjoyed the other books in this series, so when I got the chance to read the newest one? Yes, please.

One nice thing about A’s Mafia series is that you aren’t just dealing with the Irish (it is Boston), the Russians, the Armenians, or the Italians. You get all of the above in a pleasing melting pot of Mafia-y goodness. Is that a thing? Maybe it should be. OK, I said so, so now everyone has to go and share it.

So, Thief. This is Nikolai’s and Tanaka’s story.

Nika is a Vor, a member of the Vory, a Boston Russian mob. He’s relatively high up in their particular organization. He’s also a thief. A damn good one, not that he would brag, since it isn’t done. But, if you want something, Nika is the one to get it. He was just promoted over his father, whose ear he cut off. He has to deal with Alexi, who is his half-brother and who kind of hates him. Nika’s current goal in life is to find out what happened to his mother. His father, Sergei, told him that she was a whore and ran away with an Italian man. Nika is now in a position to find out, so he’s ready to do some investigation.

Tanaka has been raised to be a proper young woman. She’s also an Italian Mafia Princess. She knows that her only real value is as a trophy bride to her fiancee. She’s supposed to keep his house, look pretty, and turn a blind eye. However, she loves to dance. She’s trained for years and years and years until she’s become a principal ballerina with a prestigious ballet company. It’s all she’s ever wanted. She made a deal with her dad that she would be able to dance for a time before she had to go be the dutiful daughter, marry Dante, and give up ballet. But, tonight? Tonight is her big night. Her dad does his normal pre-show appearance and this time brings a scruffy looking nerf herder with him. He introduces this guy in jeans and motorcycle boots as Nikolai. Then it’s time for her to go dance. When she goes on pointe for the first time, she notices that there is something wrong with her toe shoes. When she goes to land her first jump, that something wrong turns into something very wrong, and she falls, injuring herself, and probably ending her career as a professional dancer.

There is A LOT going on in this story. It can be read as a standalone from the series if you want, but if you read Ghost first, you may enjoy it more because there is some overlap. It’s up to you. You should have no problems keeping track of the story and enjoying it either way you go. You get enough of the backstory during what’s happening. A. doesn’t lay a chapter or two of exposition and backstory on you, it comes out organically, which I tend to enjoy more. There are some aspects to this one that could be considered dubcon. I kind of fall on the side that there are some dubcon aspects, but it swiftly moves out of that category. Tanaka and Nika are explosive together, in good and bad ways. There are parts of the book when they seem to be more determined to piss the fuck out of each other instead of anything else. They do have a lot of stuff they have to work through, both with each other and on their own, and all of it makes the story both better and darker. Definitely worth going over and giving it a read.

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I seriously, seriously hate Tanaka’s dad. I mean, I knew he was a piece of shit before we get more information about him. From the first word he says to her, I knew that he’s going to be a dick. I would love to say that I was a better person and didn’t think he got what he deserved. I’m not and he did. In fact, they may not have gone far enough, surprisingly.

I’m glad that Tanaka did what she did. I didn’t see it coming though. I was thinking that there was going to be something else going on with that particular subplot. I didn’t particularly care for the other person involved in that subplot. He was a dick.

OK, that’s all for this one. More to come today. Happy reading!

My Top Ten Part 1

Everyone should have a top ten list. I actually have several. This one is my Top Ten darkest and most fucked up things I’ve read. The list changes around some and the order changes around. Number one is currently number one, but the order of other four in my top five can change around, depending on which one I’ve read recently. This post is going to be the five top stories. Next Tuesday will be part two with stories 6-10.

The Life of Anna

Seriously, when I say that LoA by Marissa Honeycutt is dark and fucked up, I might be understating it. The trigger warnings may need to have trigger warnings. I’ve talked to other people who read dark books and they rank this as their darkest read ever and considering some of the books we talk about, that’s saying a whole lot.

LoA takes place in an alternate universe. It’s still Earth┬ábut there are magical Immortals. Anna is part Immortal. The world is basically run by the BDSM version of the Masons. Two very, very, very bad men take advantage of Anna from a very young age. That’s because they know what she is and what she will be able to do at some point. They want to be able to control her and use her powers. There is one pretty good man who does what he can to save her. There is a lot of sex. There is some BDSM. There is also a lot of brutality towards Anna. It is a very intense read. I cried through huge swaths of it, and I had to take a break to read something else in the middle. The complete story is on KU, or you can buy the serialized version. But trust me when I say that it is dark, intense, sometimes brutal, and can be triggering. Marissa Honeycutt published a companion novella called Abandoned Grace, about Devin, the main bad guy in LoA, and I just found out today that she has a new one coming out on August 24! It’s in the same world, but not about Anna. It’s called Master of My Body: Finding Sabrina. I’ve already 1 clicked.

Monster

Remember how in my last post I said that I would be talking about Monster in this one? Well, here it is. Monster is a short from Hero Undercover. HU is an anthology by 25 authors, including Jennifer Bene and Addison Caine, who has a story in another anthology that is about to show up on this list. Now, the premise of this anthology is that there is a good guy, usually a cop, but not always, is undercover and rescues the heroine. There is often a lot of spanking involved, yum.

Anyway, telling the good guys from the bad guys isn’t always easy, especially when the good guy has been undercover for a long time. That’s what happens with Monster. Nikki walks into a situation that is way above what she can handle because she wants to save her brother. Andre wants her. Terrible things happen to Nikki.

This story just trips all my triggers in an oh, so good way. Jennifer manages to pack a whole lot of twisted shit into a little package. Everything that happens would be intense in a longer work, but in a short, you just don’t get a break from it, which is totally wow. Great story in a great anthology.

Nightmares in Wonderland

Nightmares in Wonderland is Addison Cain’s entry in The Dark Forest. DF is another anthology. In this one, several great authors get together to put their own spin on various fairy tales. Obviously, Addison took on Alice in Wonderland. OMFG, did she ever. Addison swims in the deep, dark, disturbing end of the pool right next to Jennifer Bene. In fact, it was through Addison that I found Jennifer, as well as some other dark authors like Kitty Thomas, who doesn’t show up on this list, but will show up on my blog sometime in the next few weeks.

Addison’s version of this particular story is disturbing. Deeply disturbing. Her Alice spends years unable to sleep and being basically tortured by nightly visitors. The only time she gets any peace is then the Hatter comes to visit. He guards her sleep. After years and years, her parents try to have her cured. This whole story is delightfully disturbing and dark.

Beast

This retelling of Beauty and the Beast is written by A Zavarelli. If there was going to be a movie version of this book, I’m pretty sure that Emma Watson would turn down the role of Bella. Beast is really dark. It has capture and non-con themes.

Bella won a singing contest, and her manager is trying to get into her pants. Javier was trained by her father, who is now missing. Bella rushes home to deal with what’s going on with her father, but mysterious things start happening. She gets drawings and other things start showing up. She feels like she is being watched. And of course, you can probably guess what’s happening, she is, of course, being watched, by Javi.

Poor Javier, bad things happened to him as a child and then Bella’s dad takes advantage of the poor kid that is Javier. Javi hates her father for what he did. Frankly, I don’t blame Javi one bit for that. Her dad is a massive prick.

Anyway, Javi takes Bella, locks her up, and subjects her to a lot of things. However, this book isn’t necessarily about what happens here, but it’s about the light that can come from the darkness. For a book that starts as a non-con, it ends up with an HEA. Now I need to go read it again. Can’t recommend it enough.

Dare

Dare was a book that I read because one of the FB groups I’m in had a takeover by the author, James Crow. Of all the books on my list, most of which have some mind-fuck going on, this is the most mind-fuckingest. I will never, ever play truth or dare again. I’m pretty sure that my response was along the lines of what the fuck did I just read?

I don’t even know where to start describing this book. Pretty much anything I saw about it is a spoiler. Let’s just say it’s truth or dare to the Nth degree. The end was so not what I expected at all. I spent quite some time afterwards trying to figure it out. If you read it, you’ll understand why. ┬áThere is a lot of sex, and some (well, a lot of) drug use.

Anyway, these are the top five of my Top Ten. The second half will come out next Tuesday, or maybe earlier, I don’t know yet. Also coming next week, a blog post about urban fantasy, another very favorite genre.

Reminder, Jennifer Bene is offering her book, Security Binds Her, for free on Amazon right now, until 7/15. This is a great time to grab this book and get started reading her Thalia series. The last book just came out and it is a wonderful end to the series.