K. Webster & Ker Dukey-Vas

Ker and KWeb have decided to help me out with the ABC challenge I’m doing on Goodreads this year by making sure I had a book that started with V by giving me Vas. Well, I guess they gave it to everyone, but I’m totally going to pretend that they were thinking only of me when they hit publish. Don’t harsh my mellow, OK?

Vas is the 3rd book in the V Games series, and features, oddly enough, Vas. The featured men in each of the books is from one of the First Families of the Russian mafiya. This one focuses on the scion of the Volkov family. Well, he’s sort of a member of the Volkovs. His old man is Volkov senior, but his mother was a maid in the household and Vas didn’t know who his father was until he was much older. He did spend time around Diana (Ven) and Irina (Vlad), his two half-sisters, growing up, and now that they are all adults, they are all close, especially Diana and Vas, because of the way he helped her.

Old man Volkov has pretty much claimed Vas, since he wants to have a male heir. Even though he raised Diana and Irina to be strong, powerful women and told them that they would be able to make their own choices in life, he fucked them over, and went with Vas instead.

Vas was an underground fighter, and now he has a serious reputation in the underground circles. No one wants to take him on. He now helps to train fighters for the V Games from different families. He also goes to visit his sisters regularly, especially Irina. Why does he visit Irina a lot? Well, that’s because Darya is there. Darya is a slave that Vasiliev the elder has. There’s just something about her that draws Vas to her. And it’s not even that she spends pretty much all her time naked. He’s obsessed with her, and he wants to get her out of there somehow. However, all of his plans to get her out and make her safe become suddenly irrelevant when it turns out that she’s Vlad’s sister.

Darya was raised in a religious orphanage and then spent time in a convent before the devil man came and took her away and gave her to Vasiliev, who she calls Molokh, a demon. When it comes out that she’s Vlad’s sister (probably), he swears that he will keep her safe from his terrible, monstrous father. When Vas tells Vas that he wants access to Darya, Vlad says sure, but he will have to train a fighter for him, Alyona Voskoboynikov, a young woman who is a member of the lesser of the First Families.

So, Vas, Darya, and Alyona all go off to Moscow so that Vas can train Alyona in a safe(ish) place, and so that Darya will be safe from Molokh. And thus we go into the story.

I have to admit that I didn’t like Vas when we first met him in Vlad. I thought that he was kinda creepy, but by Ven, he had really grown on me, and by his own book, I was so excited to see it come out. I was really excited to see what Ker and K would do with him. I was also looking forward to see what would come out of the actions of the last book and what would happen to Vika. I have to say, I’m perfectly happy with the resolution of both things. I don’t like Vika, I never really have, she’s scheming, grasping, narcissistic, and thinks she’s really smarter than she actually is. She wants to think that she’s Machiavelli, when in fact she’s more like Machia, no velli, at least I think so. I like Darya. I like her a whole lot. And I’ll forever be loyal to Diana, who is Queen, but I think that Darya may actually be the strongest of all the women in this series. She goes through hell, yanked from a safe(ish) place in the convent to being a sex slave who is abused, and yet, she never loses herself. If you ask me, that makes her pretty damn strong. I think that she and Vas are going to be a serious power couple in their world, plus with the connections they have to Vlad and Ven, I think the next generation of First Families is going to rule the world.

I don’t think this one is quite as dark as the other books are, Vas and Darya’s love story is a little sweeter. However, not quite as dark and a little sweeter doesn’t mean light and super sweet.

boxing-female-fight-161017

I have to say, I didn’t quite expect what happened to Vika, but I do think that it will work well. Vas is a pretty good guy for being who he is.

I can’t wait to see what happens with our Moscow brothers. I think that they are going to be interesting, and I think that I’m pretty happy that they never laid a hand on Darya, because that would’ve been more than a little bit weird. I do like the guys though. I think they are pretty fantastic, and I’m glad that we are going to still see them.

OK, that’s all I have to say about this one. Go check it out, and make sure that you read the other two books in the series, otherwise you won’t get this one. Happy reading!

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.

clover-clovers-green-158780

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!

Renee Rose-Ace of Diamonds

Renee Rose is taking us back to Vegas and the Tacone Family with Ace of Diamonds. It’s a great addition to her Vegas Underground series.

So, this is the 3rd one in the series. While it’s a series, it’s not a serial, so you can read it without having read the other two. The couples from the others do show up in this one, but they are pretty secondary.

Pepper Heart is a popular singer. She started out as that alt-goth-rock chick back when she was 16. Now, 7 years later, her manager and her record label turned her into a pop princess and she hates it. That’s not the only thing that her manager has done. He managed to really fuck up her last album release and got her almost a million dollars in debt to the Tacone Family. So she now has to appear at the Bellissimo in Vegas in order to pay off the debt. Because heaven forbid that Hugh, the scuzzball, comes up with the money or, you know, even take the blame for his actions. Generally, this wouldn’t be a huge problem, but you see, Pepper’s voice is pretty much completely gone. She’s been touring a whole lot lately and she’s been sick, sick enough that she actually collapsed after leaving the stage and since then, her voice has just been getting worse and worse. Now, it’s so bad, she can barely talk at all, so she has to lip sync her performances.

Tony is Nico Tacone’s best friend, bodyguard, and general right hand. His job now is to deal with Pepper and collecting her debt. He wasn’t expecting anything like the real Pepper to show up. He expected some entitled, privileged twit, what he got was a lovely young woman who was so real, and had horribly painfilled eyes. But it’s when he realizes that she had to lip synch her concert that he hits the roof. And smacks her ass.

I loved Pepper. She really was sweet. She really wanted to make sure that her fans were happy, and she was more than happy to engage them so that they would have a fun time. Even when she couldn’t speak, she would do all kinds of things in order to make her fans happy. The nice thing is, she got to make her happy at the same time, which was nice. I also felt sorry for her, because it really did feel that there wasn’t anyone there to help her out. I have always liked Tony. He is an honorable man. He’s also a good man, within his particular standards of good. Are those the standards of the world in general? Nope. Do they work for him? Very much yup. He’s protective, he’s caring, he’s willing to do what needs to be done to make sure that the people he loves are safe.

audio-band-black-and-white-9137

Oh, I love her trip to the punk concert with Tony, that sounded like a lot of fun, and it would totally be something that I would love to watch.

I never liked Hugh, not from the very beginning. He was such a yuck. I don’t particularly care for Pepper’s parents either, they seemed so much more concerned about what she could do for them, rather than what they could do for her.

I think, hands down, one of my favorite scenes in the whole book is when she’s out to lunch with her band and Hugh shows up. It was funny af.

OK, that’s all I have to say about this one. Go check out all of Renee’s books. Happy reading!

Renee Rose-Jack of Spades

Renee Rose has once again returned us to her version of the mafia in Vegas with Jack of Spades. It’s the second one in the series, and you can read it as a standalone, even though it has carryover from the first book. You’re getting the same family with both the hero and heroine as from the first book. Stefano is Nico’s younger brother and Corey is Sondra’s cousin, and they are as close as sisters.

So, Corey is a croupier at the Tacone family casino. She has a degree in psychology, but she likes working the floor at the casino instead. She gets to look around at all the people and figure out what’s going on with them. She comes up with her theory of the different kinds of gamblers. She’s really observant, which is what helps her figure out that there is something weird with the guy who’s playing roulette at her table. He’s trying to cheat. So she does what she’s supposed to and calls over security.

It turns out the would-be cheater is Stefano Tacone. He’s helping Nico run the casino so that he will be able to spend more time with Sondra. Stefano is looking for someone to deal at private games, and Corey fits the bill. Not only is she smart and observant, she’s also charming, and has a magnetic personality. The fact that she’s smoking hot doesn’t hurt either.

One the first night that she’s to deal at a private game, Stefano has her come early and asks her to walk the floor and asks her what she sees. Then it’s time to deal for the game. And that’s when all the bad things start to happen.

I like Corey. I think that she’s pretty awesome. She knows that she doesn’t want to be like everyone else. She’s perfectly happy working on the floor of a casino. But, she’s very walled off. I don’t blame her, considering what her past is like. I would be pretty closed off too. I really like how strong and independent that she is. I really do like how she challenges Stefano. I like him too, most of the time. Yeah, he’s all alpha dude, but he’s not overly heavy-handed like you sometimes see. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t, you know, tie her to his bed after carrying her over his shoulder to his suite, but he’s pretty good at figuring out Corey, and taking good care of her.

roulette-roulette-wheel-ball-turn

I really hated Corey’s dad. He was scum of the earth. Wait, that might be insulting to the scum. Maybe he was the bacteria that feeds off whale poop. Yeah, that’s it, I think.

I think that is about all I have to say today. I really enjoyed this, so go check it out! Happy reading!

Celia Aaron-The Butcher

I can never get enough of Celia Aaron and her books. They tend to burrow under my skin and make me want to keep reading them. The Butcher is no different. It definitely got under my skin and I loved it. It gave me so many feelz. All the feelz. Allllllll the feeelz. When I started to read this one, I wasn’t aware that it was the 3rd in a series, so I’m now going back to read the first 2 books. But not knowing didn’t matter because this was enough of a standalone that you don’t have to read the first 2 books. I’m looking forward to reading them, because, well, Celia Aaron.

So here’s our story. When he was 16, David Raven and his younger brother, Peter, lived with a foster father who was just terrible. David was going out and doing what he could to make sure that they had the money to escape. Mostly that meant going out and acting as a collector and enforcer for the Genoa mob. He breaks kneecaps and noses and does whatever he has to. It’s not nice work, but he’s 16 and dropped out of school when he was in 7th grade, so what’s he going to do? When he’s out and about, he sees a beautiful girl. At first, he only catches glimpses of her from time to time, but then, he finally gets to talk to his mystery girl.

Angel was 15. She lived with her monster of a father, and her goal is to get out. So she’s doing what she can to get money. She can’t go out and break knees and noses, so she picks pockets, breaks into cars, sneaks in and out of houses, and does what she can to get money. She’d seen the boy wandering around before, so when he talked to her, she decided to talk about. They connected so nicely. One night, sitting under a tree at a park, they were each other’s first kiss. Then everything went to hell. David walked her home, but a black car that had been following her off and on showed up near her house, but she tried to talk herself out of worrying about it. However, after the bottom apartment door closed and she couldn’t see David anymore, it turned out that her dad had sold her off to another mobster. Meanwhile, outside the door, David’s friend Nate told him that he had heard a huge fight going on at his house and it sounded like Peter was getting the shit beat out of him. And that was that, for 5 long years.

One of the things that Celia Aaron does really well is to create layered characters. Her characters are never what you see at first or even second glance. You have to spend a lot of time in their heads in order to completely figure them out, and if the characters are broken, you have to slide in between the cracks and fissures to get to the real character. She’s also really good at creating broken characters who fit together at all the jaggly bits so that they can be perfect together. I really love Angel and David both on their own and when they are together. They are both fascinating characters.

angel2

For our main couple, we barely ever see them together, which breaks my heart for them. I mean, they find each other, lose each other for 5 years, have a few weeks together, and then lose each other for 5 more years? How many love stories can survive that? And theirs survived that. That’s just amazing. I don’t know that I could do that.

I love Angel’s pseudonym, I was greatly amused by that. I was also greatly amused by her escapades in setting up a series of fences across Europe. She is a very resourceful young woman.

OK, that’s all I have to say about this one. Go check it out as well as the two other books in the series. Happy reading!

Soraya Naomi-The Man in Black

I may not like a lot of country-western music, but I like Johnny Cash. So what does Johnny Cash have to do with Soraya Naomi’s new mafia book? Well, Johnny was known as The Man in Black, and the whole time I was reading this, I imagined Michael looking like a devilishly handsome younger Johnny Cash.

This one is part of a series, but it is a standalone. I think that the series is more of an interconnected series about a lot of friends who are getting their relationships and then showing up as side characters in other books more than it is as a serial kind of series that builds on each book and if you miss one, you’re kind of SOL. I haven’t read the other books, so don’t quote me on that, but I had no problem with wondering what had gone on before and there didn’t seem to be a lot of overall story that I had to work up to understanding.

So, let’s talk about Michael and Brielle.  Brielle moved to Chicago when she was 18 in order to go to school, and because she needed a change from New York after her parents died. Now she’s the new pastry chef at the hot new upscale restaurant, Palermo. She’s thrilled about that because it’s her first job out of culinary school and she got a great starting wage and her desserts are already making a big splash. One night, after everyone else has left and she’s just about to leave, she hears a strange noise. When she turns around and looks, she finds a gun, just sitting on a counter that she knows was empty just a minute ago. When someone walks into the kitchen, she raises the gun and points it at him, at which point Michael asks her to not point his own gun at him.

Michael was the former boss of the Syndicate in New York, but after his finace was gunned down, he moved back to Chicago to work with his friends. Now he’s a high up in the Syndicate and is working as security director for the restaurant. He tells Brielle that’s why he carries a gun. Now, she’s tweaked his radar, because of the bracelet she wears. it’s related to his past, and he needs to know what she knows or if it’s just some weird coincidence and cosmic joke that she’s working at the Palermo. He’s going to have to get closer to her in order to find out.

OK, and this is why I wanted to smack Michael for a lot of the book. He really pushed and pulled at Brielle. One minute he’s kissing her, the next he’s literally pushing her away and telling her that nothing can happen between them. He gives her a ride home and fixes her door, but wants to have nothing to do with her. It’s confusing as hell, especially since when he’s pulling her towards him, he’s doing things that men interested in a relationship would do. Of course, he’s doing it all for his own motives, but he’s so far into his grief that he can’t really see what it looks like from the other side. Brielle just ends up reacting like any reasonable person would. When he flirts with her, she flirts back. When he pays attention to her, she basks in it. When he pushes her away, she gets mad and hurt, and then he pulls her back in. How the fuck is anyone supposed to feel when that is going on? Michael makes a point of emphasizing that he’s 12 years older than Brielle, but there’s a lot of the time I think that she’s the more mature one.

_images_uploads_gallery_johnny_cash_photo_credit_don_hunstein_sonymusic

See, young Johnny Cash was pretty hot.

OK, I overall enjoyed the book, but one thing that I wasn’t a big fan off is the fact that it appears to have only been 4 months from when Michael’s fiance died to the start of the book. That’s not my problem. My problem is that people kept acting like he should be totally over everything and that he’s closing himself off because he’s still grieving. Grief takes a while, and if it has only been 4 months, then he still has a lot of things to work through. If, on the other hand, it has been 4 years, I could see that he was stuck. But that’s just me, and I may have the time period off. It wasn’t enough for me to not read the book or to dislike it, but it was just one of those things that caught my attention.

If Michael had just asked Brielle about her bracelet at the beginning, things would’ve been much easier on everyone, especially Brielle. I do think he really kind of drug her through hell with the way that he was acting. She really forgave him a whole hell of a lot faster than I would’ve. Then again, I’ve been known to hold a grudge.

OK, that’s all I have to say about this one. Go check it out! Happy reading!

Natasha Knight-Giovanni

Natasha Knight writes a lot of mafia romances. She has a series about the Benedetti brothers. Giovanni is not one of those books, but it is a standalone spinoff from those books. You don’t have to have read the Benedetti books in order to know what’s going on here, and they are only side characters in this book.

Emilia is a cartel princess. Her father is dead. The head of the cartel is now her only living family, her twin brother. She’s spent the last 4 years trying to hide. She’s even gone so far as to change her name, going from Emilia, cartel princess to just plan Em, event planner for a boutique hotel. She’s doing really well staying hidden, until the night she comes home and there are 5 men in her apartment. She knows that something bad has happened, and that nothing good is going to be happening because of that.

Giovanni is way up in the Benedetti organization. He made a deal with Em’s twin brother, and he got screwed over. Now he’s out to get ahold of Alessandro, and since he knows where Emilia is, he figures that she can get him in touch with Alessandro, so he and some of his men break into her apartment and wait for her. What he doesn’t expect is a woman who has been broken and who has learned when to accept what she can’t fight while fighting when she can. Including pulling a gun on him when she gets into her kitchen and wants him out of her house.

I have to admit that I didn’t particularly care for Giovanni for huge parts of the book. When I liked him, I really liked him, but I don’t think that he listened to Emilia as much as he should’ve. I think he sometimes got a little too Alpha-y and he just made some decisions that weren’t in her best interests. However, he does redeem himself, and even when I don’t particularly care for him, he does still appear to care for Em, even when he’s being an asshole. I do like Emilia and I really enjoyed following her story. She is strong, even if she’s broken, and she’s a fighter. She may accept that there are times she can’t fight, but she does wait and watch to see what she can do and she will do that. She’s overcome a flawed past and made herself successful in her present. Altogether, I really enjoyed the story, and the like I had for Em took care of anything I may have felt for Giovanni, and I had no problems reading the book and staying in the story.

altar-ancient-arches-1056670

I thought that Em was really tricksy with what she did with her dad. It took some serious guts to do that. She had ovaries of steel, for sure.

I thought the storyline with Giovanni’s dad was interesting. It would have been interesting to see more of that, I think.

OK, that’s all I have to say about this one. Go check it out! Happy reading!