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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

K. Webster & Ker Dukey-Ven

K and Ker are two of my favorite authors and then when they get together, that favorite-ness is more than squared, it’s like quadrupled. And yes, I have a lot of favorite authors. I could probably do you a list, if you really wanted, but the best way to know who they are is to just watch who I blog about. Anyway, neither here nor there. What is relevant is Ven.

No, these lovely ladies haven’t given us a book about diagrams or anything. Wouldn’t that be funny? A dark romance written around Venn diagrams. This book is about Veniaman Vetrov, scion of one of the First Families of Russian crime. It’s also the second of the V Games books.

This one more or less, kinda sorta, maybe picks up where Vlad left off. Well, I think it might be more accurate to say that it overlaps with the end parts of Vlad, timing wise. You really don’t see a whole lot of overlap between Vlad’s book and this book, and you could read Ven as a standalone and still have enough of an idea as to what’s going on, but I would always recommend reading the whole thing, because why the hell not?

So, Diana has been disgraced because she was having sex with another man. Vlad guts the man and drags her to the Vetrov’s house and throws her at Ven. He tells the Vetrovs that he wants Diana in the V Games. However, Ven has long had a thing for Diana. She’s had one for him too. Now that she’s in his house, he’s going to keep her safe, from everyone, including his father.

Diana has been devastated. All of the First Families now look at her as trash and as a whore. She had a valid reason to do what she did, but now she’s paying for it and is lost. She can’t cope and she’s in a house of vipers. She has to deal with Ven’s evil father, his idiotic brother, and Vika, who’s engaged to Ven’s younger brother, is Vlad’s sister, and is a poisonous snake.

OK, first off, yeah, I hate Vika. She’s a poisonous nasty little bitch, but no one deserves to be saddled to Ruslan, nor to have to deal with all the things that she ends up having to handle. Vika really wants to be Diana, though, I think. When Diana is in good shape, she’s strong, powerful, and a queen. Vika is basically a cockroach under her show, and Vika knows it. Vika may be good at plotting and planning, but Diana is better. It’s the difference between someone who’s cunning and someone who is Machiavellian. Guess which one I think Diana is? The fathers in these books all need to die slow, painful, and torturous death. Death in the most terrible way possible. They need to be disjointed finger joint by finger joint. I wonder how long you could keep someone alive like that? Ven is… I’m not always sure if I like him or not like him. I got mad at him, a lot. He reacted a lot instead of acted and didn’t always listen when he should’ve. Or maybe he listened but he didn’t hear. Either way, he done fucked up. His cousins, his cousins are pretty damn awesome.

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I love Vika, Vas, and Diana’s plan. And the milk was just such a splendid touch. That was the perfect cherry on top.

It’s going to be interesting to see what goes on with Vas. I didn’t like him much in Vlad, but he got better in Ven. He was actually likable, even though he had the shitty taste to get too close to Vika. And speaking of her, HA! Sucks to be her at the end.

Diana pretty much is a queen. She’s strong, she’s fierce, she’s a proven warrior. How could I have not loved every word about her? So, go read and tell me if you love every word about her too. Happy reading!

Natalie Bennett-Ace of Spades

Stop! Hammer time!

Seriously, no, stop. If you haven’t read the first two books in this series, put this review down, put Ace of Spades down and go pick up Queen of Hearts and start the series. If you don’t, you will not know what’s going on, and you will spoil yourself. If you continue to read past my warning, you will be spoiled for the first two books. Sorry, it’s the nature of the beast. I try really hard to not spoil, you know that I do, but talking about the current book will spoil the first two, just because of the way it’s written. So, be sure that this is what you want to do.

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So, we’re back to Elena who has just found a box of ashes with her twin sister’s necklace in it. She knows that this means that her beloved twin sister, the other half of her soul is dead. Elena has to run to get some space so that she can think and make some plans. She calls Mateo and tells him that she’s not running away, she just needs a few days to take a break and think. Of course, we all know what this means, We all know how Mateo is. He’s freaking out over the whole thing, well, freaking out to the extent Mateo actually does. He demands that everyone find her, but do it quietly, so as not to warn the Ace and their people that Elena is missing.

Elena calls her buds, Mel and Peyton so that they can come and help her figure out what’s going on. They make her think of some things that she hadn’t before. Elena has spent a lot of time reacting instead of acting. Sadly, Mateo puts her in that position sometimes. I don’t think that he is doing it to be mean. He is doing it purposely though. There is a reason for him to do everything he does. Here’s one reason that I think that he’s doing it, at least my opinion. If he tells Elena who the Ace is, everything that’s going on, without making her work for it and without making her do things that she doesn’t agree with, then she wouldn’t believe him and wouldn’t appreciate all the facts. The fact that she had to go through all these steps, no matter how painful they were, she’s going to know that the facts that she found are true facts. And she’s going to know that all the steps that have been taken to keep her safe and to find out the truth were necessary.

OK, there have been times when I said I didn’t trust Elena’s BFFs because I thought that they were in on some conspiracy of Mateo’s, and I’m not too proud to say that I’m glad that I’m wrong. This book also changed my POV on Mateo. I was always in the love to hate him hate to love him camp, depending on what’s going on with him, but this book changed him for me. This book made me understand why he did the things that he did. Do I necessarily like what he did? Nope. Do I understand why he did it? Yup, or at least more yup. Overall, the book answered a lot of questions that I had. It left me satisfied and that’s always a good thing. One more thing, the Ace of Spades is often called the death card, so I found that an interesting title for the last book in this series.

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I figured the Ace was a relative, but not the relative that it was. It was kind of both a surprise and a non-surprise, if that makes sense.

I understood better why Elena’s father made the choices that he did with Mateo. It was the only thing that he could do. I would’ve done pretty much the same thing or my version of the same thing. I would want to make sure that my children would be safe.

OK, that’s all I have to say on this one. Go read the entire series. It’s awesome, and since AoS is out, there is no worry about cliffies. Happy reading!

Natalie Bennett-King of Hearts

This is the second book in Natalie’s Old Money Roulette series. It’s dark, mysterious, and left me with so many more questions that I had going in. I mean, wow.

So, let’s talk about King of Hearts, shall we? Before I get into it, there’s a good chance that there are going to be spoilers for Queen of Diamonds. I don’t mean to leave them, but it is likely to happen. It’s the nature of the beast when you get book series that are set up the way that the Old Money Roulette books are. So, if you haven’t read QoD and it’s on your TBR, you may want to reconsider looking at this blog until you have read it. I will say that KoH is a big mindfuck. I mean, most things that Natalie writes end up fucking with your brain in some way or other. But this is a big one. It’s dark and there isn’t really a glimmer of light going on. So be aware of that.

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Continue reading “Natalie Bennett-King of Hearts”

Renee Rose-King of Diamonds

If it has Renee Rose’s name on it, odds are that I’ve either read it or I’m about to read it. My Renee Rose collection on my Kindle is nice and full. If it were a physical shelf, all the books would be falling off. There are a lot of reasons why I love e-books, not the least of which is that I can have 834 books on my Kindle without having to worry about them falling off my shelves. Which is neither here nor there and only sort of relates to King of Diamonds, at least in an oblique fashion, I guess.

So, here’s the story. Sondra doesn’t have the voice of reason, she has the voice of wrong. She has shitty taste in men and always ends up with the wrong one. The latest wrong one was a drug-dealing bartender who she found in bed with 3 women, none of whom she knew about. Because of that, she packed up her car and left Reno, where she had been teaching as an art history professor, and went to Las Vegas where her cousin Corey worked as a dealer in a casino. Corey told her that she could get Sondra a job as a dealer at the casino, but it turns out that the only job open at the time was in housekeeping, so that’s what Sondra took. Hopefully, she’d be able to move up, but at least it’s a job and she’ll be able to save up money to get an apartment and a replacement for the car she crashed on her first day in town.

Nico is the scion of a Chicago mafia family. He did everything he could to get away from his family, at least to the extent he could, which included opening up a casino in Vegas. It’s as legal as he can make it, but since he took family money to open it up, he has to do some work for the family, primarily laundering money. I would expect that casinos would be a great way to launder money since they do so much cash business. Anyway… Nico is basically doing everything when it comes to running his casino and hotel. He doesn’t have any real help. He has his friend Tony, but working in the capacity that Nico needs for help isn’t Tony’s forte. Because he’s doing everything, his brain is wired all the time. He doesn’t sleep. He will go for days without sleep. When the book opens up, he hasn’t slept for 48 hours.

Now, I don’t know if you are familiar with extreme sleep deprivation, but there’s a reason that it’s used as a torture technique. Among other things, it can cause you to be really fucking paranoid. And that’s what happened to Nico. He’s working on mere hours of sleep after being up for days on end, and he’d be a little paranoid to begin with, since he grew up in a mafia family, but the lack of sleep doesn’t help. So when he comes into the bathroom and finds Sondra in there, he freaks the fuck out and scares the ever-loving piss out of her.

There’s a lot going on in this book. You have Nico’s journey. You have Sondra’s journey. You have the journey for them to come together in a way that works for both of them. Then there’s all kinds of outside drama that they have to deal with. Nico thinks that he’s terrible and the worst kind of person on two legs and that he’ll totally destroy her. He’s trapped by his family and their demands. Sondra worries that he’s a gangster and she doesn’t know if she can be with someone who has blood on his hands. She also worries that he can’t be faithful to her, and that’s one thing that is an absolute hard limit with her. Like I said, there’s a lot of things going on, but Renee manages to work it all together really well.

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Ugh, Corey’s boyfriend is such a sleazeball. I’m glad that Nico punches him. Too bad Sondra made him stop. He deserved so, so much more.

Tony is a pretty cool guy and it shows that he’s there to keep Nico grounded. Good thing that he does. I think he’d be a good friend to Sondra too.

I thought the whole contracted marriage thing was resolved rather well. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

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