Crime Lord Series (Books 1-3)

Three years ago, Lyla fled from her ex, Gavin Pyre. She created a new identity and began a relationship with a man who knows nothing about her past. The normal life she built for herself is shattered when Gavin blackmails her into returning to Las Vegas where he rules the criminal underworld. As Lyla navigates through the dark secrets of her past she’s forced to face a man who refuses to let her live without him.

—                         —                         —

I read all three of these books in one day. They are just slightly addictive.

Crime Lord is a series of mafia romance books. The first three tell the story of Gavin and Lyla. Gavin is the King of the Underground in Las Vegas.

I felt that these books got better as they went on. The first one was a little over-dramatic at times, and I kept waiting for Lyla to overcome her fear enough to show Gavin how she has changed in their three years apart, but she seems to just slide into her old role of silly, spoiled airhead. Despite her misery, she goes shopping, and has spa days and wears her old styles instead of updating her wardrobe to reflect the person she is now. I also expected her to pick up volunteering – since Gavin won’t let her work and she purports to miss it – but this doesn’t happen until the third book.

I don’t feel that these books are the best of the Mafia or dark romance genre, but they are still delicious reads that I greatly enjoyed. They certainly hit the spot and I will be reading more from this author as books are released. I’m glad that Ms. Knight has started to expand the series by giving background characters like Blade expanded roles, and also introducing more dark anti-heroes, like the Roman brothers and Lucifer.

The heat level of this series is a solid “romance” level but doesn’t pass into erotica, IMHO.

The author has announced that she is working on the fourth book in this series, but is finished with this couple for now. The next books will feature different anti-heroes/heroines and there are lots of yummy folks to choose from!

* * * *

xx

Advertisements

Dark Hunter (Zeta Cartel #4)

Dark Hunter is the fourth book in the Zeta Cartel dark romance series by AJ Adams. You can read reviews for books onetwo and three on this website.

4

Rip Marston is a merciless killing machine. After a decade of hunting his prey, Rip joins the Zetas. The job offers protection as he practices his dark arts, but the Cartel are wary of the monster in their midst.

Finding a badly beaten unconscious girl, Rip sees an opportunity. Posing as her saviour will please the cartel – and provide him with his very own helpless captive.

Isabella Maria Franco is beautiful, wilful and used to making hard choices. Having grown up in the comfortable but lethal embrace of the Gulf cartel, she rejected a life of violence. But when a dark presence from her past returns, her world falls apart.

Betrayed and beaten, she escapes, only to find herself in a living nightmare. Surrounded by her enemies, one man stands between her and death. Terrified by her sadistic captor, she has little choice but to submit.

But embracing his darkness leads to consequences neither anticipated.

WARNING: This bad boy dark romance contains explicit scenes of dubious consent, graphic violence, sex and probably every trigger you can think of.

—                         —                         —

Dark Hunter begins with a fairly significant amount of backstory to introduce two new characters into the Zeta Cartel series. This is helpful to fans of the series, but as a reader, I also wanted to just jump in with the main story and revisit old characters, so my impatient personality was also slightly frustrated by the seemingly slow start.

While Dark Hunter isn’t exactly a Romeo and Juliet story, Isabella is dang lucky that she wormed her way into the hearts of her new-found friends before they realized her parentage, because if not, they would have killed her on the spot just because of her last name. She is also supremely lucky that Rip needed her so badly to adapt to his new environment and that Rip’s skills were in particular demand at the time.

I’ve rated Dark Hunter four stars because Isabella is too similar to the previous two heroines in this series for my liking. All three seem to have the same dominant character traits. All are mouthy and hide their fear well from the Cartel, possess dubious backgrounds and fit right in with the outlaw lifestyle, and don’t take things personally. They are perfectly fine with murder and mayhem and don’t seem to have any moral qualms with the world they inhabit.

The heroine in the first book had some striking differences that separate her from these heroines, and in my opinion she probably had the hardest time adapting to her new life, but Dark Hunter felt like the third book in a row with nearly the same heroine. I am fervently hoping the author changes it up in the next book in the Zeta Cartel series, which I will still be eagerly awaiting.

At the end of the day, Kyle is still my first love and main squeeze among the Zetas.

* * * *

xx

Obsession

obsession

Hannah

All my life, I’ve only wanted one thing: someone to love me and someone who will let me love them in return. This seems like a simple request, but I was born to parents who wished I had died of childhood leukemia, instead of my younger sister, and who have ignored me no matter how much I’ve tried to please them. I’m starved for affection, addicted to the feeling when someone cares about me, which has led to a love life filled with either boys I’ve scared off, or men all too eager to take advantage of me. I thought I would never find a man who could feed my craving for constant attention—and then I met Leo. He fills the void inside of me, haunts my dreams, and does things to me in bed that are so good, they’re probably illegal. I can only pray I don’t scare him off once he figures out just how needy I really am.

Leo

There are very few people in this world I’ve ever been able to form an emotional attachment to, but the moment I saw Hannah, I knew she was mine. We were bound together by fate, our paths crossing first as children, then as adults, each time marking me. She doesn’t know it but I’ve been watching her for a year now, studying her, stacking the deck so when I do make my move, there’s no way she’ll ever escape me. But my world is a harsh, cruel place, and the cartel I work for demands absolute loyalty and trust…a loyalty Hannah has yet to earn in the dangerous eyes of my employers. There is only one way to ensure Hannah’s absolute devotion, and I hope that she doesn’t hate me forever when she finds out that not only have I brainwashed her into loving me, but that I don’t feel an ounce of guilt about doing it. She’s mine, only mine, and I’m keeping her forever.

Warning: This story features a rough and demanding Dom who’s completely devoted to bringing his baby girl pleasure through such unconventional means as spanking, mild BDSM, D/S, roleplaying, and various other forms of wicked kinkery.

—                         —                         —

Hannah and Leo’s story is hot and sexy! It is the first book in the Cordova Empire series by Ann Mayburn and it is dark “ish”, but not as dark as many of her other recent series. I think of it more as a “grey” romance if those even exist. There are a few elements that I think will push buttons for some readers, but they worked for me.

First-off, there are elements of a captive romance in Obsession. While Leo never stoops so low as to kidnap Hannah, he does watch her from afar for a long period of time and researches everything there is to know about her before inserting himself into her life. He uses this knowledge, and his worldly experience to overwhelm her defences and bind her to him emotionally.

Leo, who is like a son to the head of the Cordova Cartel, is their master torturer for the and my heart was racing at the knowledge. It wasn’t a big part of the story though and Hannah is kept well away from cartel business for the most part – she never stumbles upon him torturing a person, that’s for sure! I actually wish his profession had been played up more, but then, I like dark romance. *insert wolfish grin*

Everyone in the cartel has major trust issues, especially the inner family who run it, because in the past, a woman married into the family, bore a child and then sold her son for money to a rival cartel. The child was tortured to death before his father found him.

Fast forward one year to our present love story and the Cartel has developed a sort of truth serum that enables them to bring a person into a drug-induced, relaxed state, almost as if they were hypnotized. Leo uses this drug on Hannah to insure her loyalty to him forever, although he routinely points out that you cannot change anything fundamental to someone’s personality using it … therefore, he cannot force her to fall in love with him or anyone else.

Luckily for Leo, Hannah is desperate for someone to love and to love her back unconditionally, and is also into his particular brand of rough kink. Hannah and Leo’s bedroom play is a cross between bdsm and daddy/lg play and it is sexy as hell!

In any story you have to suspend disbelief somewhere, and this can be hard to do. In this case, the author asks the reader to believe that the Cordova Cartel are sheep in wolves’ clothing. To believe that they only torture, extort, kill people who deserve it and would help out another person without expecting anything in return in many cases. Bullshit. They are a criminal empire, one of the most powerful in their region apparently, and to be successful they must be ruthless.

This is why I wish the Cartel business and Leo’s “services” had been utilized more throughout the book and that the story had been darker, to be more realistic. To compare to the author’s Submissive’s Wish series about the Russian Bratva, even though each of those Mafia Men fall in love with the woman of their dreams and would never hurt her, they sure as shit do bad things to everyone else. They are the ultimate anti-heroes. At the end of the day, I am never going to buy that a guy involved in organized crime, particularly the Torture Master, is a really good all-round guy.

Despite this little hiccup, I loved Obsession and would highly recommend it!

* * * * *

xx

Bound by Vengeance by Cora Reilly

Bound by Vengeance is the fifth book in the Born in Blood Mafia Chronicles by Cora Reilly. You can read my previous reviews, starting here.

bound-by-vengeance

Growl
He’d never had something to himself, never even dared to dream about owning something so precious. He was the unwanted bastard son who’d always had to content himself with the leftovers of others. And now they’d given him what only a few weeks ago had been out of his reach, someone he wasn’t even allowed to admire from afar, one of their most prized possessions. Thrown at his feet because he was who he was, because they were certain he would break her. He was her punishment, a fate worse than death, a way to deliver the ultimate punishment to her father who had displeased them so greatly.

Cara
She had always been the good girl. It didn’t protect her.
She didn’t know his real name. People called him Growl to his face, and the Bastard behind his back. Both were names he couldn’t possibly have chosen for himself. His eyes were empty, a mirror to throw back her own fear at her. He was a brutal hand of the Las Vegas Camorra.
And now she was at his mercy.

—                         —                         —

What a mess. I had such high expectations for this book but have very few positive things to comment on.

The author previously and briefly posted on her official author facebook page that she was undergoing some personal problems in her life and that she would try to get the book out on time. Just TWO updates later, the book is finally published almost a year and a half late. As a reader, I felt let down by her lack of updates and seeming lack of dedication to fans.

I get that bad things happen in life. You don’t need to spill the details online or make apologies for that. Life happens! To all of us. But when you expect fans to remain loyal and pay for and promote your work, you do owe them something. When you cancel pre-orders because the book isn’t written yet and don’t offer any explanation or apology, and then do it AGAIN, and completely abandon your official social media accounts, you aren’t going to have much of a fan-base left.

I chose to buy Bound by Vengeance because I had high hopes and wanted to give it a chance. I’d seen teasers a year and a half previously, and had obviously wondered about the characters all this time. I should have saved my money.

Bound by Vengeance was awful. It was full of typos, plot holes, unrealistic writing and is more than 100 pages shorter than the first in the series. It reads more like a novella than a full length novel, which it was marketed to be. And there were a couple random German words in the text, like the author (who lives in Germany) wrote it in that language and then used Google Translate to convert it to English.

The “heroine” is Cara, an 18 year old airhead who is TSTL… Too Stupid To Live. And the anti-hero “Growl” is supposedly super smart and super vicious, willing to do anything instructed but is the most easily manipulated character in history. He will sacrifice himself and bring down the Mob he has kept in business for years for some little chit he met a few weeks ago and doesn’t even love?!!! Don’t think so. And don’t even get me started on the dogs.

I also don’t like how Reilly tried to spin the end of the book. Cara is secretly related to the feared Head of the NY mafia, whom we met in a previous book. Surprise! Not. Saw that coming from the beginning. I also realized the first scene we met him that Growl was the son of the head of the Las Vegas Mafia.

I really don’t have anything positive to say about this book. I wasn’t fond of the previous in the series and this was awful. I don’t recommend it. Stick to the original trilogy and then move on.

*

xx

Volkov Bratva Series Review

Hi ya’ll,

I’m going to review this series as a trilogy instead of as individual books, because I kinda read them all in one weekend…. whoops! Makes it hard to distinguish where one book leaves off and another begins when you do that.

The Volkov Bratva books are a Russian Mafia romance set in New York, where pre-med student Lauren meets NYC’s Mafia Prince, Mishca.

book 1

Book One

Blurb:

Twenty-year-old Lauren Thompson left her small town in Michigan to begin a new life in the Big Apple where no one knows her name or the tragedy that had rocked her family fifteen years prior. With new friends and an intriguing new love interest, starting over is easier than she expected…but Mishca Volkov isn’t what he seems. As the son of a Russian Mob boss, he thrives in a world of chaos and fear, earning the title of Bratva Captain through blood and pain.

When the two cross paths, lines blur and passions ignite, bringing them closer than they could ever imagine. Until secrets from the past threaten to tear them apart. Can they fight past their demons…or were they doomed by fate before they ever met.

Something that I really like about this series is that it unfolds over several years without taking multiple time jumps by the author lazily writing “nine months later”. As fantastical as fiction can be, I still want it to be believable and a whirlwind happily ever-after-romance, that has a “solid foundation” of 4 days is as believable as the sun rising in the west and  setting in the east. Sure it is fun once in a while, but it gets old fast with the amount of romance that I read.

Mishca and Lauren’s tale is continued in the second and third books in the series.

Mishca and Lauren have time to grow as individuals and as a couple. The weight of their problems feels legitimate because they are not overcome in a weekend, but through weeks and months of effort. They continually choose each other, at times over things and people that use to have real meaning to them. Love is hard work. It requires that continual effort, dedication, and sacrifice,  and choosing each other again and again. It might become more familiar or comfortable, but it doesn’t get easier.

These books are awesome because it takes a fantastical experience (falling in love with a Mafia Prince) and humanizes it. The author takes you through the experiences of disapproving parents and conflicting morals merging into one unified sense of direction for a couple.

One of my favourite scenes is when Lauren allows Mishca  to tattoo his (thieves-in-law) stars on her shoulders, denoting his possession of her in his world. For Lauren, this is as serious – or more so – than a wedding band and something that she was reluctant to do for ages. This step symbolizes her acceptance of him, not just as a lover or friend, but in his entirety, and declares her dedication to him in a pretty public way.

There series end felt natural, although I was reluctant to let the characters go. Luckily, there is also a “post-script” novella written after The Final Hour.

18754561

The fourth, and final, full novel in the Bratva series is about Aleksandra, Mishca ‘s sister, who is introduced early on in the series. I think of her novel as a bit of side-quel, because you see her developing through the first three books, but Aleksandra and her beau only have their moment in Hidden Monsters. As such, I will review it in a separate post in a few days.

* * * * * *

xx