Vitale Brothers: Paid in Full – Brea Alepou & Skyler Snow
I’m used to my life being insanity. A family of a-holes, being locked up, and a few loose screws? Yeah anyone would go crazy. (Not that I am. I’m different, that’s all). My brothers say I’m the loose canon of the family. The truth is that I’m the life of the party!
The party comes to a screeching halt when I meet Ash. Shy, younger, virgin. He’s everything I’m not attracted to. Give me an experienced partner anyday.
But there’s something about him that makes me want to keep him. Maybe I want to stoke that fire I see in his eyes. Or maybe I’m just lonelier than I thought.
Either way, he’s mine. Nobody, and I mean nobody, will take Ash away from me.
(Blurb may change)
Gritty M/M romance.
Look at that cover and know that it is perfect. Wait till you get to the part why!
Paid in Full is the second book of Vitale Brothers, a mafia romance series that stays true to its gritty promises. This stars Giancarlo Vitale, a.k.a. Gin, the next older brother to Enzo, the youngest and MC of Take Me Apart.
While Enzo’s appeal lies in his eerie calmness and neat freak ways, Gin is the ex-con, the wild child, the life of the party, and the insatiable playboy who can charm the pants and panties off anyone. For some reason, the narrator, Declan Winters, gave him an accent (Bostonian? New York? Not sure) while his brothers speak in what to me is the standard American accent (sorry, not an accent expert). It might be confusing at first, but I loved how it suits Gin’s personality to a T.
Initially, I considered the second book kind of a necessary hurdle to get to Benito’s book, which I am super excited about. But Gin and Ash surprised me, and I was completely hooked from the get go!
The opening chapters immediately grabbed interest with Gin at a black market auction masquerading as a charity event. Up for auction is the wide-eyed, virgin son of a man who owes the Vitales money. Just to teach him a lesson, Gin bought Ash and let Ash’s abusive father pay the price to cover what he owed.
Ash didn’t know what to do with his new owner because, frankly, the guy is crazy! The least he expected was an offer to let him buy his freedom through sex. But first, Gin has to teach him how. Our boy is a fast learner!
Ash has been through the wringer, enduring beatings, forced to watch other people being abused as psychological torture, and always been told he was good for nothing so he might as well be sold as a slave. Most of the sexual abuses weren’t graphic and are off-page, but the violence and torture are on-page (check the trigger warnings).
Here comes Gin, an unlikely comfort and a giver of tough love who challenges Ash to be angry, to stand up for himself, to be himself. He is exactly what Ash needs. The best part is when Ash harnesses his big dick energy, and yes, you can take that literally, and unleashes his inner beast.
I totally didn’t see this dynamic coming, but OMG, they’re fantastic! Gin and Ash were fun and amusing together. Gin is full of stupid jokes and dumb ideas. He made me laugh! He’s big, dominant and possessive, and lets Ash go to town on his ass. Ash is an endearing cinnamon roll, innocent as a puppy, as Gin likes to call him, and always eager to please. Then a switch flicks, and our boy is in control!
One of Gin’s ideas:
“Gin, I’m ready to go.”
“I can practically see a tail wagging.” Gin’s dark brown eyes lit up. “Ash, pull your pants down and wag your dick for me.”
It’s not all fun and games. There are demons to conquer. Blackmailing fathers, evil human traffickers, PTSD, panic attacks, and massive trust issues create conflict and drive wedges, leading to one of the most heart-breaking scenes in the series. That’s why the cover slays!
Paid in Full is a story of dysfunctional families, complicated relationships, unspeakable crimes and invaluable lessons on how to grow a spine. The uncommon dynamics, the humor and heart-warming moments balance out the darker, bloodier scenes. Overall, intense, wild, and totally worth it!
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away
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Vitale Brothers: Take Me Apart – Brea Alepou & Skylar Snow
I have only one goal in life: Become a detective. It’s there, just out of reach, so close I can taste it. When I find out the Vitale family is about to be investigated again, I do what I do best.
Jump in head first.
There’s just one problem; Enzo Vitale. The man is red hot danger, every word a dare from his lips. And I never was one to turn away from a challenge…
But when things get rough, lies reign and deceit is around every corner. I find myself drawn to the one man I should be running from. The criminal whose hands are bathed in blood.
Am I falling for the enemy?
Take Me Apart is a siren song of dark, delicious things, and I’m here for it!
This is the opener for Vitale Brothers, a mafia romance series by Brea Alepou and Skyler Snow. I’ve known Brea Alepou for her poly romances, and this is my first Skyler Snow. They immediately got me hooked on the series.
The premise is similar to my last weeks’ read, Pretty Policeman. Here we have another cop falling for a mafioso in a forbidden love that might just destroy them both. Rookie cop Tex Castor, desperate to become a detective, took it upon himself to investigate the Vitale Family as the short cut to his dreams.
While in a club owned by the mob, Enzo Vitale took one look at Tex, knew he was a cop, but latched on to him anyway. Enzo didn’t tell Tex he knew, and launched into a single minded pursuit of the man. This despite a previous fatally disastrous affair with a guy eerily similar to Tex.
Early on, it’s apparent that Enzo is neurodivergent. It’s never explicitly mentioned, but there were lots of hints, such as his tendency to dissociate or hyper-fixate, as well as his inability to process emotions.
Enzo is described as a non-threatening looking guy with eye glasses and lean build who loves reading, doing projects, and most of all, cleaning. In my head, I pictured him looking like a university professor. He could have been had he not been born a Vitale. Being the younger Vitale and exceptionally adept at torture, he the enforcer and interrogator of the family. This is a neat freak who likes blood and gore.
Tex isn’t TSTL, just a cop with poor impulse control and a reformed drug addict dangerously close to slipping. Torn between his dream of becoming a detective and his growing feelings for the mafioso, Tex is a hot mess with nowhere to go but run, the dork!
Admittedly, the first few chapters were not as riveting as I hoped. Only the enticing performance of Declan Winters kept me going. He’s one of those gifted narrators who could read a grocery list, and I’ll be listening. I highly recommend audiobooking this. He’s the same guy who brought C.S. Poe‘s Magic & Steam series to life.
Things picked up a third way in. Enzo got his claws out and firmly sank them into Tex. I loved his voice!, The narrator gave him this calm, emotionless voice that gets growly when he’s being extra emotional. No wonder Tex can’t keep away!
Enzo is everything here! Dominant, possessive and obsessive, he’s a psychopath, confident in himself and his abilities. He knows what he wants and has no qualms handcuffing the object of his desire to keep it there. The fluffy parts come when he shows his soft side because he’s crazy in love with Tex and would do anything to make him happy.
Meanwhile, Tex needs to make up his mind because he can’t play both sides. I wasn’t impress with our boy stringing Enzo along. I liked him better after he made up his mind. Also, his cat Penelope is a star.
I can’t say the pace is fast, but after moving past the opening chapters, the plot moved in a steady, engaging manner. The authors kept the tension tight and intense most parts of the story. The dysfunctional romance was both frustrating and compelling, cute at certain moments but mostly as deliciously dark as promised.
“From now on, I’m the only one allowed to hurt you or make you cry. Every inch of you belongs to me.” I bit his lip. “Even your life.”
Tex groaned. “Yeah. Where do I sign, Satan?”
The rest of the story gives us violence, graphic torture, domestic abuse, childhood trauma, and betrayal. It’s not pitch black, just dark grey, but reader discretion is advised. The vibe of Vitale Brothers reminded me of my favorite Criminal Delights books. If you like that series, the Vitales will do it for you.
I don’t have a favorite Vitale yet. Each brother is pretty memorable. While Enzo is usually preternaturally calm and expressionless, Giancarlo, a.k.a. Gin, wears his emotions on his sleeve. He’s the easy going playboy who goes beast mode on a hair trigger. Benito is the oldest and the deadliest, and I’m so excited for his book. He’s forced to marry a yakuza boss’s son! What a merger!
Take Me Apart is about a cop following his dream and stumbles into a seductive nightmare he’s helpless to resist. Gritty, violent, wild and all the raw intensity of a monster growling, “MINE!“
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
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Pretty Policeman: The Case of the Suspicious Stripper – Fifer Rose
Going undercover at a strip club owned by your mafioso boyfriend without running it past him first? Not the best idea. (Then again, a few spankings never hurt anyone… much.)
Micah Hart had learned a few things the first few months of officially dating Damon Romano, a vicious mafioso/ridiculously rich billionaire, infamous throughout New York City for his cut-throat “business”
1. Damon was soft for nothing and no one… except Micah (and maybe his sisters).
2. His domineering tendencies definitely extended to the bedroom.
3. Damon didn’t trust him – not completely.
That last one shouldn’t have hurt as much as it did. After all, there were bound to be certain obstacles to overcome in a relationship when one person was a mafia don and the other was a police-detective-turned-PI.
Damon keeps Micah far away from anything related to his “work”, and Micah allows it… at least until a stripper named Ginger waltzes into his struggling detective agency, claiming that her boyfriend – also a stripper – is trying to kill her. Ginger just so happens to work at Lust, the most infamous of a chain of clubs Damon has specifically warned Micah away from.
Taking the job would require him to go undercover at Lust, and he should say no.
But Damon is out of town for the weekend.
And Micah’s been salivating for an actually worthwhile case for weeks now.
What’s the worst that could happen?
Pretty Policeman is a fantastic brain candy written in the vein of Pretty Woman but with an undercover cop posing as a rent boy and a ruthless mafia don hellbent on being his sugar daddy. Against all odds and common sense, the two made it work.
Fast forward to the present day, former detective Micah Hart is now working as a private investigator with his partner, also former detective, Tessa Gallagher. One particularly interesting case came their way, and the two were eager to jump on it.
Pretty Policeman: The Case of the Suspicious Stripper has Micah and Tessa investigating claims by Ginger, a stripper, that her boyfriend and fellow stripper, Tommy, is trying to kill her. To do this, the detectives have to work undercover as employees of the club owned by Damon Romano and managed by his sister Joelle. And Micah has to do it secretly because everyone knows Damon’s possessive caveman tendencies.
As with the first book, its best to suspend disbelief, grain of salt, etc. Also, read Pretty Policeman before diving into this to get the lay of land, so to speak, because this installment assumes you had done just that. The plot moves fast and doesn’t waste time explaining who’s who. Previous events were vaguely referenced, as well.
The new case is interesting but can hardly hold water. It runs on the miscommunication gag where a character says one thing, and Micah thinks another. The people involved could have sorted it out themselves had Joelle not been scheming about Micah and her brother.
Micah is still our lovable TSTL hero with spectacularly bad self-preservation instincts, has a look of wide-eyed innocence only seen in lambs, and a heart of gold as bright as his smile. The doofus still makes me laugh with his internal dialogues, this time written with less mini-explanations in parentheses. I kinda miss those because they show how Micah’s mind works.
The story is in Micah’s POV. One of the things that makes it entertaining is that there is a constant sense of impending disaster, or anticipation of the other shoe dropping, whenever Micah makes god awful decisions or is talked into doing dumbass things. We as the reader see the approaching trainwreck a mile away while Micah doesn’t or does but forges on anyway.
Our boy is all good intentions and saving the people, and we root hard for him, but also, yikes! As cute as he is, I would l love to see Micah’s character develop. When he was still a detective, he convinced me he was good at what he does. Here, his investigations skills were a joke.
Damon, on the other hand, effortlessly kept the growly, possessive, soft-for-no-one-but-you moments as delicious and swoony as possible. The romance focused more on Damon being a Daddy rather than a Sugar Daddy, though he still loves pampering his precious tesoro. Fuck knows why the man latched on to Micah the way he did, but the mafia don had some of the most intensely romantic lines in the book!
“You’re my heart, tesoro, and it’s terrifying having to watch it walk outside my body.”
My favorite part is Geoffrey’s POV. He is Damon’s loyal chauffer and bodyguard who notes the changes in his boss since Damon had Micah. Through him we see a different side of Damon, the much-feared mafioso part, and the more recent besotted boyfriend side that few ever see. Geoffrey’s internal dialogues were more cynical than Micah’s but no less hilarious.
Pretty Policeman: The Case of the Suspicious Stripper is a shorter read than its predecessor. The plot may be thin, our hero might lack common sense, but the writing made me chuckle, and the romance is high on squees. All in all, fun, light-hearted, and super swoony!
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
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PRETTY POLICEMAN: THE CASE OF THE SUSPICIOUS STRIPPER: Kindle
Pretty Policeman – Fifer Rose
Detective Micah Hart wasn’t sure when his fairly safe, predictable life became something more closely resembling a dumpster fire.
But if he had to pinpoint an exact moment, he would say it was the first time he went undercover as a prostitute in an attempt to bait the notorious serial killer who was stalking New York City’s streets – the media-dubbed Hooker Hunter.
It’s when Damon Romano plows into his life, with his fierce protective energy, and those thick thighs, and the bluest pair of eyes Micah has ever seen.
If only he wasn’t also a temperamental mafioso in charge of running one of the city’s largest criminal empires.
Damon fixates on Micah, obsessing over feeding him and making sure he always has a coat. He spoils him rotten with gifts and insists on taking Micah on as his personal escort – a “boyfriend” to get his nagging sisters off his back.
It’s weirdly sweet, and Micah doesn’t know how he’s become a soft spot in the ruthless man’s otherwise hardened exterior, but it would be a lie to say he didn’t want even more: a real relationship with Damon.
There was just one teensy, tiny problem with that.
Despite what Damon thinks, Micah isn’t actually a prostitute. He’s a cop for the NYPD.
Pretty Policeman is an MM billionaire/mafia romance, sprinkled liberally with rom-com elements, served with a side helping of sugar daddy kink and mistaken identity trope.
I’m not a fan of Pretty Woman because I don’t find Julia Roberts and Richard Gere attractive or appealing as actors. But I could see that the trope could be hella romantic if done correctly.
Pretty Policeman is a take on Pretty Woman, but instead of a sex worker, we have an undercover cop, Micah Hart, playing rent boy in order to catch a serial killer. He was rescued from an abusive john by billionaire Damon Romano, who then fed and clothed the underdressed, underage-looking Micah. And showered him with presents without expecting anything in return.
Micah tried several times to reject the care and the presents, but the older man sincerely and quite firmly wants to help get him off the streets. Thing is, Micah has a case to solve. Later, Damon gave him an offer he can’t refuse. And it turned out the caring billionaire is also a ruthless mafia don.
The premise grabbed me immediately, and I didn’t initially realize what trope it was referencing. Author Fifer Rose sold me the fantasy and spiced it up with forbidden love between an undercover cop and a mafia boss, and I bought it hook, line, and sinker.
And she made it so much fun! Written in Micah’s POV, his internal dialogues were hilarious, especially with how clueless he is in many situations and how we, as the reader, could see disaster written all over it. The writing also tends to use cutesy mini-explanations in parenthesis. It could have been annoying, but it worked with the tone of the story.
Both characters have a duality to them. Our boy Micah, lovable as he is, is a total himbo, suffers from verbal diarrhea, prone to making spectacularly bad decisions, and should avoid vodka at all costs. As a newly minted detective, he is surprisingly good at his job. Micah is eager to prove himself, works his cases with dedication and diligence, and has good instincts he utilizes to maximum effect during investigations.
Damon is known to Micah as a kind, protective, and generous man with a sugar daddy kink. He is a total gentleman, respecting Micah’s virtue even when the dork came on to him while completely smashed. Unknown to our boy, Damon is a much-feared mafia don whose wetwork makes even his hardened chauffer, Geoffrey, queasy.
We never see Damon’s POV, which I wanted so badly. On the other hand, seeing him through Micah’s eyes enhances his mystique. And boy, does he cut a dashing figure in his sharp suits and greek god good looks! Not to mention all that TLC he showers Micah.
In the last scene, we are teased with Geoffrey’s POV of his boss, where he comments on the changes to Damon’s character (“pep in his step” among them). While he secretly thinks Micah is an idiot, he couldn’t deny the dork’s good for the don. Heck, their chemistry sizzled and zinged! Even a grizzled mafioso could see that.
I hope we get Geoffrey’s POV again in book two because I am intrigued by a third person’s POV of the mismatched pair.
The trick to this book is to suspend disbelief, take it with a heaping pile of salt, and just let the romance sweep you away. The plot is OTT ridiculous but the case is actually interesting and is woven well with the crazy, implausible sugar daddy shenanigans, family drama, and workplace woes. I haven’t had this much fun with a book in a while!
Pretty Policeman isn’t the kind of literary masterpiece people rhapsodize about. But to me, it is a masterful take on a classic romance trope, a novel of pure escapist fun, and a swoony fantasy of dark knights sweeping pretty boys off their feet. It doesn’t get more perfect than that!
5 Stars – absolutely perfect
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The Kings of Italy: Mafia Target – Mila Finelli
GIULIO I’ve renounced my birthright as the heir to an Italian mafia empire, but no one leaves the brotherhood without paying a price. To evade my enemies, I stay on the move. Now a new man is stalking me, watching me. But there’s something else in his eyes, a hunger that sets me on fire. He’s rough and dangerous, all the things I crave in the dark. Except he’s been hired to kill me.
I shouldn’t want him. But I do.
They say to keep your enemies close. So that’s exactly what I’m planning. Beware the hunted who becomes the hunter…
ALESSIO I live in the shadows, the assassin they never see coming. I’m the best, but Giulio is my weakness. I need him in ways I can’t begin to explain. He might run, but I’ll follow him to the ends of the earth. And if others try to hurt him, I’ll protect him with my last breath. Except I’m hiding a secret, one that will cost me everything. I should walk away, but I can’t.
Even if it’s my undoing.
Mafia Target is the fourth book in the Kings of Italy series. It’s a stand-alone male/male romance, complete with two hot and dangerous Italian men. HEA and no cliffhangers guaranteed!
To say my interest was piqued would be an understatement. My guts was screaming for me to read this book!
Mafia Target is an enemies-to-lovers story between the scion of a top mafia family and the assassin hired to kill him. It certainly ticked all my boxes and then some! It’s the 4th book of The Kings of Italy by new-to-me author Mila Finelli. The rest of the series are mf romance.
This installment can be read as a standalone since the backstory can be effortlessly put together. Giulio Ravazzani is the gay son of Don Fausto Ravazzani. He was supposed to marry Francesca in Book 1, but the don ended up marrying her instead. Giulio’s former lover was killed in a car bomb intended for him, and the young mafioso decided to leave home to carve his own path away from his father’s shadow.
The story starts when Alessandro Ricci, an ex-military turned assassin, was hired by a rival Family to kill Fausto. He was about to pull the trigger when he spotted Giulio. The world’s top assassin was so awestruck, he missed!
He likened the experience to being struck by a thunderbolt, which I think is a very apt description of him falling in love at first sight. This was also mentioned in Godfather, so the thunderbolt must be an Italian thing. Because of his fuck up, he was tasked to kill Giulio instead.
The enemies-to-lovers aspect was chef’s kiss! Just pure perfection! The air between Alessio and Giulio practically hummed with electricity and anticipation! The stalking, the buildup, the accidentally-on-purpose meetings, and the halcyon days of fucking and feeding sheep had that elusive, much sought after ZING only the best and most unforgettable romances have.
Between the two MCs, Alessio immediately won me over. He’s a man of few words with an intensity that radiates off the page. Watching him unerringly stalking Giulio as a target and then turning that into a single-minded determination to protect his beloved Principe, even at the cost of his life and limb, even with Giulio’s rejection, Alessio was both a force of nature and a man badly in need of a hug.
Giulio took a while for me to warm up to, mainly because he had his walls up. I can’t blame him for not jumping into the relationship head first. He’s still grieving his late boyfriend. But I loved how everytime Alessio does or says something endearing, his cold, dead heart melts little by little. He’s ambitious and resourceful, slowly carving out his little empire on his own. He and Alessio make a great team. He brings out the assassin’s human side.
This is one of the swooniest books I’ve read this year! The separation scene that wrecked our MCs emotionally and physically brought the already potent brew up to another level! And that’s not all. The cherry on top of this already exquisite treat is the writing.
The setting is in Italy and various parts of Europe. Typically, authors would use a couple of native phrases and leave it at that. Here, almost every other dialogue is spoken with Italian sentences and phrases. The way the prose seamlessly flows between English and Italian, with a smattering of Gaelic and Russian, the bilingualism of this book was pure eargasm! I highly recommend audiobooking this.
I am especially ecstatic about the multi-lingual prose because it’s exactly how I want to write my book if I know how to write a story. I loved how the author pulled it off in a way that remains true to the characters’ nationality yet still relatable to an international, mostly American, audience.
Mafia Target is a book that will grip you hard till the end, and as it is a long one, best read during weekends. It’s dark yet surprisingly fluffy, often heart-wrenching but just as incredibly squee-tastic, with prose that speaks to me. All in all, a thunderbolt to the kokoro and music to the ears!
5 Stars – absolutely perfect
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