by A. Zavarelli (Goodreads Author)
ARC generously provided by the author through Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review
I need to make a statement first: I do not like mafia books. It’s not even that I’ve read tons and decided they’re not for me. Unfortunately, here in Italy, the mafia is a pressing issue. It’s not something we joke about and it’s not something we romanticize. That being said, after reading so many ecstatic reviews about Ghost, and having it on my ARC shelf, I started it with really high expectations. Also because I love broken heroines. They make for empowering stories… when well done.
“When you feel anxious or uncertain, I want you to touch that star. Always. Remind yourself, Solnyshko, of the one thing you can be sure of more than anything else. That you are safe if only for having that on your skin. You do not require any other armor when you wear my star”
Truth is, this book is really dark. Darker than I had expected, and lately I’m not feeling much attraction from the dark side. Now, let’s eviscerate it.
The beginning wasn’t bad. It was raw, gritty. It posed the foundations for what I was sure would turn out to be an epic love story. A broken heroine with a very traumatic past and a hero who’s sworn off love, I dived right in.
Then the story progressed and I started to feel more and more detached from the characters and the narration. Alexei was one cold motherfucker. Calculating. Manipulative. For almost the whole book all he felt for Talia was lust. Nothing more. Their relationship was indeed messed up. If on the one hand, Talia felt safe with him the way she hadn’t with anybody else, on the other she either hated him, despised him, lusted after him. She was never consistent in her feelings. I couldn’t feel their chemistry, at all. Which was one of the things that ruined this book to me. Oh, and the hot scenes? Even when things got kinky — spanking, voyeourism, dirty talking — it didn’t make me feel a thing, evidence that feelings go a long way in the bedroom.
Second case in point, the hate to love. Or rather the hate-to-lust-to-love. I usually don’t mind this trope. It makes for interesting dynamics and interactions, because deep down you know even the hate is some kind of foreplay. Here, it was all-out hate. Alexei couldn’t care less about her and Talia was like an enraged kitten mad at him for saving her life (Talia was really messed-up).
“You’re such a fucking hypocrite. A selfish asshole.”
[…]”Yes, and you are a psychotic bitch”
I don’t know you, but this doesn’t sound romantic or playful banter to me.
They also played games with each other. Mind games that didn’t make me feel their attraction, but rather made me want to shout at them to grow up.
Thirdly: breeding. Apparently, it’s a thing and apparently, it’s a popular thing. Read this:
“You need to give me a baby,” I demand of her. “You need to take my come inside of you every day until you are swollen with my child.”
Am I the only one grossed out by such an imposition? Alexei is always imposing himself and his will onto her. I’m not saying he’s forcing her to have sex, but he does indeed never take her will into consideration when making life-altering decisions. Like, I don’t know, having a baby. Plus, I hated how he went from “he’s a whore” when he sees her talking to other men, to “I want her to have my baby.” I’m just…
MAKE UP YOUR MIND, DUDE!!!
Fourth: women’s role. Talia was probably supposed to come through as some sort of broken heroine that finally takes the helm of her destiny in her hands and steers herself toward a brighter future. Too bad she either acted like a crazy person, a nymphomaniac or a good little obeying girl. In general, women are seen as “collateral”, aka payment for some sort of damage inflicted upon the Russian Mafia. They are pawns. Also Talia does basically nothing but loiter around the house, like some doll kept for Alexei’s amusement only. It sickened me.
Fifth and last thing, Alexei and Talia’s dynamics made no sense. I’m not gonna spoiler, but something happens in the end and Talia reacts to it in a way she wouldn’t have only five pages earlier. And nothing had happened in those five pages. It was all so out there, almost surreal how they interacted, that took away all the enjoyment from the story.
Oh, and usually I like the ah-ah moment when you find out the meaning of the title. Here it was just Alexei’s nickname, only mentioned once for the sake of throwing it out there.
As for the other elements, the plot was nothing special and I found myself skimming the last fourth of the book. The reader was supposed to feel somehow on pins and needles thanks to an invisible threat. It didn’t work for me. The style… well, the writing wasn’t bad. Especially at the beginning I loved how Talia’s hopelessness was described, the insight of her mind. But then things started not to make sense anymore, the dynamics between characters so surreal I kind of dissociated and stopped caring, hence the meager 2 stars.
Would I recommend it? Nope. But maybe if you’re a mafia-fan romance with a thing with cold-robotic heroes, this could be your jam.