Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “Magnificent. Irritating and utterly disrespectful. Totally off limits. The enemy.”
Nico Toscani is the Las Vegas crime boss and the bastard son of the former Don. When his father was brutally murdered, the family voted his uncle in as the new Don instead of him. Nico watched his father being gun down in cold blood by the Cardano family and has carefully planned his revenge for years. But all his plans come to a screeching halt when Mia Cardona walks in his office.
Mia Cardano is a mafia princess unlike anyone has ever seen before. An eclectic mixture of punk rock and geek, Mia disavowed her heritage in order to escape her destiny and struck out on her own as a security system hacker. Hired to break into and analyse Nico’s casino for security flaws, a handsy security guard and her retaliatory reaction gets her caught. Taken to meet Nico, Mia is both attracted and repulsed by everything Nico stands for. She has worked to long and too hard to cut her ties with the mafia. Mia leaves with the battle lines drawn and knows despite their attraction, nothing can come of it if they want to survive.
Nico is the first in Sarah Castille’s dark and steamy mafia romance series. Set against the glittering backdrop of Sin City, a couple from rival crime families unwillingly fall for one another and now have to find away to survive the backlash that is coming. Sexy, smart, gritty, and surprising humorous, Castille walks us into the inner sanctum of the Costa Nostra and lays bare the politics and seedy dealings of this complicated world that relies on bloodlines, honor, and antiquated ideals to excuse its horrific crimes.
Heavily character driven, there are three points of view used to tell the story and Castille takes her time to identify all the players involved and their connections to one another. She effortlessly slips in key background information that allows readers to understand instantly the reasons behind the character’s actions without feeling as if we are being crushed by massive amounts of unnecessary information.
Nico and Mia are two of a kind, both having suffered at the hands of their families. Nico was raised to run the Toscani empire but being born on the wrong side of the sheets places him in a precarious position. Forced to kowtow to his uncle and cousin, he has to play nice knowing that at any moment, they could legitimately take him out and the family wouldn’t bat an eye. He has quietly built his own empire, waiting for the day he can take over the family and exact his revenge for his father’s death. Gorgeous, deadly, and seemingly heartless, Nico is everything that the mafia embodies but there is a small part of him that just wants to be free of his responsibilities and ties.
Mia, like Nico, is a product of her environment. Groomed to be a quiet and biddable mafia wife, Mia broke away from the life when her father had her boyfriend murdered right in front of her. Starting her own company has given her the independence she craves though she stays close to her family in order to protect her younger sister, Kat. Mia is such an appealing combination of strength and vulnerability. Strong, loyal, intelligent, and a fighter…Mia stands toe to toe with everyone, demanding equality. Carrying some serious baggage, she isn’t weighed down not discouraged by it. She is a force of to be reckoned with.
The romance, though slow to develop, is fueled by combustible chemistry and intense sexual tension. Unwanted attraction is the best of tropes. Steamy scenes and titillating dialogue with a distant lack of over the top dramatics and episodes gives credence to their feelings. They try to stay out of each other’s path but like magnets, they are constantly drawn back into each other’s orbit. Nico is torn by his attraction to Mia. To fall for her means a possible war and to give up his plans for revenge while Mia has always been firm that she will never allow herself to be drawn back into this world willingly.
“Are you afraid you might fall for me?”
“I’m afraid you won’t let me go.”
She was right to be afraid.
Nico is perfect in his dominance because it is tempered by genuine concern and affection. He wants Mia and her safety and happiness is what drives him. Mia also isn’t one to play games. She is comfortable with her sexuality with no hang ups or distractions to keep her from falling for Nico. Castille catalogs the changes this couple goes through as the succumb deeper to their desires. Nico begins to lose some of his old-fashioned views concerning women and Mia realizes not all men are like her father.
“Mia, tesoro…non era mia intenzione ferirti…I never wanted to hurt you.”
Steady pacing and a multi-level storyline keeps the story moving at a swift pace and the action at a premium. Castille has an appealing voice that hooks you right into the story. The romance and conflict move in tandem, playing off one another seamlessly. Energetic narrative keeps readers firmly engaged as Castille moves her players around like a champion chess player. Betrayal and revenge are the foundations on which this story is built and everyone has an agenda. Violent undertones only serve to further legitimize the subject matter while interjections of humor help to soften the blows coming.
“Oh. My. God. I can’t believe you did that. Prostitution is illegal in Nevada unless you’re a licensed brothel.”
“Hacking into your husband’s phone to find out his location is also illegal, but I didn’t see you batting an eye about doing that… How’s that black hat feeling today?”
“It wasn’t really a black hat hack. I was doing it for a good reason, so I’d say it was more gray.”
“It’s illegal. Therefore, it’s black. Your Mafioso husband has turned you towards the dark side.”
Dynamic and engaging characters round out the story, adding authenticity to the danger that lurks in the background. Both Mia and Nico’s families are stereotypical wiseguys but they both have a strong network of friends and protectors who watch out for them. Nico’s bodyguards are surprising softhearted for capos while Mia’s bestie-Jules-has no problems donning a black hat when it comes to helping Mia. I do hope Castille chooses to revisit a certain undercover cop whose loyalties are tested.
Nico is a roller coaster ride of action packed drama, intrigue, betrayal, and deception that leaves the reader on the edge as Castille unfolds the arc and drops clues to what the future may hold. Though we end on a positive note for our hero and heroine, the story itself is far from over. The next book is Nico’s capa-Luca- and his fall from grace. It’s set to release May 2017. Though this is my first time reading Castille, it definitely won’t be my last. Fans of enemies to lovers will definitely enjoy Sarah Castille’s newest series-Ruin & Revenge.