This was my first go around with this long-time, long-favored paranormal romance author so I was very excited to finally get my chance to try her books with this new series. The premise was creative and bold with the Shadow Rider world combining the paranormal romance elements with the mafia. I definitely want to experience more now that I’ve gotten my taste.
The story opens with bold, arrogant, wealthy Stefano Ferraro distracted from his business appointment by a new face in his neighborhood- or rather by her shadow. Stefano is a Shadow Rider and his kind is a secret and rare. He never thought to discover another rider outside his family- particularly one who draws all his protective and possessive instincts out. The woman is dressed poorly and is cold and scared. He puts off his appointment and sets out to meet and discover what he can about the woman that will be his.
Francesca Cappello is so grateful to Joanna for helping her get out of danger and into a place where her powerful enemies will have a hard time finding her and she can start over. Joanna is the only one left to help and now she is going to help Francesca get a job in her uncle’s deli. Francesca is curious about this small community near Chicago’s Little Italy where people are friendly, the streets look nice, shops are prosperous and it seems a powerful family keeps it that way. She has vague ideas of the mafia and these ideas grow when she encounters the oldest Ferraro son and leader of the family organization. The Ferraros aren’t just rich- they are superrich. What does this gorgeous, well put together man who has graced every tabloid, newspaper, and magazine want with her?
Stefano is dominant and controlling, but he knows that he has to take things slow if he is to have an ounce of happiness with Francesca. She has no idea about the Shadow world or that she is part of it. She has no idea that the second he laid eyes on her that she would have no choice to be his and become part of the darkness. But he can’t have her needing and in fear so he works hard to earn her trust and show her he has a good side.
Francesca is wary of Stefano, but also wildly attracted to the irritating, bossy, arrogant man. She has seen evil and he isn’t that, but he also isn’t pristinely good. Can she share her secrets and trust him? Can she live with his secrets? Will he let her go if she needs to run again to keep everyone safe?
Alright, this book has me feeling a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I loved the world the author created with the whole Shadow Rider thing, the other Shadow gifteds, and the mafia tie-in. It was brilliant and totally my thing. I also liked the gritty situation that Francesca is in and how that plot thread teased out. I even liked the romance to a certain extent. It left me uneasy though.
This was definitely a first book in a series and felt like it. It got ponderous at times. It had the job of introducing the world, the cast of characters, a main pair and their situation, a resolution to the main pair’s story, and a continuing series plot arc.
There was a lot and generally this was all done well, but there were some lagging points where it seemed the same ground had to be covered. Mostly because of the way the heroine was written. She has little to no self-esteem and her trust bank is non-existent. She needed the same reassurances more than once and had cycles of trust and mistrust. She’s a runner and has one foot out the door constantly. Now that said, I couldn’t blame her when I stepped back and remembered the time frame and then later when her whole past is revealed. She is messed up because a sicko who is powerful and wealthy toyed with her and destroyed her life because that is what he considers fun and she has Stefano coming out of the blue and taking over her whole world.
The thing that left me uneasy about the romance is just that there are some tendencies between Francesca and Stefano that were off putting for me. I don’t mind erotic romance particularly BDSM or Dominant/submissive elements. I don’t even mind a bit of the caveman stuff that can crop up in the mafia romances because it’s an expected element there. But I think this stuff can be overdone when the author is trying to establish the nature of her characters. Instead of a powerful, in charge, dominant character, Stefano comes across as a caricature of a mafia don dominant. Just like I have no problem with sweet submissiveness and beta heroines, but not when they are overdone and end up just looking like doormats. I can’t say unequivocally that Stefano crossed a line because even in his most rough and demanding ways, he was always checking to make sure she was alright and asked her to tell him when she was uncomfortable, scared or hurting. It’s the sense of there being no real sit down discussions and explanations before he was getting rough and kinky in the bedroom and controlling her life completely.
When things were dialed back to more subtle versions of Stefano and Francesca, I really liked them together. He was caring and sweet to her and she was supportive and intuitive with him. She saw that here was a guy that was always doing for others and never had anyone looking out for him. The author took the time to develop a relationship and not just a pair of hot and kinky lovers-which they were.
The Shadow Rider abilities and world was developed enough to get me in the picture of things, but I hope the author continues to develop more about it through the series as each of the Ferraros get their story. Each sibling has been shaped by this gift and not necessarily in a good way. They are all just a little messed up by the dark, dangerous world they inhabit that goes behind the scenes of the glam word they pretend to live to cover their secrets.
There is a truly vile and evil villain in this story and I nearly went into raptures when he got his comeuppance. Whew, was that brutal, but so just. This was one a reader can love to hate.
In summary, my first outing with the author will not be my last. I am hooked on her Shadow Rider world and want more of these gritty, scorching hot intense stories. I think paranormal romance lovers should consider this new and out of the ordinary series.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #236 PNR
New to Me #98 author/series
Bad Boys #31
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