Diego wants nothing more than to see the Yakuza mafia boss, Wolf Lone, at his mercy. One sure way to get that is to kidnap the man’s son. Diego is tired of being a small fish in a big pond and the ransom money he intends to demand will see he and his boys set to move into the big time. But when Diego meets with Wolf to discuss his terms for the kid’s release, all doesn’t go exactly to plan. Once he’s at Wolf’s heavily guarded mansion, Diego is tortured until he promises to give up the boy. Diego might not have won the battle, but the young gang leader is notorious for taking a bad situation and making it into a win. This time, he tries to keep the upper hand by turning the attraction that flares between he and the cold, calculating Wolf to his advantage. But being a crime boss’ pet is not necessarily what Diego has in mind.
Wolf is a man who snaps his fingers and is used to getting action. So, at first, the obstinate Diego amuses Wolf, then frustrates him, then intrigues him. There’s something about the young gangster that stirs Wolf’s blood. Determined to keep the gang boss close despite his better judgment, Wolf sets out to make the hard-headed man see reason and, when that doesn’t work, Wolf is forced to realize that in order to keep Diego at his side, he will have to put up with his bad behavior—something that Wolf doesn’t mind in the least.
Ace Fawn is a new to me author and presents an interesting story with His Playmate, the first in The Lone Family series. The setup is a fun one with a bratty up and coming gang leader wanting to get in on the action of an established and very deadly crime lord. Wolf has been around for quite a while, but then so has Diego, who formed his own gang at an early age and is determined to make his mark on the crime world. While kidnapping Wolf’s only child and heir might not be the smartest move, it certainly gets the man’s attention—something Diego quickly comes to regret. However, despite the torture he will endure, Diego ends up giving up Wolf’s son on his own terms and coming away from the experience knowing he has gotten under Wolf’s skin and in his bed.
The intimate scenes between the two men are undeniably hot. There is a dangerous edge to every encounter of theirs and the connection that is rooted in violence is apparent. However, the author tries to unpack a lot of story and develop the tenuous relationship way too rapidly in too few chapters. This is a novella that should have been a full-length novel. Because of the brevity of the story, we never really get an understanding of how Wolf, or Diego for that matter, became the men they are. Plus, after their initial, heated, lusty encounter, the attraction between them feels forced and thin; with so little interaction between them beyond the initial torture scene and off and on bedroom moments, there seems to be little emotional ground covered to justify the ending of the book.
Let’s focus on the first few chapters, which deal with Diego being tortured in order for Wolf to discover where his son is being held. First off, it feels like the author didn’t do their homework when it comes to caning because the amount of strikes poor Diego endures should have left him unable to walk. Coupled with the other beatings, there should have definitely been some broken skin. This extended torture scene is rather brutal and didn’t feel sexual as it seemed intended to be.
Another example of how this novella felt strangely off is when Wolf is somehow able to track Diego and his gang down late in the story, but was not able to do so initially while searching for his son. The author even remarks that once again Diego and his gang are in a garage setting so they can work on cars as a side venture. It just didn’t make sense that suddenly Wolf could find the man’s lair when he couldn’t earlier, especially since they were in a garage then as well. Plus, the timeline in this story is very fuzzy—I wasn’t really sure if days, weeks, or months were passing and since the attraction between Diego and Wolf morphs into something more, I felt it was important to know just how quickly this came around. After all, Diego prides himself on being with Wolf on his terms only, so did this notorious crime lord just crumble under Diego’s charms right away or did it take a while for them to become more than enemies who bed down together?
I think Ace Fawn is an author with some good potential to become a solid storyteller. However, I think His Playmate could have benefited from more chapters, a slower pace, and better established characters to make it really shine. Just about every aspect of this novella seemed to be compressed to the point where the story lost cohesiveness and believability. I needed more story to justify the relationship the author presents in the final chapter of the book. Without that, it just seemed to be a convenient way to ensure a happy ever after for two characters who have magically turned lust into some form of love.