Angelo Marchesi and Cameron Bellini knew each other in high school, but the misconceptions they had about each other made every interaction between them tense. Fifteen years later, Cameron is back in town, taking over his family’s bakery now that his father has been killed. But his father did some questionable and shady things, which now leaves Cameron in debt to the Marchesi family. When Angelo shows up to demand payment, Cameron doesn’t recognize him at first. And then those misconceptions come roaring back, and Cameron refuses.
Angelo wants his revenge on Cameron, and now he has the perfect opportunity. He can break the man and then leave him, finally getting Cameron out of his system once and for all. Angelo demands that Cameron pay in full, or pay off the debt with his body. Angelo wants Cameron, always has, and he intends to have him. Cameron sees no way out, and agrees to have the kind of sex Angelo wants, but he’s not going to let Angelo break him.
But though the Marchesis thought they put their feud with Ricci to rest, another player enters the game and starts wreaking havoc among the businesses the Marchesis protect. Cameron is targeted too, and Angelo will stop at nothing to protect what is his. Though Angelo and Cameron profess to hate each other, every encounter reveals another piece of their heart to each other, and when the danger ramps up, both men know what they share is more than just want and a mutual need. If they can survive, they might just find their happily ever after.
I’m going to start with a warning: just like the first book in the Marchesi Family series, Lucien, this story has an edge of dubcon. It gets very close to that line without going over. Cameron feels he has no choice but to do what Angelo wants, or else he’ll lose everything. Only the fact that we get time in Cameron’s head to know how much he wants it, and the fact that Cameron could, in fact, run away and leave everything behind, keeps it from crossing that line. But if it’s something that is not for you, I suggest you skip this book and series.
I hesitate to call this book enemies to lovers, because Cameron and Angelo aren’t truly enemies. But there is a lot of animosity between them from their interactions and misconceptions as teenagers, and there’s definitely hate sex going on in their first few times together. As the story progresses, we learn that a lot of that is just posturing, especially on Angelo’s part, and their physical connection helps them gain an emotional one. As Cameron really learns what’s in Angelo’s heart, he’s able to let go of what he thinks Angelo is and learn what kind of man Angelo actually is. I will say here that these moments are sweet, but they are a little flimsy for me to truly get on board with them falling in love with each other.
This book is told in dual first-person POV, and I think it’s particularly necessary in order for the reader to truly understand both characters. There’s a complexity to both of them that, had it not been told this way, would have made the book a lot less enjoyable. Since we get to see what both men are thinking and feeling, though, it’s easier to go along with their love story, even if they don’t have as many conversations about it as I would have liked. Both men have issues, but we get to see their growth and acceptance as the story goes on. I liked watching Cameron readjust his perceptions where Angelo is concerned. And I really loved seeing that Angelo, at his heart, is a loyal and fiercely protective man.
The Marchesi family is a crime family, and there’s no doubt they do illegal and amoral things. But they’re also painted as “good” mobsters in that they protect those who need protecting, and are loyal, fierce, and caring. It’s a little farfetched, but Violet makes it work to a certain degree. The B storyline, with the newly emerging danger, could have used more fleshing out for me. It got a lost a little when coupled with the romance, and therefore there were parts that felt rushed and incomplete. And I don’t mean the parts that were left opened to set up the next story in the series.
Overall, as always, I like Violet’s characters a lot. But I felt I was missing a little bit from the larger narrative. That being said, this second book is, for me, better than the first, and I’ll definitely want to see where the author takes the next book as we finally get Devil’s story.