It’s been a few years since Valentine’s life was turned upside down. His father died, his brother Enzo took over as head of the DiFiore Family, and Enzo married a monster. Silas, his new brother-in-law, is a murderous, cold-blooded killer who gets all possessive around his husband. Val would almost call it romantic if they didn’t keep making out on the kitchen counters where, you know, he makes his dinner.
When a childhood friend is brought into the hospital where Val works as a doctor, dying of a gunshot wound and warning of someone called the Demon, Val has what is either the stupidest idea or the smartest idea of his life. He asks Silas — the killer, the cleaner, the psychopath who knows he likes furry porn — for help. In the end, after a few misadventures, Silas turns Valentine over to his brother, Malcolm, who happens to be both Chief of Police and a sadistic monster, himself.
Malcolm has his own name: The Devil. Ruthless, cold-blooded, breathtaking in his rage and terrifying in his control, he takes one look at Valentine … and can’t help but smile. His brother has given him a toy. And Malcom is eager to play.
This is the second book in the DiFiore Mafia Family series, and comes with quite a few trigger warnings. However, first and foremost, considering all the events that have been happening lately, please be aware that this book contains a hospital shooting and a workplace shooting. In addition, the sexual relationship between the two main characters is violent and aggressive, leading to tearing, bruising, choking, and pain (between two enthusiastically consenting adults). If such events are likely to cause you discomfort or distress, do not pick up this book.
That said, if you’re looking for a dark romance with an emphasis on the dark, then this book is well worth your time. Malcolm is a sadist, a man who knows what he wants and what he doesn’t. When he sees Valentine, at first it’s just an obligation to protect something his brother can’t, but there’s a moment where he finds Valentine using his bathroom, where he crowds the younger man against the bathroom counter and sees the fear in his eyes, hears Valentine’s breath catch, and realizes that he very much wants this man. He wants to shape him, mold him into something that suits Malcolm’s taste. He wants to hear him scream, both in pain and in pleasure, wants to see him beg and cry because he can also see that Valentine is affected by him. Turned on by the power games between them, by the threat Malcolm is.
Valentine has been the supposed baby of the family, spoiled and indulged — as his brothers see it. What Val sees is the son his father didn’t care enough to try to discipline. The baby who was never thought of as being worth the time to toughen up, who no one trusted to be able to do anything, so they never let him try. His insecurities are deep, and at one point, when he’s in trouble, he thinks about and then decides against calling Enzo for help because he knows his brother would come to save him. Because Enzo isn’t weak, isn’t a victim, isn’t helpless. And it rankles. Because Valentine feels like a victim.
When he was 13, Valentine’s teacher assaulted him. His father reacted poorly to it, and Valentine has brushed it aside and chosen not to deal with it. With Malcolm, there is some of that same dynamic, of being held against his will, of being unable to fight back, of being a victim. But, with Malcolm, it’s his choice. If he uses his safe word, if he taps out, Malcolm will let him go. When, after this revelation of his past, Malcolm tries to be gentler, to be softer and more considerate so as to not, in his words, re-traumatize Valentine, Val says that — because it’s Malcolm, Malcolm who he trusts — he doesn’t see it as trauma. He wants the violence, the pain, the ability to let go.
For all that the sex is violent, it’s never uneven. Malcolm is attentive and considerate. Even knowing that he is more of a sadist than Valentine is a masochist, he’s careful in moving to the next level. This is a dark romance with the emphasis on the romance, and I enjoyed it more than I did the first book. It’s a fun, steamy story between a very not-nice person and the man he obsesses over. The writing is strong, the characterization good, the pacing is quick, and I highly recommend it.
However, what I do not recommend is turning to Valentine for medical advice: At one point in the book Valentine — a fictional doctor — gets a nosebleed and tilts his head back. Please don’t do this. Sit down and tilt your head forward and wait for the bleeding to slow.