Domenico Rossetti is the heir to the Rossetti crime family. The Rossettis have long been feuding with a rival family, the Fiores, and now they have may have found a way to finally win the war and destroy the Fiores for good. If it means kidnapping an innocent and using him to their advantage, well, so be it. Dom is nothing if not ruthless, dedicated to his family, and willing to do whatever it takes to exact revenge on the Fiores.
Luca Davis grew up in Connecticut and is now a medical student at Yale. When he is snatched up and brought before Dom, Luca is terrified and has no idea where he is or what Dom could possibly want with him. Dom is frustratingly unwilling to explain almost anything to Luca about why he is there. But he is quite clear the Rossettis are planning to use Luca for their own ends and will kill him sooner than later.
With the Fiores after Dom and the prize he has in Luca, the men are forced to hide away in the penthouse apartment above the Rossetti’s casino. It may be a gilded, luxurious prison, but it is a prison nonetheless. While Luca is terrified of this confusing situation in which he finds himself, he can also admit that Dom is very attractive, and Luca is dealing with some adrenaline-fueled lust at the gorgeous, savage man. For his part, Dom knows Luca is about as off limits as they come — the hostage, the enemy, and a man. But as Dom and Luca spend time forced alone together, they find they can’t help but act on the attraction between them, no matter how dangerous. However, with the Fiores after them, and Luca’s life threatened from multiple directions, the future for the men is uncertain.
Forbidden Mafia Prince is the first book in the new Malvagio Duet by authors Brooke Blaine and Ella Frank. The story is very much a duet in that it is really two books that make up one long story. So the story doesn’t end here and we get a cliffhanger ending that leads into the conclusion in the upcoming second book.
Oh, I do love a good enemies-to-lovers story and this one is pretty delicious. The set up here is intense, with Luca suddenly yanked out of his life, kidnapped, and brought before this terrifying man in Dom. Luca has no idea what they want with him or why he is there, only that his life is quite clearly on the line. For his part, Dom hates the Fiores, wants nothing more than to destroy them, and initially sees Luca as nothing more than a pawn. Dom is a violent man, one who sees killing someone as an accepted part of his life, and he is ruthless and dangerous. While clearly Dom becomes the romantic hero, this is still a darker story and Dom is not an easy man. He was raised as the heir to a crime family and he accepts his role with relish. So these men are about as at odds as possible as the story starts. We then add in a nice forced proximity element as they are required to stay together in the penthouse (keeping Luca safe for later use).
Luca starts out the story terrified and bewildered, but as he starts to feel he has nothing to lose (they will kill him regardless), and as his adrenaline starts to get the better of him, he begins to be a little more reckless and indulges in his attraction. And Dom, despite all the reasons he knows it’s a mistake, can’t help but act on his own pull to Luca. This is a relatively slow burn given that this book is only half the story, but the authors do a great job teasing out that attraction and building it throughout the book, showing why these men can’t help but fall into bed despite themselves.
The story explores some interesting issues, particularly for Dom. He has been raised as the heir and has very specific expectations upon him. One is that he must sire more heirs, and therefore, while quiet dalliances with men are fine, he is expected to marry a woman. He also has been brought up with violence as a way of life, with the family above all else, and the expectation that he will be ruthless when needed. I liked the way that Luca challenges and questions these expectations, which in turn, makes Dom begin to think more introspectively about his life. He is certainly not suddenly a changed man, but we see how he struggles under the weight of his role as heir and the way Luca makes him consider his life a bit more. I think it will be interesting to see how (or if) this continues in the second book and if it impacts things between the two of them.
The larger story about the feuding families is interesting, though we don’t get the full picture quite yet. We learn that Luca is connected to the Fiores, that he was raised not knowing anything about them, and that something happened in the past between the families that has the Rossettis looking for blood. But we don’t know exactly how Luca ended up in Connecticut, who he really is, or what happened that caused this big feud. I think the authors provide enough of the story to get the reader invested and understand the basics, and left enough of the excitement for the second book to tie it together.
I really enjoyed this first installment and found it an engaging forced-proximity, enemies-to-lovers story with a dark twist. I can’t wait for the conclusion and all the revelations to come.