Rating: 4 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Salvatore Grillo is a man who runs multiple business empires — including taking a cut from the homeless panhandlers in his territory on Welcome Boulevard. When a new person joins the group, Sal decides to check him out. Levity has a new twist on begging for money, and something about the younger man piques Sal’s interest.
Levity is used to life on the streets, and begging for money keeps a roof over his head and keeps him fed. Along with his best friend, Clove, the two start raking in money, though they only get a small cut. But when they try to ask for more, it leads to trouble. Being called to a meeting with the Boss Man has Levity certain he’s in for a world of hurt, but Sal is nothing like he expects.
Though Levity, at first, thinks they’re in the clear, that is not the case. When Levity is severely beaten, Sal is the one who gets him the care he needs and a safe place to recover. Sal, for his part, doesn’t understand the way he’s drawn to Levity, and he wants more with every interaction they have. But just as things begin to heat up between them, things go south. Someone wants to ruin Sal and, when they can’t get to Sal’s sister, they’ll take Levity to do it. Now it’s race against the clock to not only find out who is behind it all, but to rescue Levity before the unthinkable happens. But Sal is determined and loyal, and nothing will stop him setting his world to rights.
Davidson King is a new-to-me author, as I just haven’t had the opportunity to sample her writing before now. While this book wasn’t without flaws for me, the story was engaging and the characters drew me in. This is definitely a more character-driven story, as both MCs are well drawn and complex.
The story is told in dual, first-person POV, and we really get to know and understand both Sal and Levity. Sal has business everywhere, some legal, some not, and he runs his empire well. He knows all the ins and outs—at least he thought he did—and he does the best he can. He has plenty of money, and he loves his sister more than life itself. Jacquelyn is autistic, and he supports her fully, as well as really understanding what makes her tick. His relationship with his sister really showcases the kind of man he is: loving, loyal, determined, and fierce, and with a good heart underneath it all. But when it comes to business, especially his shadier dealings, Sal is ruthless. I really liked the complexity of his character. He’s multi-faceted and that is portrayed really well.
Levity might have nothing, living in a truly crappy place and begging for money just to survive, but he has a pretty positive outlook on life. This is his lot, and he goes about his day accepting that and doing what he needs to do. But he’s also got a sunshiny personality one might not expect given his situation. Where Levity and Sal both shine is the protective way they feel about those they care about. Levity wouldn’t cause trouble for himself, but if someone comes after those he holds dear, he’d jump in without hesitation. Ultimately, he’s a sweetheart doing his best, and immediately he endeared himself to me and I wanted nothing more than for him to make it out the other side in a better position because he deserves it.
As far as the romance side of things, the story is pretty typical. The MCs are opposites in a lot of ways and there is something about the other man that draws them in. It’s more than just physical attraction, though there’s plenty of that. I liked that they recognized something more in each other and it makes the love between them more believable. Things did move a little quickly for me at the end in regards to their relationship, but at the same time, I was rooting for them to be together so it worked.
On the other side of things, there’s some action and mystery. As mentioned, Sal is involved in some illegal dealings as well, so there’s a darker undertone to the story. I wouldn’t call it a dark romance by any means, but things definitely get a little gray. For me, given the way the author set things up, it was pretty obvious who the villains were and much of what happened wasn’t actually a surprise. This lessened the tension for me somewhat. I also felt that one bad guy was a bit over the top, bordering on caricature in some ways, and that worked against the story a bit for me.
Overall, while I had some issues with the story, I did like the book. The characters went a long way for me, and they were the part I enjoyed the most. This is the first book in the series, and I’ve already got the next one on deck. I’m looking forward to continuing the series and seeing what happens next.