Police officer Leone Cava wants Don Cesare, head of the Nightshade mafia, dead. So does Dante de Vici, Don Cesare’s trusted number number two. Leone wants revenge for his parents murder, and Dante wants to be the new Don. Sensing a kindred spirit, Dante offers Leone a deal, and for the shiny, bloody cherry on top … he’ll throw in Chief Riner, who has been getting in Leone’s way. And he does it with a wicked, charming smile.
Would you sell your soul to the devil for revenge? Dante de Vici isn’t quite the devil, and it isn’t Leone Cava’s soul he’s asking for. Just a little murder and a whole lot of blood.
This book starts with a murder, and never really lets up on the tension. It’s fight scenes using both magic and guns, fists, and falling out of windows; it’s betrayal and backstabbing with no one able to trust anyone, and, in the middle of it, two men who don’t trust each other who end up having to anyway because there’s no other choice. So many, many people want Dante dead — including Leone — and Leone has a price on his head for being a dirty cop. And yet, for all the plot-driven action, the book is very tightly focused on the two characters.
Leone is mixed in more ways than one. He’s gay, which he has to keep secret; his mother was Middle Eastern, his father white; and Leone has magic. Blood magic, which makes the pureblooded (ie “normal”) people of the world both loathe and fear him. It’s left him with thick skin and a thicker shell, and a grim determination to not let people get in the way of his job. Even his own workers. Leone is going to avenge the murder of his parents no matter what happens, and no matter who stands in his way.
When the blonde monster that is Dante makes his appearance, Leone wants to kill him. He tries to, in fact, but the two are well matched in grit, gumption, and magic. Leone is captivated by Dante, both in wanting to wipe the smile off his face and in wanting to kill anyone who dares touch him. When the two are forced to work together, Leone has only Dante to rely on and realizes that, for the first time since his parents death … he can rely on Dante. Dante can take care of himself and have Leone’s back at the same time, and very often does.
Dante was given to Don Cesare at an early age, as his magic, which allows him to control a person’s body, was too much for his mother. Cesare, with his immunity to magic, was able to teach Dante obedience, but did so in a way that only made Dante hate him. Everyone in the Nightshade mafia family hates him, with one exception, and he’s left strutting like the bantam cock he is, and fighting for his life. With Leone, Dante’s also fighting, but it’s a different flavor of hatred, a different kind of obsession. Dante and Leone click like two pieces of a puzzle. Dante has met someone like him, who burns with a blood-fueled fire, someone who can be used and is useful, and might be strong enough to meet Dante head on.
The story is a slow burn thanks to all the action, but it’s easy to see the growing obsession and trust in one another the two characters have. The slow and begrudging acknowledgements, the reluctant conversations, the way they have to watch each other’s backs, and the knowledge that neither of them are pure and angelic figures. They’re both out for personal vengeance and willing to use blood and bullets to get it. It’s a darker — but not dark — shade of romance, and I enjoyed reading it.
The story takes place in a vaguely a 1920s-esque world with Irving Berlin on the radio and men wearing waistcoats, jackets, and hats, but the setting isn’t really present. The focus is far more on the magic, which is lighter and more intuitive than explained. Some people are born with the ability to use blood magic, to heal or to kill, to shape blood or manipulate it. And that’s pretty much it, but the casual moments when, while running for their lives, Dante admits he has to see someone in order to use his magic, or in the final battle when Dante realizes one of the villains is looking at a puddle of blood and runs his boot through it so it can’t be used, end up being clever and effective.
The writing is good, the characters are good, and I recommend this if you’re interested in classic mob war and a slow burning enemies to lovers story, and don’t mind semi-graphic fights that leave a pile of bodies behind them.