Rating: 2.75 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


Dante Carillo and his husband, Blaine, have left the hustle and bustle and politics of the big city — and Dante’s mafia lifestyle — for the quiet life of owning a dude ranch. Together they now own over 40,000 acres of Montana where they intend to build a club for kinky gay men. There will be livestock for those who want to play cowboy, shops and spas, and, of course, the BDSM club. To run the ranch, Dante and Blaine have hired on most of the workers who are already familiar with the property, along with some mafia men from various families and clubs.

Three such men are Dallas and Ruben, who worked on the previous ranch on the property, and Marius, a top guy from another mafia family. Reuben and Dallas are used to having to hide their sexuality, as well as their attraction for one another. Now, with Marius making eyes at Ruben, who is more than willing to make eyes back, Dallas begins to feel jealous … only he isn’t certain which of them he’s feeling more flustered over. Marius, though, has a wonderful idea. Why choose? Three people can be just as much fun as two … maybe even more!

The sheriff interrupts the various lovebirds in their pairs and trios with questions about a missing man, followed by questions about a missing woman. He suspects something, and he’s making himself a pest; unfortunately, he’s also right, as the body of the missing woman is found on Dante’s property, along with the knife used to kill her. Can Marius, Dallas, and Ruben find the murderer before the murderer finds them?

Wiseguy is the first book in the Carillo Ranch series and involves characters from (what I’m assuming are) the author’s other series.* The first three chapters introduce over over a dozen named characters and the people they’re sleeping with, married to, or in a relationship with, and … it’s a lot. As this is the first book in a series, it’s expected to have more focus on introductions than actions, but I think this book needed fewer side characters.

Marius, Dallas, and Reuben are hard to tell apart. Voice wise, they — along with many of the other characters — sound much the same and that, combined with the point of view occasionally changing between characters several times in a chapter, made it difficult to identify who was thinking, feeling, or doing what to whom. There are efforts to give them distinct personalities; Reuben is the submissive and giggles, Dallas is bossy, and Marius is agreeable, but it just wasn’t enough for me. Then there are Dante and Blaine, who also have a few chapters dedicated to them. There the distinction between the two men is more clear, but I feel like I had zero grasp on who they were beyond Dante was the top and Blaine the bottom. Blaine and Reuben shared similar mannerisms, as did Dante and Dallas, which made it even more difficult for me to connect to the book.

We do have time spent on the mystery itself, the question of where Harrison — the missing man and previous owner of the ranch — had vanished to, but there was just as much focus on room design. The new vet buildings. How to pet a horse, shopping for meat in a town so backwards and conservative that a woman might be run out of town on a rail for daring to use Botox, let alone a man. The setup is a bit heavy handed, and because I was already struggling to connect to the characters, I ended up focusing on a lot of details that stood out to me, but may not bother other people.

Writing wise, the book is fine, but there are several tense changes; at one point, there is a switch to first person, but then the book goes back into third person. As I’ve already mentioned, there are point of view changes and the pacing is all over the place. We have long, lingering sex scenes and then are zipping past the plot one moment, and the next the sex scenes are abbreviated while the plot takes a slow, leisurely chapter.

And speaking of the sex scenes … during a spanking scene, Dallas asks what Ruben’s safe word is. It’s “red.” Dallas then has Marius cover Rueben’s mouth with his hand to muffle the screams and proceeds to spank Reuben with a leather belt. While he does stop every now and then, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with someone being unable to give their safe word if needed without an non-verbal option. Likewise, when Dallas and Marius decide to both fuck Ruben at the same time, he makes it clear he’s uncertain and that he doesn’t want to. Dallas covers his mouth, tells him to safe word if he doesn’t want it — and then, without giving him a chance to safe word, they start fucking him. While it’s written to be consensual and enjoyable for all involved, those two scenes in particular didn’t work for me. The others (and there were many others) were fine, it’s just those two.

Personally, I didn’t enjoy the characters or the pace, and while both the writing and plot were solid enough, they just didn’t give me the connection I wanted. If you’re a fan of this author, you stand a good chance of enjoying this book. However, there wasn’t enough cowboy, enough mafia, or enough romance in it for me.

* It looks like Blaine and Dante appear in The Family from the author’s Men in Shadows series