Valentina lost her husband, too, but her first marriage had always been for show. When she was eighteen, she agreed to marry Antonio in order to hide the truth: that he was gay and in love with an outsider. Even after his death, she kept his secret, not only to preserve the honor of a dead man, but also to protect herself. But now that she’s about to marry Dante, her castle of lies threatens to crash. Dante is only thirty-six but already feared and respected in the Familia, and he’s notorious for always getting what he wants. Valentina is terrified of the wedding night that might reveal her secret, but her worries prove unfounded when Dante shows her the cold shoulder. Soon her fear is replaced by confusion and indignation. Valentina is tired of being ignored. She’s determined to get Dante’s attention and desire, even if she can’t get his heart that still belongs to his dead wife.
This book definitely put me through the ringer, angst-wise. I don't read too many books where it's the heroine panting after the hero and the hero acts like he doesn't care. That sums it up a bit too simplistically so let me elaborate. This is the second book in the "Born in Blood Mafia Chronicles", it's about a group of young women (all friends) who are thrust into arranged marriages. These girls are strategically matched to their spouses to gain more power and status in the Outfit. I enjoyed the first book "Bound by Honor" a lot, maybe it was because the hero was crazy jealous and possessive even though he did cheat... I don't know, what do you think?
Dante and Valentina's story was a lot more complex and dare I say morbid? The MC's were both previously married but their spouses have since passed away. Dante's wife passed away 4 years ago and Valentina's husband just recently. Now here's where it got angst ridden and frustrating for me. Valentina never loved her husband not as a wife should at least, I won't tell you why but their marriage was certainly one of convenience. Dante married for love, he adored his wife for 12 years until she succumbed to cancer. She was his entire life and he would have probably never married if his father hadn't insisted and the fact that he was beginning to look weak in front of his men, and that was dangerous since he's the reigning boss for the Outfit.
They marry and from their first night together Valentina realises that her husband has no interest in claiming his rights as her husband and quite frankly he's not interested in knowing her as a person either. Valentina's character was endearing and maybe a tad naive because she was determined to win him over. But Dante is a very difficult men, he never shows emotion. That's how he was raised and that's how he became the Boss, they don't call him "The Ice Prince" or "Cold Fish" for nothing (behind his back).
Sometimes I think you hurt me on purpose to keep me at arms-length. When will you finally move on? Your wife has been dead for four years, it's time you stop pitying yourself and realize that life goes on. When will you stop clinging to the memory of a dead woman and realize there's someone in your life who wants to be with you?"
I can't begin to stress how cold and aloof Dante could be at times. I think what made him even more closed off to me was the fact that he didn't get a POV, I only saw him from Valentina's eyes.
"You don't know what I want. Maybe we want the same thing." My voice was a bare whisper.
He scoffed. "I can see in you eyes that it's not true. You want to make love, but I can't give you that. I do want to possess you, want to own every part of you, but not for the reasons you want me to. I'm a heartless bastard, Valentina. Don't try to see anything else in me. The business suit and emotionless face is the thin layer covering up the fucking abyss that's my soul and heart. Don't try and glimpse beneath it, you won't like what you find."
I complain about insta-love in books sometimes, but this is one of those times where I won't not because it didn't bother me but the MC's relationship progressed at a dare I say completely realistic pace for people in their position and with their histories. Valentina's drive to break down Dante's walls is what probably made him finally open up in the end.
"Every moment of the day I think of the things I want to do to you, catch myself remembering your taste, your smell. Sometimes I think I'll go insane if I don't bury myself in you."
Now apart from the romance in this story there were quite a few twists that I never saw coming which made me enjoy the story a lot more in the end. This author has a knack for pacing, writing sensual sex scenes and 3 dimensional character and I really appreciate that.
Each of the books in this series are stand-alones, so they can be read separately, but I honestly feel you should read the first book because the characters in the first book do make appearances in this one too.
Note to author: (view spoiler)