Francesca is on the run and has moved to Little Italy, Chicago, to hide out and start life afresh in the company of her old friend Joanna (great name). On her way to get a job in Joanna’s uncle’s deli, she’s spotted by Stefano Ferrara, the sexy head of a local family who ‘keeps the neighborhood safe’. Think Mafia minus some of the bad and plus some supernatural skillz.
Stefano’s a very attractive and powerful man and very used to getting his own way. Something about Francesca stops him in his tracks and he forces her to take his coat (she’s shivering after giving hers to a homeless lady), a wad of cash and basically publicly claims her in front of the town.
She’s a shadow rider, same as him and his family, though she has no idea. And more importantly from Stefano’s point of view (we hear from them both, though it’s third person) Francesca is his – the fated woman he’s been waiting for and wasn’t sure he’d ever find. Many other shadow riders never find a mate, so she’s the future of their family.
The job in the deli is now a given as everyone in Little Italy is scared stiff of / crazy for the Ferrara family, and Francesca finds herself unwittingly beholden to this dangerous stranger.
Now, flighty Francesca has dark secrets, but Stefano won’t take no for an answer and he makes her his. Our heroine puts up a little bit of a fight but is steamrolled, both by the Don, I mean Stefano, and by his family. They are all actually pretty charming and this was a plus of the book. He has several attractive siblings (cue a series) and cousins, mostly male, and for them, family means everything, and their great wealth has been amassed by use of the skills which enable them to be highly effective assassins.
Shadow riding is the main skill of interest, and it involves being able to disintegrate and ride shadow ‘tubes’ unseen, therefore being able to pop up where you like and break a neck or two. Can you imagine how cool it must be for Francesca to suddenly find out she can do this thing? Can you feel the excitement of first trying it out, particularly if you’ve been hunted and your super new boyfriend / owner is the world’s best and can teach you? Yeah, well don’t hold your breath.
Francesca doesn’t actually get to do much riding (not of this variety, anyway, wink). Though Stefano is head over heels for her, he’s happy to admit he’s a very old fashioned kinda guy and he wants a stay-at-home-wife / brood mare who’s happy to listen to his awful day and pop one out kid after the other.
Stefano Quote: I’m not easy. I’ll never be easy. I’ll own you. You won’t have one moment when I’m not aware of where you are and what you’re doing. That’s who I am.
I am a HUGE fan of Christine Feehan and I love the strong alpha type man in my books. With that being said I was surprised to find I wasn’t the biggest fan of it in this book. Stefano is the EXTREME ALPHA – he doesn’t want her to have a job, he posts body guards on her at all times, including in the ladies room; he chooses her clothes; he needs to know exactly where she is at all times; he doesn’t want her to use her skills. He is obsessive and possessive to the max. I don’t mind an overprotective guy, and not every heroine has to be kick ass, but this was too rich for my blood.
I was crying out for a scene where Francesca came into her own, but it didn’t happen. I suspect that once her child-rearing is done, our heroine will find she has little left to do with her days.
Aside from not liking the trope, I did find the book interesting. The stuff Stefano and his siblings get up to in shadow riding and the contracts they take on is cool. I’d have happily read more of this. Their celeb/money/glossy lifestyle is interesting, and I want to know more about some of them – Taviano and Emmanuelle both have potential pairings off lines up. One is with another Mafioso family so a nice bit of conflict there.
In terms of readability, I think the book could do with a good edit to take out a fair amount of repetitive text, and also the characters do that over-explaining thing to each other to advance the plot, which made the conversations a bit stilted.
There were a fair few sex scenes which were pretty hot. Stefano is an inventive guy. Bossy, dominating but dedicated and kinda sweet. He traces his name with his fingers tips on her body. Um, yes.
Overall, I’ll look out for the next in the series because I liked the other characters and the world they live in, but for all the hot sex in the world, I think this heroine sacrificed too much. The ending was satisfactory – the bad guy got his and there was no cliffhanger. It’s HEA, and the other siblings’ stories should prove interesting. Hopefully some of them get to do some more of that tube riding.