Disclaimer: I received an advance electronic copy of this novel from the author.
I’m not quite sure how this book ended up on my radar, but I decided to take a chance on accepting a review copy by a debut author because I know how difficult the publishing industry can be to newcomers. I tend not to be a fan of “mafia romances,” but I’ve always had a soft spot for the Prohibition era because so much of American culture shifted during that time. That being said, this is still a time when being queer was socially unacceptable to the point of being illegal, which Leigh does not shy away from in her story. That particular element plays a lot into how the main characters end up meeting and becoming involved in each other’s lives. Overall, Leigh does a fantastic job of creating an immersive world (barring a few glaring anachronisms) set in a fictional American city.
The Napolitano family may be mafia, but they are “new money” rather than part of an organization with significant ties back in Europe. This distinction goes far in explaining how Francesco relates to both the family business and his family as a whole, along with his reactions when the conflict between him and his father’s generation becomes inescapable. He may be unapologetic about his part in his city’s illegal alcohol supply chain, but Francesco allows other priorities in his life. His bodyguard Aiden O’Connor, who spends much of the book balancing secrets of his own, quickly becomes one of those priorities in the romance element of this story. For his part, Aiden is much more a product of his personal history in how he becomes involved in the Napolitano family and ends up directly contributing to the eventual upheaval that marks the book’s pivotal moments.
Certain political and cultural beliefs explored in this book can be read as a commentary on the current state of American affairs – except that these elements were very much at play a hundred years ago as well. Despite its historical setting, this romance is so very applicable as a modern read. No book is flawless, but Leigh’s writing does not include many issues I typically recognize in debut publications. I look forward to learning how she chooses to continue this series, whether it focuses on the further adventures of Aiden and Francesco or highlights new characters in the same setting.