The first installment of this nontraditional fairy tale retelling has a lot of work to do. Multiple characters to introduce, both individually and their previously established dynamics, along with the politics of an underworld to set up. Lindsey pulls no punches by immediately showing how dark and kinky these guys are, already with each other and how they presumably will be with Alice. It’s a great way to introduce readers to what will be a wild ride so that can figure out if they need to get off. Myself, I couldn’t wait to find out all the details and backstory of how these four men are connected. Their identities are a fascinating take on other romance fairy tale retellings, not even especially the gender-bent aspect of one. In comparison, I found Alice drab and a bit uninspired, not much different than characters I’ve read in other stories grounded in the various tropes explored by this one.
To be fair, I can’t necessarily see what attracts these four men to her on a more visceral level, beyond what role she will play in their revenge against her father because we are forced to skim over the years they stalk her. This was my only blip in the story’s otherwise excellent pacing. The events of the story themselves are also a departure from what I expected based on other mafia force marriage story structures. Unfortunately, Alice is still forced to make some pretty predictable decisions, even when an excellent plot twist throws a major wrench in Kane’s plans. One choice, however, makes up for many of the others, especially regarding the ripple effect it causes for both Phoenix and the other men.
This definitely feels like the beginning of an otherwise incomplete story, which makes the cliffhanger ending feel more like the tease before a commercial break than anything more unfinished. I hope to see more of Kane’s point of view in later books, and I’m ready for her time with these men to break Alice out of the mold she’s been forced into.
Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author.