Engrossing Mafia Tale!
This story had an authentic organized crime feel to it, and for that I applaud the author. It's appropriately gritty, with no easy happy endings.
Haven Antonelli and her mother are slaves for a boorish Mafia capo and his wife. They live in a tiny California desert town, and all Haven knows is how to cook, clean, and try to avoid her master's beatings. One day when she's 17 a stern man--Dr. Vincent DeMarco--buys her and takes her home with him to North Carolina.
Vincent comes off as a complete ass most of the time. He injects a GPS chip into her and threatens her, yet somehow her life is better than it had been. One reason for that is Vincent's two sons, Dominic and Carmine. Dominic is kind but Carmine is initially suspicious of their new house guest.
When Haven and Carmine slowly fall in love, they strengthen each other and bring out the best in each other. But it might be all for naught when Haven's secret identity is revealed, endangering both of their lives.
Here are some things I loved:
* The origin of Haven's name.
* Carmine. His potty-mouth zingers lightened the scene, every time. I like how his character's far from perfect, like his epic fail when trying to teach Haven how to drive. Haven describes him:If there was one image of Carmine DeMarco she never wanted to forget, it was this one. It was the image of him exposed and vulnerable...Most people knew the selfish young boy, spoiled and irresponsible, but she was one of the lucky few that got to see Carmine for who he was. Completely stripped down to the core, so compassionate and caring, a gentle soul despite his scarred exterior.
* The realistic teenager voices, with lines like "I can't wait to hear DeMarco read us a love story," Graham Martin called out. "I'll be like watching him grow a vag."
* Nicholas' stupid jokes. Although I never laughed, it was a good characterization technique, giving him a unique voice that made me groan. Actually, this joke was
kind of funny:Nicholas smiled. "So, what did one snowman say to the other?"
Haven shrugged. "I don't know, what?"
"Smells like carrots."
* The development of the romance between Carmine and Haven. They've never loved before, and both have serious trust issues."I don't want you to back off."
"Good, because I really didn't want to," Carmine said. "I can't promise it's gonna be easy, or that it's gonna be all happiness. I've never done any of this before, so I don't know what I'm doing. But I'm gonna try to be good to you."
"I don't know what I'm doing either," Haven said.
"We can learn together. Just tell me what you want from me, and we'll figure the shit out."
* The priest Vincent visits. He's a wise soul.
What I didn't like as much:
* While I'm a fan of reading and writing longish novels, I believe this story could've benefited from tighter editing. Vincent's mysterious Jekyll & Hyde routine went on a tad too long for me. The buildup of the romance between Carmine and Haven, while sweet, consumed too much of the story before the criminal action began.
* Haven's character. My lack of connection to her interfered with my enjoyment of the novel since she's such a central character. I understand she lived an unusual life, but she seemed quite bland to me. And I really don't think she could've learned so much about life from watching Jeopardy!