Who knew that being in the wrong place so many different times could lead Evelyn to the love of her life?
What’s it About?
Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, the day the stock market crashed, and the day Evelyn Ford will never forget. With the untimely death of her parents and the loss of their only income, Evelyn, and her brother, Frank flee to a make-shift hovel built in Central Park. After Frank mysteriously goes missing, bare cupboards force Evelyn to seek employment anywhere she can find work, even if that means working at a burlesque theater.
Catching the attention of Don Vincent Giovanni, a Kingpin in the New York mafia, Evelyn discovers that Frank is serving time in prison for running hooch and he owes Vincent a lot of money. In order to pay off her brother’s debt, Evelyn is thrown into the world of mobsters and bootlegging. Between running hooch all over the city of New York and trying to save her brother, Evelyn finds herself drawn to Max Catalano, Vincent’s Consigliere. Even with secrets of his own, he’s the only one she can trust when she entangles herself in the middle of the New York mafia crime wars.
This book was a tough one for me to put down! I mean, seriously it has everything you could possibly ask for in a romance set during the early 30s. We’ve got the ramifications and desperation of the Great Depression, prohibition, running hooch, mob bosses, burlesque theaters, and hell we even get an Al Capone mention thrown in there! And in the midst of all this chaos is Evelyn, a young woman who is just trying to survive, and save her brother at the same time. Slightly naive at times, she nevertheless learns that in order to survive in this world she must play along and go with the flow of the liquor, or risk consequences of angering the mob boss who has taken a shine to her.
She’s not alone though in this crazy world of bootlegging, as the right-hand man of the mob kingpin, Max Catalano, has vowed to protect her at all costs. The simmering attraction between these two is electrifying, but it can never be brought to light or else risk the anger and retribution of the man in charge. As their paths continue to intertwine however, and the dangers of this world close in on our lead characters, we start to question if not only will they ever get to declare their love for each other, but if they’ll make it out in one piece. Do you see why it was so hard for me to put this book down?
Shaken Not Stirred
I think what truly draws you in from the first page is the sheer desperation of our heroine. The author successfully paints such a sad and desolate picture which encapsulates the tragedy and hopelessness of the Great Depression. Evelyn is running out of options in life, and although she has the air of a proper lady, she’s at her wits end, and decides to audition for a job in a burlesque theater. Just as she thinks her chances are completely lost of getting a job, in walks Vincent Giovanni, the kingpin of New York. At first I almost wondered if we’d see a developing love story between Evelyn and Vincent, but it’s not long before we discover the true relationship lay between Evelyn and Max. And lemme tell you, I was allllll for it.
Their immediate connection was entirely believable, and the fact they can’t really act on their feelings for each other makes this read all the more intriguing. To do so could put both of their lives in danger, not to mention Evelyn’s brother, Frank, who we discover owes a massive debt to Vincent. And this draws together the idea of being in the wrong place so many times over. By auditioning for a burlesque show Evelyn encounters Vincent, and when it’s revealed her brother owes him money she offers to bootleg on his behalf to help work off his debt. This pulls good girl Evelyn even further into this dark web from which there seems no escape. When a turf war begins between Vincent and a rival family, the stakes are raised even higher.
An Extra Shot or Two Required
Now I’ve always been a huge fan of this era of history and storytelling. I mean, Boardwalk Empire was my freakin’ jam! And while overall I really did enjoy Evelyn and Max’s story, there were a few areas where I wanted more, and they all actually revolved around the character of Mr. Vincent Giovanni. First of all, I found it remarkably unbelievable that he never tried to sexually take advantage of Evelyn. Don’t get me wrong, that would have been utterly devastating, but considering his character as a mob kingpin and how the story develops, it shocked me that sex was never really a major point he pushed with her.
When they meet in the club, he is immediately drawn to her, and it’s not long before he’s taking her back to his home to live with him, and throwing thousands of dollars of jewelry and clothing at her. And yet, the subject of sex isn’t even suggested at this point. It’s only when Evelyn offers to take on the role her brother had in Vincent’s employ of running hooch does Vincent broach the topic saying that should she fail, he’ll demand payment from her in physical ways. But even then he makes it sound like more of a nuisance than anything, and I never got the sense it was something he was really looking forward to with her. And again, the fact he never really tries anything with her before that time just didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me considering the lengths he was going to to seemingly set her up as his mistress.
And lastly, I’d have to say I simply wanted more of a focus on Vincent as a character. The majority of the novel is spent developing this relationship between Max and Evelyn, and while it was undoubtedly extremely compelling you can’t help but admit that Vincent is an intriguing villain in his own right. There’s a suggested ensuing battle between Vincent and a rival mob family which is never fully explored, and is seemingly dropped from the story line. In addition, at the end of the novel we get a hint that Vincent is more of a puppet master pulling the strings of our characters than we ever realized, and I so would have liked perhaps just one more chapter which provided us a glimpse into his mad psyche. What can I say? Whenever I encounter an enthralling villain I simply want more!!
*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*
Series: I doubt this is a series, but if we could get some kind of short story about Evelyn’s brother, Frank, I’d be first in line.
Should you read it? This story pulled me in and wouldn’t let go. We have a major plot twist later on in the novel that even I didn’t see coming (a rarity indeed), and it made me love it all the more. The whole thing comes together for one exciting climactic conclusion with guns blazing! I will say at times I think parts of the story could have been more fully fleshed out, and there were certain points that crossed the line of convenience over reality, but all in all a fun historical read.
Smut Level: So many longing looks, brushed hands, and captured elbows. Eventually we get a love scene, but the details aren’t excessively raunchy in any way. Pretty clean read altogether.
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Long Valley Press. 272 Pages.