Dark Mafia Prince
Have you reached the middle of a book and realized you can’t put it down, but aren’t sure you like it? If you have, you know how I felt reading Dark Mafia Prince. I haven’t read many Mafia based romances, so I don’t have much to compare it to, but I was thoroughly entertained, and curious as to how Ms. Martin could possibly end hers – cliffhanger? HEA? Ambiguous, decide for yourself conclusion? I kept checking the page count knowing I was nearing the end and was doubtful she could bring the interwoven themes together. She doesn’t – after all, there are two more stories to come – but she kept me rapidly turning pages to the very end. I liked (but didn’t quite love), Dark Mafia Prince. It’s a dark, dirty, compelling (if slightly unbelievable) binge-worthy Mafia love story.
When the book opens, Aleksio Dragusha is hidden on the estate of Aldo Nikolla, head of the Chicago-based Black Lion crime family. In coordination with his brother Viktor, Aleksio is orchestrating a systematic takedown of the crime lord and his crew. As the story unfolds, we learn in flashbacks the estate was Aleksio’s former home – until he witnessed the savage murder of his parents by Nikolla and his henchmen. Aleksio, the oldest of three sons, survived by hiding, but never knew what happened to his brothers. Attempting to subvert a well-known Mafia prophecy that together the three brothers would one day rule the Chicago Mafia, the killers banished them and set hit-men on Aleksio’s trail.
Aleksio survived and managed to thrive in the vast Mafia underworld; he’s spent the intervening years studying and strategizing how to destroy Nikolla and searching for his brothers. Joining forces with Viktor (whom he located in Russia), he’s reached a dead end in his search for the youngest, Kiro. His decision to strike Nikolla now accomplishes two goals – plus one more he’s reluctant to admit. First, he’ll bring down the man responsible for the destruction of his family; second, by using Nikolla’s only child – his daughter Mira – against him, he hopes to find out what Nikolla knows about his missing brother; and finally, though he tries to deny it, it’s a chance to see Mira, his closest companion before the murders. Viktor and Aleksio succeed in capturing Mira and her father, and after a tense stand-off, Aleksio departs with Mira to chase down the only lead Nikolla provides.
From here, the three interwoven storylines that comprise Dark Mafia Prince unfold at a brisk and violent pace. Story one is Aleksio’s fight to avenge the murder of his parents and take over the Black Lion criminal organization. Story two is the frantic hunt for Kiro, and fulfillment of the prophecy. Complicating both narratives – and adding to the urgency of the search – is the involvement of another major player, Bloody Lazarus – Nikolla’s enforcer. He escaped the bloodbath at the estate, knows about the prophecy and has no qualms about capitalizing on Nikolla’s capture. Bloody Lazarus is also hunting Kiro – to kill him. Lazarus is ruthless, powerful, slightly crazy and just the kind of complication Aleksio hoped to avoid.
Ultimately, the third storyline – the relationship between Aleksio and Mira – powers Dark Mafia Prince. From the moment they reconnect after he captures her at the Nikolla estate, Aleksio and Mira are drawn to each other. Throughout his life on the run, he’s obsessively followed her through social media. When he kidnaps her and they’re forced to spend time together, Aleksio realizes the friendly feelings he had are eclipsed by intense and powerful feelings of lust and attraction he can barely repress. Mira, who was told Aleksio and his brothers died along with their parents, never got over the death of her friend. She’s lived her life trying to escape the Mafia world in which she was raised, instead trying to make a difference in the lives of the poor and disadvantaged. When she finally realizes who her kidnapper is, she’s similarly overwhelmed by happy memories and the inescapable sexual attraction she feels for him despite being his captive.
Things escalate between them after Aleksio, desperate for more information from Nikolla about his missing brother, decides he has no choice but to hurt Mira to scare him. Fighting his affection, he warns her he’s going to chop off one of her fingers and send it to her father. Mira, worried about the effect it will have on him (girl! worry about yourself!), begs him to reconsider. He does, but he’s surprised and secretly thrilled when she agrees to his alternative offer. What follows is dark, dirty and hot for both of them (I wasn’t crazy about this scene, though I think it works in the context of the story). It’s also a game changer in their relationship – though both are unwilling to admit it.
Despite the pace of Dark Mafia Prince, Ms. Martin successfully uses dual PoVs to focus the narrative on the slowly evolving relationship between Aleksio and Mira. He’s a conflicted hero; once a cherished son, he’s become a ruthless, violent and dominant crime lord who’s repressed every vulnerable or kind impulse he once had. Mira is the weakness he can’t afford but can’t resist, and against the desperate search for his brother and fight for survival, he finds himself trying to be the man he think she deserves. Mira, who sees the goodness and kindness in everyone she meets, struggles to draw out the boy she once knew. She’s conflicted by her attraction to Aleksio’s newer dark, dominant side, but similarly unable to resist or stop her craving for him. When they finally admit their feelings for each other, initially frantic dominant/submissive fucks gives way to slower, soulful lovemaking. Knowing he isn’t right for her, Aleksio ultimately sends Mira away. He doesn’t think he can be the man she deserves; she can’t accept the man he’s become.
Overall, I liked the interwoven storylines, but struggled to accept the ease with which Aleksio and Mira (and Viktor) always seem to come out on top in every dangerous situation. In this Mafia world, people never seem to run out of guns & ammo, cars, supporters or money (Aleksio’s parents hid millions of dollars in assets); and the bad guys, despite multiple opportunities, can’t seem to kill them. Law enforcement is non-existent. On the plus side, the sexual chemistry between Aleksio and Mira is off the charts; the (too few) sex scenes are hot (and dirty), and the brotherhood between Aleksio and Viktor adds a poignant note to the darkness and violence of the story. It’s not a spoiler to reveal Aleksio and Mira find a way to be together – but that’s the only resolution we get at the end of the book.
Dark Mafia Prince is a dark – and compelling – start to this Mafia trilogy.