Desert Isle Keeper
A romantic comedy with a hitman hero definitely doesn’t follow the norm of mafia romances, which tend to be of the ‘dark romance’ variety. Yet author Katrina Jackson has done a delightful job of combining a lot of humor, sexy scenes, and yes, action too, in The Hitman, the second book in The Family series.
Zahra has just discovered that her husband-to-be, an A-list actor, cheated on her with a stripper and her maid of honor on the night before their wedding, all gleefully exposed via hotel cameras on entertainment reality TV. Furious, embarrassed and hurt, she decides to go to their Italian honeymoon destination solo in order to lick her wounds, courtesy of her now ex’s credit card (stolen by her faithful cousin, Shae.) She’s got a beautiful penthouse suite in a villa in the mountains outside of Milan where she alternately drinks and cries as she tries to pull herself together.
Her junior suite neighbor is Giulio, a hitman for ‘the family’. He’s finally on vacation (though ticked off that the large penthouse suite isn’t available) and hearing his neighbor wailing nightly is getting on his nerves. All he really wants is a warm woman in his bed and some peace and quiet. And the beautiful curvy Black woman he sees lounging outside the pool is a prime target – even if she looks at him with disdain. He’ll have to use his charms if he is to succeed in his mission to fill up on sex before going back to work.
Zahra couldn’t be less interested in the Italian gigolo with the slicked back hair and the tiny speedo and brushes him off. But after a few more encounters, and the realization that they are suite neighbors, Giulio’s lustful appreciation of her turns out to be a balm to her psyche. And yes, a fling with an Italian hottie is just the ticket to get over her ex. But when a date to a local vineyard ends up with a shooting and a murdered man, Zahra realizes she’s getting more than she bargained for. Is it to be a quick return home, or can her romance with Giulio survive the truth?
The ‘jilted bride goes on her honeymoon and meets someone’ trope is one I enjoy, which was why I decided to pick this book up. The addition of a playboy Italian mafia hitman who loves women of all shapes and sizes and wants to help Zahra get over her ex (whom he would gladly ‘take care of’ if Zahra wanted him to) makes for a really fun and enjoyable story, that had me laughing out loud constantly. It’s a very sex positive story, with Zahra getting over her initial first impression of Giulio quickly when he makes it clear that he lusts over her exactly as she is, and there are several steamy scenes that cement their growing friendship. Of course Zahra’s initial plan is to go home at the end of her designated vacation time but then she gets caught up in Giulio’s business when a rival associate tracks Giulio down. And Giulio sums up his job for her thusly:
“I’m a bad man, who works for bad men, and when necessary I kill bad men.”
Giulio wants her to leave Italy immediately, but Zahra believes she’ll be safer if she sticks with Giulio in case someone tracks her down as a witness to the murder. So instead of doing what she should, she ends up on an adventure that takes her across Italy (train sex anyone?) and along the way, she and Giulio deepen their connection. Sharing their life stories bonds them – and that’s how you get an insta-love story between an American public relations expert and a mafia hitman. Giulio wants to be a good man and that means sending Zahra home before she gets any more involved with him but Zahra is ready to choose her own destiny.
There are some other connections between characters, as the first story in the series is a short novella (with an unfinished story) that details an encounter between Zahra’s cousin Shae and Giulio’s boss Salvatore, and I definitely plan to read their eventual HEA. Plus Zahra’s sister Zoe (who had warned Zahra about her ex in the first place) is planning a trip to Italy to find her sister so clearly there is something in the works there. The Hitman is a wholly enjoyable laugh-out-loud romance with two really interesting characters, lots of hot sex, plenty of action, and an Italian setting perfect for an armchair adventure.