If you like Mafia-themed romances, then you’ll probably enjoy this one. It was one of the recommendations that popped up when browsing Kindle Unlimited, based upon my Amazon purchase history. In the past, I’ve not had much luck with the computer-generated “recommendations”. However, this time the computer finally got it right!
‘Empires and Kings’ is the first book in A. C. Bextor’s ‘A Mafia Series’. Right from the start, I was captivated by this story. The circumstances of these characters’ lives was brutal and tragic. This is certainly a romanticized account of organized crime, yet the author doesn’t entirely shy away from some of the hard truths.
As a young Vlad Zalesky rises through the ranks of his father’s criminal empire, he is forced to become a man of violence. The night that he kills tortures and orders his first kill, he can no longer hide from the darkness that lives within him. When he comes face to face with the young daughter of the traitor, he is forced to see himself through her innocent eyes.
Nonetheless, Vlad must stay the course. To send a message to any others that might dare to cross him or his organization, he decides to keep the girl. The traitor dies thinking that his daughter will be forced to spend her life working in one of the organizations’ many houses of prostitution.
Klara has lived with Vlad since that horrible night, when she stumbled upon the murder of her father as a young girl. Despite the fact that her father was a traitor, Vlad has allowed Klara to grow up in his mansion and have a privileged life. She is more like part of the family than a prisoner, babied by Vlad’s sister and a sort of sister to his son.
For the most part, Vlad has ignored the girl living under his roof. Of course, now that she is growing into a young woman he is having a harder time dismissing the beautiful Klara. He wants her badly, but doesn’t want to steal the last bit of innocence that she possesses.
Eventually, Vlad and Klara cross that line and their relationship changes. No surprise there. After all, if they didn’t find there way to each other there wouldn’t be much of a romance here.
Along the way, there is plenty of angst and drama. Vlad is a complete Alpha-male a**hole and I loved him for it. (I’m sick like that.) He does plenty of infuriating things along the way that will have you wanting to strangle him.
Klara is the stereotypical innocent virgin. Know that going into this story. If that trope irritates you, then you will be seriously peeved with this book. I happen to love it, as cliché as it may be. So this story worked for me.
There are plenty of disturbing scenarios presented as well. I read a lot of dark stories and didn’t find anything to be too graphic, but I have a high tolerance for dark content. If you are easily “triggered”, then I’d steer clear of this one.
I enjoyed the many layers that were presented in this book. The characters were complex and intriguing. I found myself completely absorbed in this story from start to finish.
My only complaint is that there were a few times when I thought the author tried to venture into “dark” territory, only to chicken out. That is a big peeve of mine. I think if an author is going to write a dark story they should embrace the dark side and not be afraid to take it all the way.
One scene, in particular, had the potential to be a really pivotal dark scene, but it ended up being underwhelming. The author did a spectacular job of building suspense and pulling emotions from readers, only to not carry out the scene, having Vlad fail to carry through with the threatened action against Klara. After waiting for what was bound to be an emotional and traumatic event, I was left feeling a little ripped off. Then, it was hard for me to buy all of the coldness and turmoil that followed when Vlad didn’t even do what he set out to do.
Overall, this was a great read for me. I will definitely be reading the next book in the series when it is released. There were a few things that I would’ve changed, but I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. If you like stories that have a little dark content, or if Mafia books are your thing, then you won’t be disappointed with this one.