Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
To understand the depth of story and characterization in CD Reiss’s newest book, Mafia Queen, you MUST start at the beginning of this trilogy. Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Reiss’s calling card is all over this series: aggressively alpha-male hero/antihero, a heroine whose journey evolves into the manifestation of her innate power, violent mafia business, and the steamiest of steamy physical scenes. It’s almost commonplace to read some of the most decadently physical bedroom scenes in Reiss’s romances. She offers a no-holds-barred view of it. Again, it’s her signature. What people might not acknowledge is that, while her $ex scenes often have shades of violence in them, they are consensual and woman-positive. All of this is found in each of the books of Reiss’s DiLustro Arrangement Trilogy. The reading of these books feels decadent. Page after page of danger, sensuality, and action keep you glued to the book even though there are moments when you want to turn away. Like a nasty accident, you have to keep looking.
All of that aside, the genius, for me, of this trilogy, in finding its finality in Mafia Queen, is the evolution of Reiss’s heroine, Violetta. Yes, Santino evolves as well; however, the biggest growth lies with Violetta. In the first book, she’s naive, and she wakes from that innocent sleep by the end of the book. However, she still doesn’t fully understand Santino’s world. In Mafia King, she becomes idealistic, striving for change, and that doesn’t marry well to this world. In fact, it ends with a tragic cliffhanger that leads us into Mafia Queen. In this book, Violetta is reborn like a phoenix from the ashes of destruction. She recognizes her power, and she finitely uses it to effect change within the heavy patriarchy of this world. The profundity of her machinations is important. There are moments, while standing in the power afforded her, when she must make choices to engage the men of Santino’s world to reach her end. Reiss walks us through this process, and it reminds us of how women negotiate power in our largely patriarchal world. It suggests that the better leaders might be women due to their ability to read situations and people more proficiently. Thankfully, Santino has grown as a hero, and he recognizes her capacity to lead. The Santino of Mafia Bride could not have handled the Violetta of Mafia Queen. Therefore, their coupling is fully realized in this book. The power of Reiss’s story and characterizations create a book that feels heavy and thoughtful. If you’re looking for levity, you won’t find it in this book or its predecessors.
However, if you’re like this reader, and you love dark themes, you crave the gravity of real-world themes wrapped in a fictional world out of CD Reiss’s warped imagination, then you should RUN to grab the DiLustro Arrangement trilogy. The King and Queen are waiting for you.
In love and romance,