Hello everyone! I've loved the occasional mafia romance for as long as I can remember and my usual go-to is Cora Reilly for an actually good one, because they can truly be hit or miss. She has a wide variety of these books including multiple series and standalones from the Born in Blood chronicles to Fragile Longing. In the last week or so, I've been rereading the first book in the Born In Blood chronicles and finally starting its sequels. I quit after Bound By Honor last time with the full intention of moving onto the others. It did take a little longer than I anticipated, but better late than never I suppose.
With my newfound determination to get through these books, I decided I would do a review of the series as a whole. I think in a series it's important for me to have context for the other books when reviewing. I find it helps me better gauge the quality of each one in comparison to the others. I definitely think reading the other books has changed my perspective on the first one as the story continues through each book. So let's dive into it.
Disclaimer: This blog post will contain affiliate and referral links. I may earn a small commission to feed my book hoarding tendencies if you use these links to make a purchase. This in no way impacts my opinions of the books listed - they are all my own.
Bound By Honor // Book 1
Description: Born into one of the leading mob families in Chicago, Aria Scuderi is a mafia princess known for her beauty. What many consider a gift means her doom when she’s forced to marry Luca Vitiello to bring peace between two mafia dynasties. Luca is the future Capo of the New York Famiglia, a man known for his brutality—and for crushing his cousin’s throat with his bare hands.
Aria is terrified of marrying a monster like him. He may be one of the most sought-after bachelors in New York, thanks to his good looks, wealth and predator-like charisma. But Aria knows the bad boy aura isn’t just a game; blood and death lurk beneath Luca’s striking gray eyes and arrogant smile.
In her world a handsome exterior often hides the monster within; a monster who can just as easily kill as kiss you.
Yet, there’s no escaping the arranged bond, much less a man like Luca. He’d follow her to the end of the world.
Her only chance to survive in a marriage with Luca is to gain his affection and work her way into his heart—even when rumor has it that Luca doesn’t have a heart to begin with.
A mafia princess known for her beauty given to a monstrous man.
Even monsters have a heart.
She has every intention of working her way into his.
Rating: ★★★★ (4/5)
I have a soft spot for Bound By Honor as it is the first book in the series and introduced me to the characters that would follow in the sequels. It was the only one I'd read until recently too as I didn't have much interest in the other stories, which was a serious mistake I might add. It's such a great dark mafia romance and I can highly recommend it if either of those is your thing, but it's no longer my favorite of the series.
I think Bound by Honor does a great job of setting up the story. It's definitely a strong opener for the rest of the books to come and brings in so many elements that will carry over to the others. It is also the least jolting in my opinion as this book specifically is built from scratch whereas the others to follow begin with glimpses of moments from this one. I think it's important to read this one first if you want to dive into the others because the relationships are primarily built in it while the other books assume knowledge of an already established relationship.
Aria and Luca as a couple are interesting to read about and their relationship is intriguing from start to finish. The circumstance of arranged marriage sets them off on a difficult path. Their relationship is by no means easy as they both navigate their unique situation. There's a lot of delicateness and hesitation in their relationship that can sometimes be lost in other romances. They shoulder the weight of all the amazing romance stories to follow as well.
Bound By Hatred // Book 3
Description: When Gianna watches her older sister being forced into an arranged marriage, she promises herself to escape a similar fate.
The moment Matteo – The Blade – Vitiello sees Gianna on his brother’s wedding, he wants to possess her. Her father agrees to the bond, but Gianna has no intention of marrying for any other reason than love. A few months before the wedding, Gianna runs away and begins a new life in Europe away from the mafia. But one of their best hunters and assassins is after her: Matteo.
When Matteo and a couple of her father’s soldiers catch her, not only her freedom is at risk, but also the life of the people with her.
Gianna is taken home and forced to marry Matteo.
Ridden by guilt over having dragged innocent people into her world and overcome with hatred toward Matteo, Gianna is determined to make life hell for her husband. But Matteo is a master at mind games and their struggle for power soon turns into hate-fueled nights of passion.
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
Bound by Hatred is technically the third book in the series so I skipped the second because the character from it wasn't as prominent in the original to me. I don't think the second one adds much necessary information to this one as I didn't feel like I was missing much. The beginning is fragments of scenes from the first book, Bound by Honor, told from the alternate POV of the main character, Gianna, as opposed to Aria from the first. It's a cool experience to gain more perspective from situations I was already familiar with and see them through another's eyes.
I think this book specifically relies the most on having previous knowledge of the first book. Sure, maybe you can gather some scraps from the replay in the beginning but honestly, it doesn't show the full picture. The characters, Matteo and Gianna, were scene stealers in the first book so I was thrilled to find they had their own book. I think reading the first book and getting a sneak peek of them in action can help you decide if you're wanting to read Bound by Hatred - that's my advice.
Aside from their roles in the earlier books of the series, they truly come into their own in Bound by Hatred. Gianna, an impulsive fireball, is given new depth in this book as we explore her inner thoughts and vulnerability. It shows a side of her you hadn't imagined with all her bolstering and stubbornness of the first book. Her relationship with Matteo is explored further than the witty banter of the previous books.
Bound By Temptation // Book 4
Description: Liliana Scuderi has been in love with Romero from the moment she first saw him. After her sisters were married off for tactical reasons, she hopes she might be allowed to choose a husband for herself, but when her father promises her to a man more than twice her age that hope is crushed. No begging can make him change his mind.
Romero has always ignored Lily’s flirting. Her age and status made her off-limits but even someone as dutiful as him has only so much control. Wanting her when she’s supposed to marry another man could mean war between New York and the Chicago Outfit, and Romero has always put the Cosa Nostra first.
Lily suspects her sisters and Romero would risk everything for her, but is her happiness worth that much? Is love worth a war between the Cosa Nostra and the Outfit?
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
Usually by the time I get to the third book in a romance series I expect things to go downhill. In regards to Bound By Temptation, I couldn't have been more wrong. The last book, while sharing a 5 star rating with the previous one, actually may be my favorite of the series. It kept the best elements of the other books and added its own spin. This one even relies on less knowledge of its predecessors than Bound by Hatred which I appreciated, though if you want the full impact of the sibling relationships then I suggest you work through the others too.
From the very first book and at a young age, Lily has always been an interesting character as she fell into the background of her sisters' stories. She was a standout character in her smaller role in the other books but was sidelined from the forefront. It isn't until you start Bound By Temptation that you realize how much being brushed off has impacted Lily. Her story continues past the other two books mentioned above and talks about the aftermath of her life once her sisters' have achieved their happy endings. It tells a more detailed story of what life has been like since her sisters left for New York.
Bound By Temptation was the only book in the series that made me full-on sob. Seeing the fragility of Lily's health paired with her romantic feelings toward Romero can be heartbreaking. Her situation is so vastly different and significantly worse than her sisters were, though she never discredits their experiences. The entire book is her balancing her obligations to keep her family, the ones she really cares about, safe and wanting to be selfish in her circumstances.