Collateral and Damage together create the Collateral Damage duet and are both full-length 250 + page novels told in alternating, first-person, pov.
They're dark, mafioso, romance and my first books by Natasha Knight.
I must say they did not make me want to read more from the author...
Collateral sets the scene.
You meet Stefan, you meet Gabriella and you learn why Stefan - a 28/29 yo man - wants to marry an 18 yo whose family he is seeking to destroy.
I expected the power struggles and backstabbing between the families but I didn't expect the familial manoeuvring to be, well, so tame (for a mafia romance) and kind of boring. I wanted to be invested and rooting for Stefan and Gabriella but he was borderline unlikable and she alternated between fierce and irritating.
I expected the power struggle between Stefan and Gabriella but what I didn't expect was for the power imbalance to be so vast!
Usually, women in these kinds of stories have their own kind of power but Gabriella was just so young... And painfully naive and in completely over her head!
Then there was the fact that every time I thought too long about the age difference I got a case of the heebies. Yes, I knew going into the book that Gabriella was young but I didn't know what the age gap between her and Stefan actually was and even though 10 years isn't horrendous, at this stage of her life it really was.
The back and forth and complete lack of understanding between them was draining.
For dark romance to work for me, there has to be love. There has to be a kindness, a genuine care, between the parties even if one of them is absolutely beastly at times... But there wasn't.
I got to the end of this book and thought wtf? Because even though Stefan wasn't too bad (all things considered), I didn't for one second believe he loved (or was falling in love) with Gabriella and she didn't seem to love him either.
To him, she was property and, to her, he was what she had to learn to live with.
It teased so much potential and I kept reading and reading waiting for it but it just never took off!
I would have cut my losses here and not continued with the duet calling it a case of "it's not you, it's me" because the writing - the execution - of the story wasn't bad or else I wouldn't have been glued to it and unable to put it down but it ended on a bloody cliffhanger so on I read, like an idiot.
Book two picked up right where book one ended and started off not too bad.
It got a bit gritty and I almost believed that Stefan was starting to catch a case of the feelings for Gabriella but it didn't take long for me to be disabused of that notion.
He may be protective of Gabriella, when it comes to anyone else, but it doesn't include him apparently unless slamming your wife into walls with a hand at her throat is considered protective nowadays...
Then there was lying. So much lying. And distrust. And insanity.
It went from a little bit twisted to toppling right down the rabbit hole into crazy fucked-up land.
I'd had enough before I even got a third of the way through this book but I'm a horrible person to myself sometimes and rather than DNFing I finished it.
Just because I was curious and, weirdly, because I kept waiting for it to get better!
And it didn't.
So, needless to say, I don't recommend.