Book Review : Ghost ( Boston Underworld #3) by A. Zavarelli
I have always been a bird.
Caged by one prison or another when the only thing I ever wanted was to fly away.
Sold. Beaten. Starved. Drugged.
Nothing scares me anymore.
He makes the numbness go away.
He is hazardous to me. It has nothing to do with his mafia lifestyle, and everything to do with what he offers.
A gilded prison.
A retreat from everything that I once knew. The reality I have no desire to return to.
He thinks he’s caged me, but soon…
I’m going to fly.
I live by a code. The Vory code.
In this mafiya world, there are traditions.
She does not care for these things. She does not care about anything.
She thinks she has me fooled with her haunted eyes.
What she can’t know is that I see her better than most.
She wants to fly.
But I’m going to clip her wings.
And make her my wife.
“Ghost” is the third installation in the Boston Underworld series. Check out my review on the first and second book here :
A Sneak Peek Into The Story :
Talia has never had an easy life. Ever since her parents died, she was all but thrown into foster care. She lived there for a few years, before Mackenzie – her best friend in the entire world – come along. After Mack protected her from being attacked in the alley that fateful night, Talia became fast friends with the girl and they have been inseparable ever since. Which is why is it weighing on Talia’s conscience now to hide this from her best friend.
Talia has been seeing this man, Dmitri, for a month now. And the man has only ever been sweet and loving to her. Even knowing that, Talia still finds herself hesitating to tell Mack. She knows Mack, and she knows that Mackenzie will only criticize her further for her choices. Mack would definitely tell her that she’s making another mistake, and Talia isn’t sure if she could take anymore of her criticism any longer. Talia understands that by Mack always seeing the worst in everyone, it is also her way of protecting herself and Talia. And yet, Talia is tired. Just like when she is with Dmitri, she’s happy. And sometimes, that is enough to make her want to only see the good in people.
But when Dmitri invites her for a vacation in Mexico, she hesitates. They have only been dating for a month, it is way too soon for them to have a vacation together. But seeing how Dmitri had treats her – like no other man before had – Talia eventually agrees to go. And for the first few days in Mexico, it’s the best thing she has ever experienced in her life. Until, it isn’t. Because the man Talia once thought was her safe haven, the man who she thought would never hurt her, drugged her and sold her for slavery instead.
“You better get used to it, kitten,” he tells me. “The pain is your new best friend. This feeling is what you will know now. The only thing you will know. It is better to accept it than fight it.”
Alexei. Viktor’s councilor and his most valuable asset. Alexei’s hacking skills, and his ability to manage the gambling operations while simultaneously fatten Viktor’s wallet is a skill set that only belongs to him. While Viktor – Alexei’s boss – might be fearsome to most people, to Alexei, Viktor is simply his friend, someone who he can trust. And because of his rank in the Vor, lately Viktor has been pressuring him to marry and start a family. Alexei wants that too, but just not with Katya – the woman Viktor has chosen for him.
While Viktor and Katya’s father – Anatoly – has been hounding him to set a wedding date, Alexei has another plan in mind. Going a few months back, when Lachlan Crow came to his house asking him to help track down this girl, Talia, he had known that she would be the suitable candidate to be his wife.
“She is broken. She is damaged. I know this better than anyone.”
I pour myself another cognac and raise my glass in agreement.
“And that is why she will be perfect.”
Thanks to his hacking skills, he knows what had happened to the girl. She has been kidnapped and sold for sex slavery. Because of the state she would be in after he rescue her, Alexei is more than sure that she would be docile and easy to manage, therefore the suitable woman for him to marry. He would make sure to let her realize since day one that she wouldn’t ask more than what he could give her. Their marriage would only be on paper, so that he can fulfill his duties as Viktor’s councilor and get Viktor off his back. And Talia? She would act the role, playing the doting and loving wife that she should be when they have an event to go to or when they are out in public, but other than that, she would be free to spend time however she liked and so would he. They would just be strangers who are tied together by a piece of paper that state them man and wife.
Since reading the first book, “Crow”, I was already interested in how Alexei’s story would go. I knew the moment he first saw Talia’s picture – the picture that Mack showed him in hopes that he would be able to help her find Talia – something is already shifting and turning in his head, and I knew without a doubt that he felt something for her. Alexei being a mysterious Russian mobster, who seems to just exude power and dominate the room from his mere presence has had me more intrigued than I could admit.
However, after I finishing this book, I felt like I might have had too high of an expectation for “Ghost” because it just fell gob-smack flat on the ground. I would first like to commend Ms. Zavarelli for going into another different route entirely in this book. As you can probably already expect, “Ghost” is bound to be little bit more twisted and dark with Talia having gone through what she did. And knowing me, I am not one to shy away from dark and twisted stories. On the contrary, I go out of my way to seek them out. Sadly, while the premise of the story is good, Ms. Zavarelli was not able to deliver in this book like she did the other two. There are just so many elements missing in this book that not only made me unable to enjoy the story, but also unable to connect with the characters.
After being rescued by Alexei, it is understandable that Talia doesn’t feel like she can trust Alexei. I understand that she would be looking for signs that Alexei is just going to treat her worse that how she was treated the past year that she had spent in slavery. Talia’s life, even before being sold to be a sex slave has been difficult. Add that to what she has had to go through in the time when she was used as a sex doll, it is justifiable that anyone would have wanted to give up on their life.
And even though Alexei has sworn to not want anything to do with Talia other than marry her, he can’t seem to stay away from her. He finds himself keep coming back to her and want to be there for her to help her heal. There are times when she would relapse and would try to use and find anything to end her life. Throughout this time, Alexei spends a lot of time with her. Either taking care of her, or protecting her from herself.
“I feel something with him. Something more than the reckless behavior and the self-hatred.
I feel… safe with him. His house is my sanctuary. His body, my fortress. ”
During this time, there are a lot of progress with Talia and her mental state. Even though she does relapse every now and then, in this book, readers get a clearer image of who she is as a character and the hardships that she has been through. Readers are able to see her grow and change, which I really appreciate. My problem is with Alexei. While we have a lot on insights on Talia, on what happened to her and what made her the person that she is today, there seem to be almost nothing on Alexei.
I know I said I was intrigued because he was mysterious and keeps a lot of things to himself, but when that is the whole theme of the book, it very quickly lose my interest. I want to know more of him, I want to know how he feels about his past and his feelings in general; his despair, pain, fury, anguish. I want to feel everything he feels. But I get none of that, as in this book, Alexei always appear to have himself together, even in his worst he seem to be able to pull himself together to do what he needs to do. While that is a commendable trait, with him being so closed off and unwilling to share anything about himself, he comes off really cold and distant.
Another that bugs me a lot is what happens when they fight. Of course, couples fight every now and then. And when those couple consists of someone as broken as Talia and as stubborn as Alexei, you can already tell they’ll fight a lot. When they fight, they would stay away from each other for days, weeks even. They would just not talk, and pretend as if the other doesn’t exist. And then, one day, one of them would just wake up and decide that they can’t deal with this fighting anymore, and fix it by having sex. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading sex scenes as much as the next person, but when it becomes a constant solution to a problem that they obviously need to talk about, you know something is wrong with these two.
And I find myself waiting. Always waiting for the day where Alexei would come clean and tell Talia about his past himself, rather than having his maid do all the talking for him. Or heck, even for the to have an honest conversation where they just open up to each other would be fine to me. However every time Talia wants to talk to Alexei about his past, or about them, he would immediately try to distract her either with sex or something else. And I kept waiting and waiting, and even until the last page of the book, that never happened. There is no character growth in Alexei at all. To me, even after learning about his past, I can’t find myself sympathize to him at all. He just seems way too closed off and way cold for me to feel any real attachment to his character.
“Solnyshko,” he says sincerely. “You terrify me.”
I swallow, and he kisses me softly.
“I know,” I tell him. “Because you terrify me too.”
Moreover, the story plot in this book is also a little bit off. Where in the first and second book, there always seem to be a real, pliable reason for the conflict. In “Ghost”, Ms. Zavarelli seems to have ran out of idea to make up a good conflict and end up whipping unnecessary drama out of nowhere to add some strain to Talia and Alexei’s relationship. Actually, to be quite honest, almost half of the book is filled with unnecessary drama.
With almost no character development and story plot that seems to be scattered all over the place, this one has proven to be quite a difficult read. I have never once skimmed the first and second book, yet I find myself doing exactly just that with “Ghost”. With the expectations that I had for this book, “Ghost” has proven to be a disappointing read. Despite this book having a unique storyline, I can’t help but feel as if I have wasted my precious time reading this book.