Angelo Riccardi has a bit of a problem; he didn’t know, you see, that he’s the grandson of an infamous mobster! His mother had run away from the family, and never told him. Now, he’s swearing vengeance on the man she ran to…but that man has a daughter of his own, you see, from one of the other women in his life, and Angelo simply has not reckoned with Gwenna Hamilton!
Angelo buys out the business that Gwenna’s father has been running for years, and in the process, uncovers a lot of malfeasance with the money. He plans on throwing him in jail for a good long time for what he’d done to Angelo’s mother–but Gwenna shows up to beg for mercy.
Angelo is drawn to the lovely young woman whom he’d met briefly on the street, not knowing that she was the daughter of the man he planned to destroy, but now he gets an idea–and presents her with an ultimatum: Be his mistress, or daddy’s going to jail!
Pretty predictable, huh? I’ve said before that the Vengeance! trope was not my favorite, and it’s still not; this sort of blackmail is just uncomfortable territory for me. But in The Italian’s Inexperienced Mistress, Lynne Graham gives us a hero who quickly comes around, and realizes he’s absolutely crazy for his lady. There are things about the whole situation that just don’t add up, like why Gwenna’s father treats her so badly, and he turns his considerable resourcefulness to sorting out the puzzle, in order to give her some closure on unpleasantness in her past. Along the way, he finds out what really happened between his mother and Gwenna’s father, way back when, and the learning of that clears up things for him, as well.
In the first part of this book, Angelo comes off as a pretty heavy-duty antihero; he’s doing something really pretty despicable, though we as readers know pretty quickly that this is going to change. In other books of this type that I have read, the male lead doesn’t convincingly do this antihero stuff very well, but Angelo is quite convincing as a ruthless, wealthy heavy.
Gwenna, too, is quite effective as an innocent Cinderella-ish figure; her stepmother and stepsisters are suitably wicked, Gwenna is, in fact, a virgin, and she is convincingly scandalized at Angelo’s ultimatum. She loves her father, not knowing just how badly she has been misled and manipulated by him for many years. She finally begins to get an inkling of how much Angelo really cares for her when he shows her the depth of his perfidy, in stealing her inheritance from her mother with a forged will. She tells Angelo that she no longer cares, and that he can throw her father in jail…but he doesn’t. She, in turn, shows him that he can overcome his own family tree, after his gangster grandfather passes away, leaving Angelo as the heir to a lot of dirty money.
For the first couple of chapters, I thought this was going to be a really predictable stinker; he blackmails her, she eventually just can’t help herself, and blah blah blah. But this time, I was really very pleasantly surprised. The plot has enough hairpin turns to keep us wondering what will happen next, and the internal growth that we see in Angelo and Gwenna is pleasant and plausible. Definitely worth a read.