Title: Ruthless Stranger (Mafia Wars #1)
Author: Maggie Cole
ISBN: 9781792347740
Published: 2021
Pages: 398

“No names. No personal details. No face to etch into my mind. Just him, me, and an expensive silk tie.”
― Maggie Cole, Ruthless Stranger


Every year I tend to pick and choose what I want to read based on what I’m feeling at the time or a favorite/go-to author such as Nora Roberts, Sarah J Maas, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Kathleen Brooks, and a few others; however, this year I decided to change it up. I have so many books listed on my TBR list that I never get around to reading due to defaulting to other authors that I wrote 100 books/series from my list onto individual slips of paper, rolled them up, tossed them in a bowl, and will be choosing from them for each of my reads. I will be also including the many that are coming out this year from my favorites, of course, as I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from doing so.

The first book that was pulled from the bowl is one that I’ve heard good things about. As I looked at the ratings and reviews given by other readers before digging into it myself, which is a habit of mine (nonetheless doesn’t stop me from reading the book) I had high hopes that it would be a worthwhile read.

Aspen is a delicate soul that has never crossed the line into the unlawful and dangerous side before in her life. That is until she meets Maksim Ivanov. It was supposed to be only a one-night stand in Vegas, set up by two of her friends to help Aspen move on, to get some fun and amazing sex back into her life. Going based off the fantasy she described to her friends at poolside, she didn’t want to know the name of the man that would have the job of seducing her to pieces or knowing what he looked like. All she wanted was a night that would allow her to forget the last twenty years of the shitty marriage now that her divorce has been finalized. This was a dream, something she never saw coming true as she saw herself as someone boring in life that no man would want anything to do with. Not only did she get the night of her life, it turned into two wonderful, dream-come-true nights in Vegas with a man she would never be able to get out of her mind, no matter how hard she tried.

He may have been there in Vegas for a few nights for his brother, Dmitri’s, bachelor party, but the moment Maksim heard Aspen by the pool with her friends, Hailee, Skylar, and Kora, describing how she wanted to spend the night with a man, he wanted to be that man to fulfill that dream and give himself a night of not thinking of his own crap relationship with on again/off again girlfriend, Jade. At first, he only had planned to enjoy Vegas with his brothers and friends, however, when he saw Aspen later that night across the casino him and his brothers were at, it felt as if it was fate playing into his hands. How could he ignore fate?! After getting things set up with Skylar and Kora, it turned into a night not only Aspen didn’t forget, but one that Maksim remembered for the rest of his days. He may not know what her name was, where she lived, who she was, but it didn’t stop him from wanting to get close to her.

I’ve always given the first book in a series some benefit of the doubt, especially with authors that I’m not familiar with, as most often they’re not the best of the bunch. And thankfully, I didn’t go into the book with high expectations because if I would have, it would have fell flat on it’s face. I’m all for finding ‘the one’ quickly as sometimes when you know, you know, however, there wasn’t really a plot to the story other than two people falling in love. I expected so much more from a mafia war romance. There was plenty of talk about the disruption between mafia families, the Petrov’s, O’Malley’s, and the Zielinski’s, with little to no action actually happening. There would be a so-called fight/argument at one point during the book between the Ivanov’s and Wes Petrov, but there really wasn’t much more than that. A bit of a slice and dice in the ‘garage’, but nothing more than that.

What really got on my nerves with this book was how it was written. I’m not a huge fan of first-person, nevertheless, I still read them as I would hate to miss out on a good book because of the point-of-view. It didn’t read like a story, a book though, it was written more as if it was a play or a script for a movie. The writer would tell what was happening instead of showing which made the story choppy and uninteresting. The only thing that really kept my attention is not only do I hate not finishing a book, I was hoping it would get better and finally have some action happen. There were so many opportunities for details such as the boxing scene or what happened in the garage where the Maksim and his brothers took Peter and Wes. I wanted to be able to connect to how Aspen and Maksim were feeling, given a sense of who they were and what they were going through, I didn’t like being told.

Then there is Aspen and Maksim as characters. Gods help me! I was so ready to strangle Aspen. She tried to come across as strong-minded and strong-willed, but all she did was whimper and cry over nothing at all. Her ex-husband steals from her, hurts her, all she cares about is letting him get away with it and cry over the situation when Maksim gets involved in the situation. Maksim is supposed to come across as this hardcore mafia man looking for the best for his family when all he does is fall at Aspen’s feet every time she makes a sound of despair. The only take-charge effort you really see from him is at the beginning when the two of them are in Vegas. It comes back for a short minute when he confronts Wes at the club, however, Adrian seemed as if he was the stronger of the two. All Maksim did was boss around one person or the other. I hoped for more every turn of the page. Maybe I’ll get lucky with the others when I get around to reading them.

About Ruthless Stranger

He’s a Ruthless Stranger. One I can’t see, only feel, thanks to my friends who make a deal with him on my behalf.

No names. No personal details. No face to etch into my mind.

Just him, me, and an expensive silk tie.

What happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas.

He warns me he’s full of danger.

I never see that side of him. All I experience is his Russian accent, delicious scent, and touch that lights me on fire.

One incredible night turns into two. Then we go our separate ways.

But fate doesn’t keep us apart. When I run into my stranger back in Chicago, I know it’s him, even if I’ve never seen his icy blue eyes before.

Our craving is hotter than Vegas. But he never lied.

He’s a ruthless man…

Ruthless Stranger is the jaw-dropping first installment of the Mafia Wars series. It’s an interconnecting, strangers to lovers, stand-alone Dark Mafia Romance, guaranteed to have an HEA.

A list of Maggie Cole’s books can be found here – Book List

Have you read this book? If so, what did you think of it?

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