Series: THE SHADOW
Plot Type: Soul Mate Romance (SMR)
Ratings: Violence—4; Sensuality—4.5; Humor—2
Publisher and Titles: Jove
>>Stefano, the eldest brother, carries the responsibility for his family's financial empire and for its death-dealing underworld jobs. He is the hero of The Shadow.
>>Rico has the darkest nature and is "prone to violence and chance taking." To satisfy his sexual needs, he has turned to multiple sexual partners and to Shibara (Japanese rope bondage). Stefano views Rico as "a ticking time bomb."
>>Vittorio is a peacemaker with a savage core beneath his cool exterior.
>>Giovanni is the most volatile, going from rational to raging in just seconds.
>>Taviano is a gentle, kind guy who will probably be forming a romantic relationship with a young woman he rescues from harm late in Shadow Rider.
>>Emmanuelle (aka Emme) is the youngest sibling and the only sister. Although she participates in the Chicago club scene, her brothers are very protective about preventing the development any possible male relationships. In Shadow Rider, we learn that Emme has a frenemy-type history with Valentino Saldi, a member of a rival crime family.
Also in Shadow Rider, we learn that Rico, Vittorio, Giovanni, and Taviano each spent a full year in different training facilities in Europe when they were in their late teens. Apparently, their trainers were cruel, unfeeling men who left indelible scars on the personalities of all four men. I'm sure that those emotional scars will be important factors that will complicate their love stories.
And now for the paranormal part of this mythology: The Ferraro siblings (and their mother) are all shadow riders, which means that they have the ability to slide into shadows and "ride" them from one place to another. This means that they complete most of their criminal activities at night. Here's how Stefano rides the shadows: "Stefano felt the pull of each of the shadow tubes. Openings he could slide through. The pull was strong on his body, dragging at him like powerful magnets, the sensation uncomfortable, but familiar...Even small shadows drew him, pulling his body apart until he was streaming through light and dark to his destination." (from Shadow Rider) Click HERE and scroll down a bit to view the book trailer for Shadow Rider, which includes a shadow-riding scene that will give you a visual image of riding through the shadow tubes.
The part of the shadow rider mythology that is most important to this series is the fact that rider children can only be born to rider women, and women riders are quite rare. Naturally, the Ferraro brothers are desperate to find rider women in order to keep their dynasty going. That means that when a male rider comes across a female rider, he has to quickly claim her (with sex, of course) and convince her to give up her life plans because she has to become part of the Ferraro family and begin having babies in order to establish the next generation of Ferraros. In Shadow Rider, Francesca has no idea that she is a rider. In fact, she knows nothing about shadow riding at all, and I assume that will be the case with some, or all, of the females in this series.
This book contains the usual expositional information that is necessary for all books that begin a new series. Feehan has to introduce the heroine and the members of the Ferraro family in addition to explaining the mythology of the shadow riders. She does this without too much info dumping, but she does include a LOT of repetition in her descriptions of the Ferraro men (frequently word for word)—their six-pack abs, their gorgeous musculature, their handsome faces, and their hard, dark, murderous life style that must be accepted completely by the woman they select as mates.
Much of the repetitive language focuses on the Ferraro males' deep need to protect woman. We get lots of statements like these: "He was a protective man. He had been born that way. Every rider was. The need to protect and control was bred into every single one of them. Those two traits were so ingrained in them, there was no getting either characteristic out. No getting around them." The men actually "control" more than they "protect." In fact, they are total control freaks when it comes to women, accepting no refusals of their demands and no arguments whatsoever. Unfortunately, this makes them come across as misogynistic jerks of the highest order, and it makes their women—in this case, Francesca—come across as weak, dependent dimwits.
The romance plot begins with Stefano's love-at-first-sight moment when he first encounters Francesca, who has come to Chicago in search of safety and security. She is on the run from a nasty villain and is completely penniless, with no possessions whatsoever except for the thrift-store clothes on her back. Regardless of her own desperate situation, she gives away her winter coat (also from a thrift store) to a homeless woman, so when Stefano sees her shivering in her thin shirt and her holey jeans, he insists that she put on his cashmere coat. He also fills the coat pocket with money so that she can buy proper shoes and other clothing. Stefano comes across as one of Feehan's typical über-alpha males—an arrogant rich guy who always gets what he wants—so when Francesca makes a few weak attempts at sarcasm and refuses (for a minute) to accept the coat, he is intrigued, but overrides her objections without a second thought. Stefano continues his rude, crude, demanding, arrogant behavior throughout the book.
The Ferraros have absolute rule over their section of Chicago's Little Italy, where everyone knows them, respects them, and fears them. So when Stefano singles out Francesca for his attentions, her social status immediately goes way up, particularly after he publicly claims her as "mine."
Francesca has mixed feelings about her encounter with Stefano. She appreciates the warm coat, but her pride won't let her accept charity and her morals won't let her accept the fact that he might be helping her out in exchange for future "favors." The road to their eventual HEA is semi-rough as Francesca struggles with her nightmares about her horrific past, her overwhelming sexual attraction to Stefano, and her need to be an independent woman. Naturally, the sexual attraction quickly wins out over the need for independence, as is usual in Feehan's books.
Percolating in the background are some action-based story lines, the most important of which deals with the reason that Francesca is on the run. These plot threads are dealt with relatively quickly once they make their way to the surface, each resulting in a bit of pain and suffering for the heroine (just enough to give Stefano the chance to heroically shadow in to rescue her).
This is a typical Feehan novel: the dangerous, conflicted alpha bully-hero who both protects and dominates women; the helpless, submissive heroine who claims to want independence but loves to be dominated (and rescued); and the good-old-boy male womanizers who would never treat their sister like they treat their one-night-stand women. This book follows Feehan's trend of increasing darkness both in the behavior of the male characters and in aspects of the plot, with brutal murders that are immediately forgotten and lots of glowering men (all Italian Americans) who strut around their turf like lords of the manor. No one with whom they come in contact has any doubt that it's their way or the highway (i.e., serious injury or death). All the while, though, Feehan keeps up her commentary about how much they love and respect "their" women.
The sexual scenes between Stefano and Francesca are not at all romantic. Although Francesca is just one unfortunate experience away from being a virgin, Stefano turns their first joining into a prolonged weekend of rough sex and bondage. Stefano admits to having had sex with thousands of woman, but, implausibly, he promises Francesca that he has never tied any of them up but her because "they didn't belong to me. You belong to me." Feehan definitely includes some 50 Shades details in this book. For example, all of the Ferraro brothers dress in bespoke gray suits, gray shirts, and gray ties, supposedly to help them blend into the shadows. All of them are oversexed and several are into bondage. And the very first time Stefano ties Francesca's hands together, he uses one of those gray ties. So...it's kind of derivative.
If you are a fan of Feehan's male-dominant paranormal romances, you won't be disappointed in this novel, but if you are looking for a truly independent, free-thinking heroine and a reasonably romantic hero, this isn't the book for you. To read or listen to an except from Shadow Rider, click HERE to go to the novel's Amazon.com and then click either on the cover art or the "Listen" icon.