A wild boy.
A sly girl.
Cross Donati defines trouble. He does what he wants because he’s never known anything different. He’s unapologetic, and he owns it.
Catherine Marcello is every bit a good girl … on the outside. Her entire world is a legacy, and she lives it. She’s curious, and she’s exploring it.
She chases bad things.
He never learned to be good.
They’re late nights, stolen cars, first times, fist fights, leather jackets, beaches, bloody smiles, and life.
They’re vicious and precious, dangerous and harmless, innocence and sin. They are love.
Love is killing for someone.
Love is living for someone.
Sometimes, you can’t keep saving your heart when it means sacrificing it, too.
Sometimes, you have to learn to save yourself.
Sometimes, love has to fall, crash, and burn.
This is what love is like when you’re a principe and principessa della mafia.
This is what love is like when you’re Cross Donati and Catherine Marcello.
She was once his liar.
He was once her savior.
Cross Donati fills his days with the mafia, family, and responsibility. The wild boy is a distant memory. A waiting prince now sits in his place. An old debt puts the gunrunner right back into the path of his past, but he only sees his future.
Every king needs a queen.
Catherine Marcello learned how to stand on her own, and she no longer needs saving. The sly girl is far more dangerous now. A broken promise taught her how to live again. One conversation puts the hustler face to face with her first love, but she only sees heartache.
Every God needs a prayer.
The scars of their history runs deep. Every lie told, and each secret spilled hurts a little bit more.
Love does not care.
Love will not wait.
So, why does life keep standing in the way?
The crime boss.
The hustling queen.
Cross and Catherine Donati have been married five years, but the life they’ve chosen still has things to teach them yet. One can never become too comfortable in their business. Trouble soon follows.
The principe and principessa are all grown up …
It’s tough being at the top. When all Cross wants is to slow down the world, reality has a way of speeding it back up. Just when Catherine thinks she’s learned everything her mother has to teach, more lessons come her way.
A king and queen must protect their thrones …
This is their life.
This is their love.
What I think?
Waring: This review got a little longer than I originally thought it would, but come on, I am talking about three books in one place. Deal with it.
I’ll be very honest with you, the sole reason why I started reading this series was because the cover for Always just called to me. Yes yes, go ahead, call me shallow. But I’ll have you know that I stuck around because I fell in love with these two- Cross and Catherine.
At first, I wanted to write three different reviews for the three books in this collection, but then I realized that individually, I did not have much to say about them. So it went from a book review to a series review, and here we are.
As Always was the first book I’d read by Kris, I didn’t realize that this series was a next generation story of her previous books. But I have to save this, despite there being a story of every single parent figure in this series (which I later found out by a little research), you never feel out of loop for the inside jokes or anything. Yes, I was definitely curious about certain people (especially Cross’s parents Calisto and Emma), but it never hampered my enjoyment of the book.
In fact in some ways, it made the entire story arc even better for me because when I read the Donati Bloodlines series after Revere, I found out that *spoiler alert* the fact that Cross was indeed Calisto’s real son, and not his step son was a major plot point in the third book of that series- Thin Lives. So yeah, readers of the Donati Bloodlines already knew that little detail, but since I hadn’t read that book before the secret came out in Revere, I enjoyed it more. Because I got to see from the pure point of view of Cross, how he struggles to be a worthy son to a man he always considered his step father. It gave a real strong feel of authenticity to the book.
So now that we’ve talked about Kris’s writing prowess- because that was what I was trying to convey in the last two paragraphs, that she is a really talented writer and story-teller- let us move on to the two lovers this series circles around-
Cross and Catherine.
Cross was the wild rule breaker Donati principe, and Catherine was the sweet but secretly sly Marcello principessa. And these two were just perfect for each other.
This entire series spans through their lives, beginning from the time they were 15 and 13 years old respectively, and to 5 years after they’d gotten married and had a taste of what adult life tastes like. So let us too begin from when their story began- in school.
The first time Cross meets Catherine, he punches another guy to protect her honor, and from that moment on their entire life changes. They fall in love, and then deal with the consequences of being in love with someone their family did not approve of. Bethany expertly handles the phase of the teenage dating, and beautifully captured the feelings they experienced.
And then, as the two grow older, more and more of each of their issues come to light. Catherine spirals into a well of depression and self harm as she tries to hide herself from her parents and Cross follows her down there to fulfill his innate need to protect her- even from herself.
The story on from this point is kind of pitiful I thought. Catherine came across as really weak, because all the grief in the book that they suffered, they did because of her inability to cope up with the situations she found herself in because of her own decisions; and Cross came across as a guy with a hero complex and a sad obsession to save the woman he loved. Clearly there were major issues. But I liked how Cross managed to work themselves out of them at the end of Always, by letting Catherine heal herself without his support.
Revere picks off 7 years after Always ended, and brings these two lovers back together after life and family and duty to the mafia kept them apart. Revere does a good job of tying up the loose ends that were left hanging in Always, and while the series could’ve ended there, we got another book- Unruly. I thought (and it’s a purely personal viewpoint), that Unruly was just an overlong, glorified epilogue. It didn’t really add anything else to the story, other than to give the readers an insight into our character’s lives after they get married and achieved their proverbial happily ever after.
With that out of the way, let me now talk about the characters- Cross and Catherine, and what exactly was it that endeared them to me.
The obvious fact that they were teenage sweet hearts was a major plus point that had me rooting for them from the very beginning. Cross’s possessiveness, and Catherine’s jealousy just made them all the more adorable.
There were all these scenes where Cross talks to Catherine about his feelings, and I couldn’t help but feel like these two were born with tags on their foreheads that pointed them at being each other’s soul mates. And the author goes way and beyond to prove their connection. Despite every fault that I had with this story, the biggest and the strongest backbone of this collection was how they never stopped fighting for the right to be together. Yes, there were minor hiccups and major hurdles, but they always fought together and in the end, ended up on getting there. It felt like a definite win.
But like I said, I had issues with this series, and let me vocalize them.
The first problem I had was that I wanted to see the transition between Always and Revere. In Always, we had a a wild-and-indiciplined-and-does-not-give-a-flying-fuck Cross, and a majorly-depressed, mildly-suicidal-and-addict-and-completely-out-of-control Catherine, and the story ends on a cliff hanger with both of them getting separated. But then Revere picks off from 7 years after, and it feels like we’ve got completely new characters, because Cross is no longer a wild prince, but has matured and is a lot more disciplined, and Catherine is no longer a human mess, but has also become more matured and has gotten a hold of her life. But you know what my problem is? I didn’t get to see that transition! It was a very crucial transformation, and it saddened me that I missed it. Yes there are tiny snippets of between the years here and there, but that’s not enough. Not nearly enough!
And that brings me to the second problem I had with this series- Catherine. She was really selfish through out the narration, and I get that the author wanted to make her into someone flawed. I get it, I truly do. But for me, it was Cross about 80% of the time that held the story together. Catherine went along with whatever her whims were, immaterial of how they would’ve affected the people around her, and then she faulted the world around her when everything went arseways. But at the same time, she wouldn’t let Cross do what he wanted, because it could’ve hurt her if something happened to him (see: Unruly, when Catherine wanted Cross to stop running guns because it scared her, but never gave one flying fuck when Cross told her to stop hustling because it put her in dangerous situations. Notice the hypocrisy there?).
There was an element of unhealthy control she wanted over Cross’s life, without handing over the reigns to her own. A very strong feministic tone arose whenever Cross wanted her to not do something because it would’ve harmed her. I think that was the part that the author failed to execute properly.
When you’re trying to have a gender equality message in your book, there are usually two categories the female characters majorly fall into-
- where they have a strong personality and crave/expect freedom, but at the same time they respect the views of a/the man because they’re not afraid to accept that he might know more than them
- they act like a brat in the name of feminism or are what we call ‘feminazis’.
And guess which one Catherine fell into? I won’t say more about it than just that it annoyed me to no end. As a reader, I would’ve liked for Catherine to become more humble, even if towards the end, just so that I could relate to her character in her adulthood as well as I did in her teenage years.
But regardless of what flaws there were in this series, it was still a very well written one that lets you live a lifetime through the very lives of the characters, and for that, I have to commend Kris.
“Love you,” he said.
One last time.
Catherine stared down at the floor, and the door started to close. “Promise?”
About the author:
Bethany-Kris is a Canadian author, lover of much, and mother to three young sons, one cat, and two dogs. A small town in Eastern Canada where she was born and raised is where she has always called home. With her boys under her feet, snuggling cat, barking dogs, and a hubby calling over his shoulder, she is nearly always writing something … when she can find the time.