Title: Sugar and Shakedowns
Author: Peter Styles
Length: 148 Pages
At a Glance: My one and only complaint about Sugar and Shakedowns is that it just isn’t long enough, but Styles has such a talent for creating lovable characters and, maybe most important of all, making me laugh, which went a long way towards making me adore this little book just fine.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: They say that when you date someone, you date their family. Does that count if it’s one of the biggest crime families in Jersey?
Sonny thinks he has a pretty good life. He gets to live with his best friend, Gaz, and work doing what he loves. There are just two things that aren’t quite perfect: his lack of a love life and his employment as a bookie for the mob.
When Sonny meets the sweet, gentle baker, Luke, he thinks that his luck in the love department has really turned around. The only issue is that he can’t hide who he really is forever. After a disastrous third date turns into a long stay at a safe house, will Luke be able to come to terms with who Sonny is, or will Sonny have to choose between his love for Luke and his love for his family?
Review: You know you’re having a great time with a book when you laugh hard enough to snort so even your kids pay attention. And while I expected a light read when I dropped coin for this short novel, what I didn’t expect is that it would be so adorable or that I would fall madly in love with Sonny’s best friend, Gaz.
Sonny, short for…nope, not revealing that because it’s one of the parts that made me cackle…is a mob enforcer. At six-foot-nine and just twenty-two years old, he’s a tall drink of water who’s been in the mafia biz a lot longer than you might expect. Sonny doesn’t mind his job so much, though. In fact, he kind of loves it, but he’s also not your stereotypical Mafioso. Of course, this isn’t your stereotypical Mafia tale either—certainly not in a Goodfellas, wise guy, “What do you mean funny? Like a clown? Do I amuse you? Huh?” violent kind of way. When Sonny’s asked to bust a few kneecaps and rearrange some faces on behalf of mob boss Don Rotullo, it’s a little bit like aggression therapy for him. There’s an undercurrent of anger flowing through Sonny’s veins, childhood stuff (what else?), so the perks of being a ballbuster is that he gets to work a little bit of his past out on the deadbeats who try to stiff the Don out of the money they owe him. It’s nothing personal, really, just good business.
Being a bit of a workaholic doesn’t leave Sonny much time to date, but that doesn’t mean Gaz and a few of the other guys in la famiglia Rotullo wouldn’t like to see him pay a little more attention to his personal life—including the Don—which is where this book also earns so much of its charm (an openly gay man in the mafia?). But, hey, what are friends for if not to interfere, which is when the lovable Gaz steps in and makes with playing matchmaker, creating an online dating profile for Sonny and greasing the wheels for what turns out to be a sweet and comedic—if not a little hair-raising—romance. And it’s where I started to fall arse over teakettle for Gaz. Everybody should have a best friend like him, the big squishy goombah.
So, cue Luke and an opposites attract storyline. Sonny and Luke couldn’t be more different if they tried, so also cue the meet-cute—when Sonny drunk texts Luke and manages to charm him into a date anyway—as well as the anticipation of the fine upstanding Southern gentleman Luke discovering what it is Sonny does for a living. And boy, does he find out. I liked Luke a lot but as a consequence of this being a short novel, I was left wanting to know more about him—honestly, I wanted to see him apart from Sonny, working and living his own life and seeing him interact with friends as I felt that would have rounded out his characterization, but that wasn’t this book’s intent, so if wishes were horses, etc., etc. We do get to see that Luke is aces, though, and while he freaks out (rightly so), he also gives Sonny a chance to explain, which I thank Peter Styles for because there’s nothing that turns me off quicker than people (even pretend people) who don’t talk about their problems. Styles does banter and dialogue so well.
One of several compliments I can pay to Sugar and Shakedowns is that what’s here is entertaining and endearing and lives up to everything I fell for in the author’s Drop Dead series. My one and only complaint about it is that it just isn’t long enough, which matters because as much as I loved what I got, I was also left wondering at the potential for more storyline left on the drawing board, of digging deeper into the mob family as well as a deeper exploration of Sonny and Luke’s relationship. As a standalone everything tidied up a bit quickly, but here’s the deal: Styles has such a talent for creating lovable characters and, maybe most important of all, making me laugh, which went a long way towards making me adore this little book just fine.
You can buy Sugar and Shakedowns here: