Proceed with caution. I'm not sure if this can really be considered a review as much as me rambling about how this series made me feel. Expect a good bit a overly dramatic but honest fan-girling followed by why these books touched me deeply.
There are some authors that just do it for you. They just suck you into their work and you never, ever want to leave. They have the ability to draw out such emotion that you begin to take things that happen to the characters personally. Aleksandr Voinov does that for me. He allows me to escape into his imagination and something deeply personal happens. I read "Special Forces" over a year ago and I still haven't been able to write a review because of the profound impact it had on me. I'm just funny that way.
I have to admit I'm a bit of a hoarder. Not the "my house is so cluttered that I can't move kind of way", but when I get something that I know will mean something to me I tend to save it until I'm able to fully appreciate it. (True story, I once saved a new set of silverware for 8 years and continued to use my garage sale utensils that were bent and dinged up.) I have had the Dark Soul series on my kindle for MONTHS. I finally read them last week and nothing about them disappointed.
Stefano is the head of a Mafia family. He's young, good looking, and very happily married. During a trip to pay his respects to a dying boss from another family he meets Sylvio (*sigh*) who is the hit man, heir and lover to the head of another very powerful family. Stefano and Sylvio end up engaged in one brutal encounter (involving a gun and some gun oil) and in that moment it seems their fate is sealed without either of them realizing it. This all happens in book one and the remainder of the series is spent fighting a mafia war, preventing a hostile takeover, and the evolution of their relationship. It is fast paced, riveting, and completely fantastic.
For me, Aleksandr's strength lies in character development. His characters are beautifully written, deep, complex, and raw. I loved watching the evolution of Stefano. I could feel Stefano's struggle with his attraction to Sylvio. I honestly bought into the fact that Stefano deeply loved his wife. I sympathized with his guilt. I felt a personal relief when Sylvio took care of him. I loved his strength. I loved his capacity care for others. I loved his intelligence and integrity with himself and those he loved.
Sylvio....He completely took my heart. Such a dichotomy. He is strength and fragility. He's self assured but wildly insecure. Powerful yet weak. Brutal and gentle. All man while decidedly feminine and graceful. Deadly and...ok, just deadly. The way he was slowly "unwrapped" in the series was perfection. Page by page you gained insight into who he was and how he came to be. He seems so cold and brutal to begin with, but by the end of the series you see him in a completely different light and all his previous actions take on new meaning. Per-fec-tion.
There were some things that were a little bit uncomfortable to read. [The brotherly incest was hard to get through. (hide spoiler)]It was a relatively minor part of the storyline that ended quickly. I would also add that it wasn't gratuitous. The relationship had purpose and made complete sense in light of what we find out about Sylvio.[He just wants someone to love him that won't leave. Everyone always leaves or sends him away. His brother has always been there for him so I understood why it was written. (hide spoi
One last thing. For the record, I am a big fan of ménage storylines. And Aleks can write one hell of a scene. Here's my big but...As with Vadim in "Special Forces", I became completely protective of Sylvio.[I didn't like one bit that Stefano's wife became a part of their relationship. I didn't want Sylvio to have to share. (hide spoiler)] Again though, it made sense in the scheme of things, especially in staying true to Stefano's character, and third was really likeable and tender towards Sylvio.
Loved every crazy word of the series. Straight to my favorites shelf. 5+++ stars.