Rhenna Morgan has become one of my favorite authors. She combines strong female leads with self-aware male leads in stories hinging on honor and acceptance. The heroes in NOLA Knights may be tainted knights because they are Russian bratva, similar to mafia, but they fight for those under their protection when the law can’t or won’t.
Mine to Keep is no different in theme from the first two books. The novel pairs Bonnie, a friend of Cassie who starred in the previous book, with Roman, the last of the Russian brothers and one whose story I eagerly awaited.
Roman, more than either of his brothers, is shadowed by his past. The product of a Russian orphanage, thanks to Sergei, he became an enforcer, the weapon in his vor‘s hand. He has committed acts he can never cast off and knows he’s unworthy of a love like his two chosen brothers have found. He will stand by them, will give his life for them and their families, but never imagines he’ll have a family of his own beyond his bratva.
Bonnie is a New Orleans native from a worn-down area known for its rough edges. She might have escaped to attempt a respectable life, but her brother and father are happy to muck around in the swamp with little thought to the crocodiles. Her father is a con artist who is dying from liver failure. What meager jobs she can manage, even working two-to-three at a time, barely cover his medical costs. There’s no room for the gambles her family takes, but for all her talk, she’ll never abandon her brother and father to their fates.
These mismatched protagonists start with a common need to protect their families at whatever cost, but their connection runs deeper than that. Bonnie is ashamed of her background as much as Roman is of his past. He can understand her in a way the others can’t, and this creates a bond long before he’s ready to accept what she means to him.
It takes Bonnie even longer to look past Roman’s expensive gifts and Russian endearments to see how he’s accepted her with all her quirks. She recognizes his inner value early and finds herself wanting in comparison. The novel demonstrates how love is shown in the little things more than the grand gestures, even when lives are on the line. Just as she accepts Roman as a whole person, Roman learns the hopes and dreams she keeps hidden. He cultivates her inner self as much as he loves her smart-talking bravado.
The courtship is beautiful and takes up most of the book. This is both the same and different from the rest of the NOLA Knights series, because the mystery plays only a small part until almost the end. Clues are left unnoticed, though given the circumstances, I can forgive the oversight.
Rather than seeing how the brothers break down each point, we’re focused on Roman trying to prove not his worth but hers. The book has several open-door intimate scenes when Roman lets the physical speak for him, along with the many ways he shows Bonnie how important she’s become.
Don’t let my comments fool you into thinking the mystery is ignored or unaddressed, though. There are some interesting aspects in how it unfolds I’d love to share but can’t because you need to see them in context. It’s just not the primary focus of much of the story. We get a solid resolution to both the love story and the mystery. Have no fear.
Plot-driven books are easy to review. I can mention the building action and then spin off into notes on the other elements. This story is so tangled up in questions of self-worth and acceptance, it’s harder to discuss without spoiling something. I’ll say only I found the ending satisfying, the romance emotionally powerful, and the story a perfect mix of honor and understanding.
P.S. I received this ARC through the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.