Clean Break by Abby Vegas

Heat Rating: Mild

I loved the cover on this and after reading the blurb I thought mafia romance and a modern Beauty and the Beast retelling! Yay!

You’ll never catch me watching ‘The Godfather’ or ‘The Sopranos’ but for some reason I do love my Mafia romance series – I know I’m quirky like that.

But this book really caught me off guard (in the best possible way) – it wasn’t anything like I expected – I was actually disheartened at first –

Since our female protagonist, Lane, started off seeming quite clueless, damaged, self-involved and in denial.
While her ‘Beast’ seemed less mysterious prince and more flawed blue-collar immigrant lackwit.

But I kept on reading looking for more to these characters and Vegas delivered in spades with a few surprise twists in the bargain!

Spoilers ahead (click on >Details to reveal)

**Trigger warnings:
Depression, Suicide, Grief

    Lane Havilland dropped out of college after she lost her entire family in an accident when they were on their way to her for a visit. She spiralled in her grief, blaming herself for their deaths, falling into depression and suicidal ideation (she continued to flirt with suicidal notions several times as the story progressed).

    When we meet her she is all but destitute after unwisely blowing through her inheritance during her denial and depression and has only recently gotten herself together enough to find a job.

    She literally hits rock bottom when she is conned out of the last of her finances (loaned at that) with a fake lease.

    Homeless with her only possessions the contents of two suitcases, on the heels of her clean break from her old life and with no family and no friends to turn to, she seeks help from the police and becomes affiliated with Detective Jarrett.

    Jarrett who chalks up the scam to her poor judgement does little to help her but he does get her temporary housing  through the realty firm listed on the fake lease and in so doing brings her into the orbit of Viktor, the immigrant Russian maintenance man for her new lodging, which – in keeping with her rock bottom life status – is in the basement.

    Unsure how she’ll pay her rent – much less pay back the loaned funds she got conned out of to her supportive boss Miranda (‘Randy’) who transitions from boss to bestfriend as the storyline progresses –  Lane starts looking for a second job and that leads her to Cynthia and the Waldrop family.

    When Lane checks in with her new landlady, also Russian (as are most people in Lane’s new neighborhood) in hopes of a deferral of her rent, she finds out that Viktor has already swooped in and paid it for her.

    Grateful but suspicious of his motives, Lane is hesitant to let him in when he stops by after also leaving her a futon since she’s been sleeping on the floor.

    But Viktor doesn’t appear to have ill intent so they become friends and she offers to help him improve his English as a way to pay him back for his kindnesses.

    So begins the story of Lane and Viktor, their friendship seamlessly flowing into a romantic relationship that proves a measure of solace in Lane’s grief process while she takes on the role of Cynthia Waldrop’s PA and eventually the Nanny to her two kids, Mason and Emily.

    Lane also finds herself empathizing with Mason as he too is a loner with depression issues and she tries to help improve his family relationships with his ‘absentee’ parents and unsupportive sibling. Along the way she becomes deeply intertwined in the family web.

    But the positives in her life soon feel the flames as Lane learns of Viktor’s checkered past in a Russian prison and labor camp and his checkered present – as a low level enforcer in the local Russian mob.

    It is because of the latter that Detective Jarrett reaches out to her once again in hopes of pulling her in as an informant. Lane repeatedly declines his offers but a pattern of harassment emerges.

    When Viktor is arrested, Lane faces the grim reality of his job and despite her deep feelings parts ways with Viktor.

    Jarrett takes advantage and tries to insinuate himself into her life and though she momentarily gives in, she quickly backtracks but Jarrett’s stalker and intimidation tactics worsen.

    Things come to a head when Jarrett reveals Viktor is about to be arrested yet again.

    Lane; fearing for Viktor’s life in the face of Jarrett’s unreasonable jealousy, gets into the midst of the action thwarting Jarrett’s attempt on Viktor’s life only to be strong-armed by Jarrett – quite literally – until he breaks said arm and puts her in the hospital – precipitating a series of unexpected events:
    Cynthia and the Waldrops becoming Lane’s staunch champions while Viktor unaccountably goes missing with no trace to be found.

    Vegas adds a final twist to the plot when the truth comes out and we find that Viktor Kozlov is not at all who and what we have been lead to believe.

Far more is at play than the reader is aware, infusing me, after the plot twist, with the zeal to have a second read searching for clues.

This book, to me, was neither a mafia romance or a Beauty and the Beast retelling –

It was rather more of a mystery – one steeped in the ideas of metamorphosis, showcasing the resilience of the human spirit and a testament to how people (and books) can surprise you.

No matter what you might assume, no one is really just the sum of their parts, every person (and novel) has a story to tell – filled with trials, heartaches and worries that define them as well as the something more that helps them overcome those things.

Our lives, like those of Lane and her Viktor change in shape and tone as life goes on with a few surprise twists tossed in here and there just to keep it interesting.

If I was reminded of anything with this novel it was this – Never Judge a Book by its Cover – or its title or blurb – although in this case it was such a rather sexy cover. Alright, I admit it, I was seduced by the cover but those plot twists? Mind Blown!

Enjoy this one lovelies!



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