Erryn and Dana review Snow Falling (Haven Hart Universe #1) by Davidson King (Published November 27, 2017, 202 pgs, Released on audio through Tantor Audio on July 31, 2018. Listening time: 6 hrs 21 mins Narrated by Joel Leslie and Philip Alces.) A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
To read Wendy’s review of the ebook click here.
After running from a past destined to kill him, Snow has been hiding on the streets. Tell nobody your name. Tell nobody your secrets. Trust nobody! These are the rules of the streets.
His entire life changes when he saves an eight-year-old boy from a violent end.
Christopher Manos is one of the most powerful crime bosses in the country. Don’t ask anyone to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself. Secrets can get you killed. Trust nobody! These are the rules he lives by.
When his eight-year-old nephew disappears, he never expects the boy’s savior to end up being his own.
A man with a dangerous past and a man with a dangerous future find love amidst murder and mayhem. But with Snow’s life being threatened at every turn, will Christopher’s best be enough to prevent Snow from falling?
In the past few years, romance has been pushing the boundaries of heroes. In the past, we’d had dashing rakes, arrogant executives, cranky cowboys, and millionaires. Starting a few years ago, we moved into Billionaires. Okay, fair enough. Christian Grey in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and Gideon Cross in the ‘Crossfire’ series are two more famous examples. Then we moved into motorcycle clubs and shadier heroes. Sometimes even the anti-hero. MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) was the next, with vicious cage fighting being heralded. There was the step-sibling fad which still is around, although, hopefully, more nuanced than before. The next trend was the hitman who can be reformed by love.
I had bailed from following trends around the motorcycle club trend and although I would make slightly disparaging remarks, I wouldn’t berate the authors for going in the direction where the readers seemed happy to follow. In the m/f world, I found Sarah Castille was often ahead of the curve and I envied her for that. She didn’t chase the trend – she often (somehow) predicted it. When she came out with the ‘Ruin & Revenge’ series, I felt romance had really gone off the rails. Crime bosses as heroes? Redeemable? After either killing or, at least, ordering deaths? Tony Soprano made mob bosses more human and relatable, but I never watched the series because I couldn’t countenance watching the violence or the hypocrisy of the ruthless man masquerading as the honourable family man.
So why ‘Snow Falling’? What about this book made me break with my refutation of the trend of increasingly dangerous hero (or even anti-hero)? Because I had heard great buzz about the book, I liked the synopsis and – if I’m truthful – the cover. I do honestly try not to judge a book by its cover. I understand that not everyone can afford a talented cover artist and sometimes – a larger crime to me – the cover does not represent the book accurately. On this cover, Snow’s ethereal beauty plus odd mix of innocence and ghastly history is conveyed.
I fell hard for Snow. Not only his willingness to step up and challenge two bullies who were threatening a young boy, but his understanding there would be a steep price for him to pay. He then took responsibility for the young man, who he nicknames ‘Eight’, ensuring he was returned to the bosom of his family safely. What Snow had no way of knowing was he had just stepped into the middle of a turf war between the mob families in town and that ‘Eight’ is the nephew of Christopher Manos.
Christopher Manos did not chose to be the head of the family as he had been on a different path, but then got pulled in. In fact, when he first took the reins, he was referred to as “The cleanest criminal in forever”. I’m going to be honest – I snickered at that. Was this supposed to redeem him? Make him a more acceptable hero? I wasn’t holding my breath and the violence in the book didn’t surprise me. A family member with scruples? Perhaps. But Snow was informed that the boss wasn’t willing to ask his people to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. And since killing was often the only solution – a way to send a message – it was obvious Christopher has killed. Whether or not he had regrets was never made clear to me.
So he was a difficult character for me. Snow was the opposite. His quick acceptance of Eight and his willingness to put himself in peril to protect the young boy spoke volumes about the man’s honour. When Christopher asked Snow to “be Simon’s shadow. A friend”, I knew this was something Snow took seriously. Although Snow is still young himself, he has a hugely positive impact on Simon and other members of the household. As Snow’s history is unveiled, incident by incident, I wanted to embrace him and tell him that he’s not a “street rat”.
In the book, there are warring families – most notably the Russian family – and they were a foil for Christopher’s ‘cleanliness’. It is a way to show there are more vicious and ruthless and heartless mobsters out there.
Despite being a mobster, Christopher did not hide his homosexuality, nor apologize for it, and his easy approval of Snow’s femme side was nice. I felt the intimacy was maybe a little rushed, and I wasn’t convinced it was the right thing, but Snow’s easy acceptance and clear adoration of ‘Chris’ gave me hope that maybe Christopher might soften.
The pacing of this book was good – the interspersing of the mundane but joyful moments with the abject viciousness and the danger that necessitated action. The final dénouement of violence was obligatory to complete the circle and allow the men to move into the new level of their relationship. The epilogue was nice, but a bit predictable. Don’t get me wrong, though, I did enjoy the joy after such sorrow.
Joel Leslie is one of my favourite narrators. I mean, he’s at the top of the list and when I see his name, I take a much closer look, even if it is a new author to me or a book that might not have caught my eye. I associate him with amazing accents – Australian and British in particular. I have always perceived him as a man with a deep voice. Since there were two narrators, when I saw the characterizations of Snow and Christopher, I assumed Joel would be narrating Christopher’s point of view. So I was, well, very surprised, when he took on Snow’s voice. Quickly, though, I understood the choice. Joel’s talent is so vast that his performance of Snow was perfect. He managed to convey the innocence, joy, and yet wariness and terror, all in perfect harmony.
Philip Alces was new to me and I have to say, the casting of him as Christopher was brilliant. His deep and resonant voice – also a little gruff – carried the mob boss’s gravity. At other times, though, he gave Christopher humanity in the face of some despicable situations. The confusion over Snow’s goodness was clear and well-done. Overall, I thought the casting choices were perfect.
I have snuck a look at the next two books and I am pleased to see one character I really liked will get his own book. The ‘Haven Hart Universe’ is fascinating and I’m willing to look beyond the questionable moral and ethics of the world because Davidson King has created such compelling characters and a tightly written story. I hope ‘Hug it Out’ comes out in audio very soon.
9/10 Pots of Gold (90% Recommended) – Compares to 4.5/5 Stars
The narrators – I have to be honest. I generally prefer one narrator over two. Both Philip Alces and Joel Leslie did such an excellent job, though, and I loved both of their narrations. In this book, the dual narration really worked for me.
The story – I didn’t really know what to expect when I started listening to this book. Books about crime bosses or other members of the mob can be a hit or miss. They have to be likable enough to overlook their crimes for the reader to root for their happy ending. I thought Davidson King did a great job of that. I definitely felt for Christopher Manos. He seemed not to relish the dirtier parts of his job but it was a job he inherited and he was just what he had to do.
Snow was a very interesting character. He’s homeless but very smart. It boggles the mind a little bit as to how he got there. When it was explained, I felt horrified on his behalf. He was someone who had been through a lot, but remained strong inside and more courageous than I would have been in his shoes.
This book is not exactly a short and sweet story. Both Christopher and Snow go through a lot. There is danger and intrigue. Seeing some of the violence did bother me, mostly because I saw those moments as senseless tragedy. But there are a few bright spots. I am a fan of Christopher’s nephew who brings the two of them together. He’s sweet and entertaining. There are a few good supporting characters I am definitely looking forward to seeing them get their own story too. Seeing Christopher and Snow feature as side characters will be a bonus.
This was an easy listen for me despite the tougher subject matter. I was drawn into the story while listening, and time flew by. I didn’t want to stop even though it was late. I was delightfully surprised by how much I enjoyed the story and can’t wait for more of this author’s stories to release on audio.
9/10 Pots of Gold (90% Recommended) – Compares to 4.5/5 Stars
Davidson King, always had a hope that someday her daydreams would become real-life stories. As a child, you would often find her in her own world, thinking up the most insane situations. It may have taken her awhile, but she made her dream come true with her first published work, Snow Falling.
When she’s not writing you can find her blogging away on Diverse Reader, her review and promotional site. She managed to wrangle herself a husband who matched her crazy and they hatched three wonderful children.
If you were to ask her what gave her the courage to finally publish, she’d tell you it was her amazing family and friends. Support is vital in all things and when you’re afraid of your dreams, it will be your cheering section that will lift you up.