Dana reviews Santori Relaoded (The Santori Trilogy Book 3) by Maris Black. (Ebook published March 12, 2019, 231 pages. Audiobook released May 14, 2019. Narrated by J.F. Harding. 6 hrs and 34 mins)
Why I listened to this: I fully intended to read and review the ebook version of Santori Reloaded. I loved the first two books so much. The audiobook released before I could finish reading, so I immediately bought that so I could get the full experience. (I would have ended up listening anyway.)
PETER SANTORI is living the dream. He’s got a hot gangster boyfriend named Gio who treats him with the respect he deserves. It’s a fairy tale come true. He may not know much about what’s going on in Gio’s business, but that’s okay with him. He’s perfectly fine with sitting around and looking pretty.
But when disaster strikes, Peter’s world is turned upside-down. Now he must make some tough decisions, and those decisions could make or break him.
MICHAEL KAGE SANTORI is fascinated with his uncle Peter’s journals. Not only does the story play out like a Shakespearean tragedy, but it could hold the key to why his life turned out the way it did.
But Kage has a lot more to worry about besides his uncle’s diaries. He’s lost his boyfriend, and the only way to get him back is to play hardball with some real bad guys.
Follow Kage and Jamie, and Peter and Gio as their story concludes in Santori Reloaded, the final chapter in the Santori Trilogy.
Previous books in this series (in order):
Kage (The Kage Trilogy Book 1)
Kage Unleashed (The Kage Trilogy Book 2)
Kage Unmasked (The Kage Trilogy Book 3)
Santori (The Santori Trilogy Book 1)
Santori Reborn (The Santori Trilogy Book 2)*****
The end of the Santori Reborn took a bleak turn, much like the end of The Empire Strikes Back. Maybe its a “second in a trilogy” thing? Jamie just left Kage after Kage did some pretty bad things, and in the second storyline told through the journals of Peter Santori, Gio had to take out someone he cared about who was threatening Peter. I don’t know why it took me until this book to realize that Peter’s story in this book wasn’t merely an afterthought and that it was as important as Michael “Kage’s” story. Or that the series title Santori was deliberately chosen because it was about both Santori men. But yes, it became clear to me in this book that the stories were very entwined. Peter’s life, before Kage came into it, obviously affected his nephews current life. Also, Kage and Peter find themselves following similar paths where power, corruption, and love are difficult to balance.
Unlike the previous books in this series, we started with Peter’s story. I feel like this was a good move, because we know that Peter wasn’t a very nice man in the KAGE series. It was important to see how he got there before we see how Kage manages the pressures of being in charge of what had been Gio’s empire. I honestly didn’t think there would be a time where I was rooting for Peter or that I cared about his hardships, but this author really did an excellent job humanizing him. Peter wasn’t a saint, he knowingly entered into a relationship with a crime boss. I like bad boys, but not that kind of bad. If I know characters are engaging in illegal and violent business, I usually hope that they will end those actions. However, Gio is genuinely good to Peter, and I believe that in most situations he is a fair man. Not a psychopathic killing machine, but a hard businessman to put it as nice as I can. Peter enjoys being taken care of and ignores what is behind the scenes because it doesn’t effect their love for each other.
Quickly, Gio and Peter’s relationship rides some really high points and dives into tragedy. Peter might not have survived the depression that followed except for his childhood friend Theo who has always been there for him, but we are learning also has a very dark side. Peter is a very cold and hard man in the future. His ruthlessness made me happy when he died in the previous series. I was heartbroken when I witnessed the act that would eventually make him the man he was in the future. I had thought that his relationship with a mobster would be his downfall when I first started reading this series and hearing Peter’s story, but by the end of this book, it’s apparent that it was something much more sinister, a wolf in friend’s clothing.
In the present day, Kage is living two false lives and needs to take down a bad guy in order to save his true life, the one where he is happily in love with Jamie, wins MMA fights, and runs an above board casino and spa. Kage must buddy up to Theo who is still involved in the businesses that Peter left to Kage in his will. Aaron, who Kage thought was a mere bodyguard, tasks Kage to find information on Theo to take him out of the equation, lawfully. Both Theo and Aaron advise Kage to keep secrets for Jamie and/or outright dump him. For me, I felt that Kage attempting to go along with either of their requests was going to end in disaster, and it nearly did. For a moment, the pressure that Kage is under from two different sources, and thinking that Jamie might have moved on nearly makes Kage chuck it all and give into the dark side. (Also like Star Wars!) Thank you Maris Black for making Kage a (mostly) rational man who decides to take control of his own life and handle things his own way.
Honestly Jamie’s role in this story is diminished. It’s in seeing what his absence does to Kage, where you realize his purpose and importance to the story. In my review for Santori Reborn, I had drawn the parallels between the two couples. I had said that Kage was more like Gio, providing for Jamie, especially financially, and also the more dominant partner. In this book, I see his similarity to Peter. I felt like he exhibited a lot of similarities to his uncle when he was young and (kind of) innocent. Peter and Kage really did have the best intentions. They were both willing to overlook the means in which they were given things in their lives, but they liked keeping their noses clean. There is also a little bit of Peter in Jamie, but I thought at first that he wasn’t anything like Gio. But then I realized in this book, that when it came to psychological and emotional caretaking, Jamie was definitely most like Gio. Jamie had a pretty decent home life growing up. He was pretty stable emotionally, where Kage had encountered hardships and loss. Kage also had a terrible role model in control of his life. When things were out of control and bad memories surfaced, Jamie was Kage’s stabilizing force. When Jamie walked out, and when he helped an up and coming MMA fighter promote himself with semi-nude photos, Kage nearly lost it. He does go as far to inflict some violence on his opponents face during a match but it is the turning point of the story for Kage and Jamie. It’s the moment when you realize that influences like Theo won’t be the downfall for these two.
Oh my goodness, this has been a long review and I hope you are all still with me. I really enjoyed this series even though it tore me up a little bit in each book. I liked that it made me think and have a-ha moments. I know this is the end of Kage and Jamie as main characters for this author, but I am hoping there will be more books set in this universe. There are some great side characters. I liked Anthony, the upcoming MMA fighter and Steve is the best supporting character from both series. I definitely need to see him get his happy ending. And even though Aaron made me a little angry in this book, I could definitely read a book about him. Needless to say, this book is not a standalone, and I recommend reading all the books in the KAGE series and the Santori series before reading it. And I do recommend both series in general.
Before I go, I have to give a shout out to the audiobooks of both series. I have read all the previous books, and listened to them before I listened to this one. J.F. Harding is a really good narrator and I felt he was perfect for Kage in particular. He has kind of a gruff sound and Kage seems like he would too. If you are able to get the audiobooks you definitely should. The narration only helps bring life to the story.
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
Maris Black lives in the Southern United States. In college, she majored in English and discovered the joys of creative writing and literary interpretation. After honing her skills discovering hidden meanings authors probably never intended, she collected her English degree and got a job at a newspaper. But she soon figured out that small town reporting wasn’t going to pay the bills, so she went to work in the medical field. Logical progression, right? But no matter what she did, the self-proclaimed compulsive plotter couldn’t stop writing fiction.
“The M/M genre feels sort of like coming home,” she says. “I can’t quite explain it. I’ve always had openly gay and bisexual friends and relatives, the rights and acceptance of whom are very important to me, so it feels great to celebrate that. But there’s also something so pure and honest about the love between two men that appeals to me and inspires me to write.”
To read the review for KAGE click here.
To read the review for KAGE Unleashed click here.
To read the review for KAGE Unmasked click here.