Book Review: Ruthless People by J.J. McAvoy

Ruthless People, #1
To the outside world, they look like American Royalty, giving to charities, feeding the homeless, rebuilding the city. But behind closed doors is a constant battle for dominance between two Bosses, cultures, and hearts.

Ruthless People is a romantic crime fiction set in modern day Chicago, and follows the life and marriage of Melody Giovanni and Liam Callahan—rivals by blood and leaders through fear. Their marriage, arranged by their fathers in hopes to end years of bloodshed between the Irish and the Italians.

Liam believes he’s getting a simple-minded wife, one he can control, one who bends to his every need . . . the complete opposite of Melody. She knows exactly what type of man he is, and would rather die than give up the power she has spent her life building.

The Mafia of the past has evolved, and with rival bosses gunning for them, Melody and Liam will have to learn to work as one to take down those who stand in their way.

1 Marriage x 2 Bosses = 3x the Chaos

My curiosity and fascination with all-things-mafia got the best of me. After reading a tweet about Ruthless People, I immediately had to look it up, and after reading the synopsis, my 1-click finger took over! I actually dropped everything I was doing and just dove right into the book! And I was amply rewarded for this spur-of-the-moment decision...because I had an absolute blast while reading!
It had taken a lot of blood, sweat, and no tears to make sure that they, and everyone else, knew that I was the Boss. I may be pretty, I may be young, but I was a Giovanni. Giovannis were--and always would be--beautiful, but lethal when crossed.
Melody. Nicci. Giovanni. There are few heroines that I get behind from page one, and Melody is one of my rare book girlfriends! I loved how Melody could switch between personas...innocent in front of the media and the public eye, witty and blunt behind closed doors, then there's the dark twisted queen that rules the Italian mafia. Melody was made up to rule an empire, and I crowned her after the first few pages alone. I bowed down. Like the red wine that this hot-blooded Italian loves to drink, she is layered, complex, and full-bodied. She's in your face, taking charge, putting her own two fists up...or pointing her own gun...
"She looks like a sweet little lamb from afar, but when you get close, you find out she skinned and ate the damn thing just to use it as a coat. She's a beast."
Liam Alec Callahan is a little more rough around the edges, but just as smart, powerful and merciless. His pride and loyalty to his family make him an incredibly headstrong character, as well.  
Family was everything. It was the one thing my father had drilled into our heads since we were children. Rule One: You kill for family. You die for family. Because you can't trust anyone else.
The book begins with the meeting of these two heirs. They're both children of criminal royalty, bound by contract to marry, but Liam expects to meet a woman inferior to him. He doesn't expect the gorgeous power-house that is Melody Giovanni at all, or that such a woman even exists. It made a big part of me look forward to Melody showing up and putting Liam's ego in check! It was a collision of two strong forces, and it did not disappoint. ;) So often in crime-related novels, the man pulls the innocent woman into his dark world. It was refreshing to see a female main character who could hold her own in this kind of lifestyle, from the very beginning!
"You too."
"I should have-" He stopped himself before stepping up behind me. "You look beautiful. See you at the altar, and try not to flinch at the holy water."
This couple was quite a matchupLion and lioness. Two beautiful beasts. I really loved their banter and the battle of wits! It's the kind of tension that amps you up! At times, it was hilarious, then a few pages later, it could give you chills! And thankfully, neither of them went "soft" or lost their touch. (One of my pet peeves...) From there, the relationship evolved into something more.
"If we do not kill them, they kill us. It is the way of the world...It is survival. If it were your life for theirs, they would kill you in a second to save themselves or their family...Everyone is ruthless. They just don't know it. You do. I do. And that is why we are on top and will remain so."
Liam and Mel were a modern-day cross between Bonnie & Clyde and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. They had wicked sharp tongues, but their bite was as good as their bark. They didn't hesitate to fulfill every cruel threat they issued. They turned into an intimidating duo!
Mel pulled out a gun and placed it on the table with a single bullet before looking me in the eyes. She wanted blood, and so did I.
Even the sex was as high-octane as the fights! There was one, in particular, that felt out of place for me. It could've been left out, and I wouldn't have minded. But...Everything else was hot, filthy, and passionate! *fans self*

They also both suffered intriguing, tough childhoods, so they were hardened before they ever took their respective thrones as leaders. As the book progressed and Liam and Melody slowly opened up to each other, I liked getting to know that history, as well. It fleshed out their characters even more and made it easier to immerse myself in their gritty world.
"We aren't normal...I don't have time to waste going through the motions. Either I like it or I don't. Either I'm in or I'm out. I do not walk in the middle."
"Not everyone is like you."
"You're like me," he whispered. 
Aside from showing this unconventional pair fall for each other, the book also touches on themes of family, loyalty, respect, power...All of the things that attract me to mafia stories in the first place. I loved how the author incorporated different cultures. For example, there was a scene with Mel and her father, and it just felt more profound that they spoke in Italian. Even the use of the Catholic church added to the pageantry. These details built up the mafia atmosphere.
"You insult us more by pretending you're good Catholic folk. You don't care about God. I don't think you even believe in Him."
 "I care about God, and I do believe in Him." I really did. "However, I know why I was created...What would happen if there weren't people like me? If the world were perfect, if everything was the way you wished it to be, then why would you pray? God needs me, because without us, you forget about Him."
Considering all of the players in the game and all of the moving pieces that come in later, it truly is like watching a movie. It's violent, action-packed, and it moves along rapidly. Yes, some scenes get a little whoa-crazy...but I really enjoyed the storytelling in this one! I was highlighting everything! A few parts were definitely on an action-movie level of believability, but--in my opinion--this movie would at least grade as a Summer blockbuster! ;) It was fun to follow along! I was really captivated by J.J. McAvoy's writing.
"You have three options--bow, hide, or die..."
Other points of view were included, outside of Liam and Melody. I felt it gave depth to the story. Otherwise, this book would've just sounded like one continuous power trip and ego stroke for Liam and Melody. There had to be more than just their reign, and the secondary characters provided that. I liked the roles that the right-hand men played, the wise elderly advice from Liam's parents...The women in this world all have an edge to them. They each have their own backstory. Some are stronger than others, but they each stand out and are just as compelling as their male counterparts.
"Ms. Giovanni, I would ask that you not kill anyone in my house."
"Sedric, I like you. I really do," she said with no emotion in her voice. "But step out of the way or I will kill you before I kill your son."
Then, suddenly, everything started to unravel. It was time for Liam and Melody to face their true enemies! I was dropping Oh shit's and f-bomb's...that pivotal point where my Kindle notes became caps-locked...One particular twist messed me up. All I'll say is...I loved Melody so much and was so invested in her character that this twist was a huge shocker.
"So this, son, is your defining hour, and how you react now will either break or make your future. Whatever pain and anger you are holding on to, let it go before you see her, or you may just lose her."
However...Alliance. Unity. Between the Giovannis and the Callahans. It all falls into place afterwards. It makes "the twist" worth it, makes some sense of what happened. Was it easy to get through? Hell no! *cries* But did I get the big picture? Ugh. Yes. *whew*

Gore isn't for everyone, so I will warn readers that things get pretty nasty. I commend the author for not holding back, though, and for being consistent. She didn't throw violence in your face, only to soften at the last minute and give you rainbows. If anything, she saved the worst for last. She was ruthless. To the end. And I'm really excited to find out what happens next in this series!
"You've driven me half mad...You've made me fall in love with you...You've made me into a monster."
All the warning and recap that you need, to be honest, is written right there on the cover. Power. Sex. Drugs. Love. Murder. Family. Prepare yourself to laugh and smirk, all in the midst of chaos and a mob war. Remember that things are going to be vicious, vulgar, and disturbing. Afterall, don't ever forget the title: Ruthless People.


I had a really hard time narrowing down which quotes that I wanted to use for this review. I didn't even do a very good job, considering I still put a ton of them in there! Whoops. Well, here are even more! :P

"...if you ever interrupt me again, Liam Alec Callahan, may God have mercy on your soul when I send you to meet him."


"If you ever hold a weapon to me again, Melody, I will handcuff you fucking upside down and underwater."

He kissed me again, this time on the mouth, and with my free hand, I slapped him across the fucking face.

"Fuck you and the Audi you drove up in."


"Fedel, do I look like Martha fucking Stewart?"

"No, ma'am, I would never think you would be foolish enough to end up in jail."

"I don't mind you being a bitch to anyone else, as long as it is not me," I whispered, taking her hand and kissing it quickly. Part of me was starting to enjoy her ripping out other people's hearts. It was her thing and she was good at it."


"What do you want from me, Liam?"

"I want you to love me," I said softly. "But if not, then I want it to be the closest thing to you loving me. I want your loyalty. I want your honesty. I want you by my side and no one else's."


"Barbie, I know I'm better than you," Melody said, sipping her red wine. It was basically a food group for her. "All my parts are original and not made in China."


How the fuck did she do it? How the fuck was she able to call forth hell and heaven in her eyes? I was in awe of her so often it pissed me off.


All eyes in the room were on him. "I swear to God--"

"God doesn't come to this part of the house, so swear to me."


"Are you the man who killed my son?"

"I've killed many sons, ma'am. You're going to have to be more specific."


"I missed you," I whispered. She was the only one who could take all the fight right out of me and put it back in at the same time.