Updated: Sep 18, 2022
Book 11: Shadow Riders by Christine Feehan
The #1 New York Times bestselling “queen of paranormal romance”* is back with a sexy new series starring a Chicago crime family that hides a dark, mystical secret...
Whether it’s fast cars or fast women, Stefano Ferraro gets what he wants. When he’s not fodder for the paparazzi, he commands Ferraro family businesses—both legitimate and illegitimate.
While their criminal activity is simply a rumor yet to be proven, no one knows the real truth. The Ferraros are a family of shadow riders capable of manipulating light and dark, an ability Stefano thought ran in his family alone—until now…
With little left to her name, Francesca Cappello has come to Chicago in hopes of a new life. She wasn’t expecting to attract the attention of a man with primal hunger in his eyes, driven to claim her as his to protect and to please. And if he discovers her secret, it could ruin her...
Don't say I didn't warn ya...
I'm not sure I can really be honest in my review without spoilers... so, sorry folks! This is a fully spoiled review... think Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory ("she was a bad egg") or the lettuce container you forgot was in the drawer of your fridge...
~ Spoilers Ahead! ~
Let's just get this over with...
so far, this has been the longest it has taken me to get through a book this year (17 days!). this has also been the most difficult review for me to write and I think this is because:
I really did not like this book and therefore have a lot of thoughts I need to adequately express
I began writing and rewriting this post several times (very poorly, I might add).
it took an obscene amount of time to realize that the best way for me to organize my thoughts and write this review was by creating a list (if you know me personally, you would know that I love and obsess over lists and planning so it really should not have taken 3 hours for me to arrive at this conclusion)
so here goes.
the absolute wildest thing about this book, to me, is that the entire plot of the book (excluding the epilogue) takes place within the span of one month. when I looked back to organize my thoughts for this post, almost every note or highlight from my kindle was some iteration of "what?!", "wait what?!", and/or "BUT THEY JUST MET!?". The plot follows Francesca, a young curvaceous woman who moves to Chicago to outrun the man who murdered her sister. Within 12 hours of moving to Chicago, she bumps into Stefano Ferraro who is an extremely wealthy playboy and "Shadow Rider" (though for the majority of the book, she believes him to be a member of a mafia crime syndicate). When they meet their shadows touch and Stefano is immediately drawn to her and he "claims" her to be "his woman" (more on that later). now, I admit, I am a hopeless romantic... it's true. but all of this?! it's too much too fast.
#2: Character development
I would attribute a lot of the word count in this 400+ page book to redundant descriptions of the two main characters. the main things I learned up front about each character are as follows:
moved from California after some horrible event (which we later learn is the brutal murder of her sister)
shadow rider (though this isn't fully revealed to Francesca until 87% into the book; more on that later)
that's really about all there is to know. to say that Francesca was a two dimensional character would be a stretch and the only three dimensional part about her was her figure. she had very little attributes as a person outside of her looks, her fear, her relationship to Stefano, and her interest in Stefano. stefano, on the other hand, was entirely propped up by stereotypes of an italian mafia boss. all machismo, all the time.
#3: World Building
there isn't much explanation given to the reader at first as to why he feels so drawn to her. we are given a very brief "shadow rider 101" and don't really get a full explanation until 87% of the book what being a "shadow rider" truly means, why francesca is so important to him, and how his family is connected.
“I’ve told you some of it. We go back hundreds of years. The Ferraro family always had riders born into it. Men and women capable of connecting with shadows and entering them, like a tube, an expressway. When we’re inside the shadow, no one can see us. In the old days, our ancestors took on the task of protecting family and friends and then, eventually others in our neighborhood.” 87% into Shadow Riders by Christine Feehan
that is the extent of how shadow riding works. 87% into the book. this is the only explanation we really get. it's hard to understand how/why this book is considered a "paranormal romance". the shadow aspect of the book was largely ignored in relation to the plot and the only time his shadow riding capabilities were necessary were in the last quarter of the book: to save a young girl from an abusive home and to save Francesca and emannuelle. without the shadow riding, this book would probably standalone and the only part that would be affected, would be the very end.
#4: Red Flags?
this whole relationship is a f*ckin red flag.
“No. I can’t.” Pure regret. No remorse, but definitely regret. “I’m not that good or that strong of a man to let her go. She’s mine. I take what’s mine. She doesn’t know it. Doesn’t want it. Doesn’t want me or anything to do with me.” A trace of amusement crept in. “She deserves better, but she’ll be with me and no one else.” 11% into Shadow Riders by Christine Feehan
the above quote was from the first time Stefano saw Francesca, I believe it was right after they met and their shadows touched. as the story progressed, his possession of her became voracious. even when he kissed her, it was described as "taking her mouth". the relationship was unhealthy. his possession borderlined abuse in the way he controlled every aspect of her life; from where she lived to what she wore to who she saw and who she spoke with.
#5: This could've been an email
so much of this book was incredibly redundant. if we cut away all of the descriptions of how much the other person exuded sex, there'd probably only be like 100 pages of actual plot. 150 if you include some sexy time.
#6: let's talk about sex, baby
a lot of foreplay for the reader here. about 52% went by before they finally had sex. the sex scenes were just as intense as every other part of the book but, overall, nothing better or worse than any other I've read. idk, I wanted something... more? but I guess, there's only so many ways you can write a sex scene?
#7: saving all my [plot] for you [ the last two chapters ]
I've mentioned this quite a bit in my "progress report", but there was so much of this book that reminded me of Twilight and I think it was due to the slow build for the overarching "external" conflict and threat throughout the majority of the book... only to quickly resolve in the last couple of chapters. The driving factor of the story, was Francesca moving to Chicago because she was trying to escape Barry Anton, the man who murdered her sister and covered it up. throughout the majority of the book, he is a looming presence in her subconscious and she spends a lot of time worrying he will appear and ruin her, her reputation, and kill her and the Ferarros. by the last few chapters, having been "humiliated", Barry does succeed in kidnapping her and Stefano's sister, Emmanuelle. in an effort to distract him from attacking emmanuelle, Francesca taunts Barry and he stabs her in the leg. in the end, she and emmanuelle are rescued by all members of the family (who shadow rode into the warehouse, eliminated all the bad guys) and barry is killed by every Ferraro sibling stabbing him. it is probably the only chapter I enjoyed fully. all of this build and quick resolution, immediately brought me to the end of the first twilight novel, where Bella is kidnapped and tortured and Edward finds her and is instantly able to eliminate the threat. it was probably the quickest few chapters I read through and I think a lot of it lend to these chapters being the ones that moved the plot the fastest.
there was a lot of italian terminology sprinkled in and it was really refreshing to see but in a juxtaposition, there was also a lot of italian stereotyping through the mafia/organized crime element. in a way, it was very central to the plot, of course; by emphasizing the closeness of the family and the way they conducted their business. but it was so amplified and so exhaustive, that it negated any purpose and made it entirely a parody.
So why not DNF?
the main reason is, although ji did not like the book, she finished it; so I wanted to finish it out of solidarity. the secondary reason being that I genuinely wanted to know how it was all going to turn out. I found myself dreading to pick up my kindle to continue it but once I started reading, I couldn't get myself to turn away from it.
I think this book is exactly what I imagined all romance novels to be. A sort of long, drawn out, very elaborate "fan fiction"-esque book. it read, to me, like the fan fiction Tumblr posts I stumbled upon in my teens during the early aughts and I wanted to be very open minded but I found myself struggling to get through it. hell, I found myself struggling to get myself to write this review. I rated this book 1.5 pups out of 5 because, while I did not like a majority of the elements of the story, i at least wanted to know how this book ended.
I think the book definitely did what I wanted it to do though. I looked out for a mass market cheesy romance with a guy on the cover and that's what I got. I wanted a book to be every bad thing I didn't want to see so that maybe I could appreciate the really good stuff.
I am annoyed it took me so long to get through. normally, I would stack other books. I would start another ebook or speed through an audiobook or graphic novel; but I didn't want to stray so far away from this book that I'd give up altogether. on the other hand, last February, I read ten books in total and so far, this year I've only completed this one. I'm so behind 😩
this is me fighting my urge to compete and speed through which is exactly what i said I did not want to do this year. so I will take my time. I will enjoy this process. I will be patient.