I have a kick-butt series here, and I love how Holly Bargo, the Author, came by to introduce each and every book of the series!
The Series is Russian Love by Holly Bargo, a Contemporary suspense with a dash of suspense.
Holly, thank you for coming by! The mic is all yours!
Russian Lullaby, the first book in the Russian Love series, was never intended to launch a series. I can’t remember exactly how I came up with the idea for that particular book, but I do know that Roxie Rivera’s Russian Protectors series was an influence. I really enjoy her books.
Anyway, “New Adult” romances annoy me. I wanted to create a “New Adult” romance with a heroine who didn’t suffer from a coffee and/or shoe addiction, wasn’t “damaged,” and wasn’t promiscuous. Call me old-fashioned, but I view promiscuity as a distinct lack of self-respect. I wanted my young heroine to be intelligent and well-adjusted and not quite perfect, hence the myopia and family ties to the Italian mafia.
Since the womanizing jerk type of alpha male hero doesn’t appeal to me, I wanted my hero to be a little more discerning in his tastes and habits. Love at first sight does appeal to me–I grew up on fairy tales and Greek mythology–it’s a case of Vitaly’s being instantly smitten with Gia, combined with the remnants of his honor and humanity, that gets this relationship started.
Russian Lullaby received a great response from readers–better than I could have imagined. I received requests to follow up with sequels. So, I decided to continue with the two roommates, Cecily and Latasha, with whom my heroine lived. I hadn’t realized that I’d set it up so well when Vitaly moves her roommates in with his colleague Pyotr to ensure their safety.
A case of mistaken identity lands graduate student Giancarla Bonetti in a heap of trouble, only to be rescued by Bratva interrogator Vitaly Synvolka. Sensing that she’s his final opportunity to save what’s left of his humanity after a lifetime of brutality, he offers the innocent young woman three options: go back to her life and be killed by the thugs who kidnapped her; go far, far away and start a new life at a new school and hope the thugs don’t find her; or, marry him, accept his protection, and finish her degree.
Option #3 isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Russian Gold follows Russian Lullaby with farmer’s daughter Cecily who comes from a dramatically different background than either Gia or Latasha. Cecily’s a salt-of-the-earth type of person, a Midwestern farm girl with solid Midwestern values. She cannot easily accept that which her roommates do and has a crisis of conscience that causes her to make some drastic decisions. Pyotr, of course, chases after her.
A lot of readers found fault with Cecily’s character, which surprised me, as I thought her the most realistic and the strongest of the heroines in the first three books. Her decisions to live by her principles led to hardship: she didn’t choose the easy path but acted as she believed she must to maintain her self-respect. I’d like to think I’d have such courage.
Now that she and her best friends are out of danger, Cecily Carrigan is restless. Pyotr’s boss bought a restaurant and installed her as head chef. She lives rent-free with a with a sexy beast of a Russian mobster who treats her like a queen, but hasn’t offered marriage. She detests Cleveland, cold weather, and the Bratva. Conflicted and confused, what’s a girl to do when she suffers a crisis of conscience?
She removes herself from temptation and leaves.
Moving to San Antonio where the weather’s warm and the restaurant scene fiercely competitive, Cecily works to find herself and rebuild her self-respect… and discovers that she left the secret to happiness behind in the form of a big Russian with a heart of gold.
In Russian Dawn, Latasha refuses to be a statistic and forges a future better than the circumstances of her upbringing. She grabs onto her own chance for a happily ever after with Iosif, the third Russian mobster who falls in love with an American girl. I loosely based Latasha’s mother on an actual person who happens to fall squarely within a certain unflattering stereotype. Some readers took offense. So be it.
After two years, Iosif Drakoniv’s patience finally pays off. He and Latasha marry and head off to Costa Rica for a tropical honeymoon. They anticipate nothing more than a carefree time of sun, sand, and sex. Latasha, however, catches the notice of the local drug cartel’s kingpin, who orders her abduction. Helpless to stop the kidnapping, Iosif calls Maksim for assistance. Maksim sends Bogdan and Gennady to help and puts them in touch with a local contact who can provide the weapons they’ll need to wage war.
They rescue Latasha. Maksim calls upon Gia’s grandfather, a mafia kingpin himself, for a favor to get Iosif, Latasha, Bogdan, Gennady, and two more people into the USA without tipping off Border Patrol. Shortly after they return to Cleveland, Giuseppe Maglione calls in that favor for Latasha to pay. If she declines, then she condemns the Cleveland Bratva to bankruptcy and ill will between the two criminal organizations. If she accepts the opportunity, then she’ll be at the mafia’s beck and call forever. It’s a devil’s bargain and Latasha must make a choice.
In the fourth book, Russian Pride, we come full circle back to Gia’s family, specifically her mobster cousin Giovanni and heroine Inessa, daughter of Maxim and Olivia. I switched mafias in this book, which serves as both a conclusion and a potential turning point. Of the heroes in this series, I consider Giovanni the most lethal and calculating.
A couple of characters run through all four books, Maxim, Olivia, Genady, and Bogdan. Readers get snippets of their personalities throughout the series, with Genady–to my mind–being one heck of a complicated dude, a potent personality who never wanted his story told. That he prefers to remain mysterious confounds me, because in my Tree of Life series, I had characters popping into my mind demanding that they get their own stories.
When I finished the series, I left it open for a spin-off with two of Giovanni’s people: his young cousin Paolo and right-hand man Ciro. I don’t know if I’ll ever revisit them, but should inspiration strike, I can.
Rescued from domestic abuse, Bratva princess Inessa recuperates from the latest beating in the home of Giovanni Maglione, the mafia captain of Cleveland. Learning that her husband double-crossed the Chinese triad, and they want their pound of flesh–and they’re happy to take it out of Inessa–her parents ask Giovanni to marry their newly widowed daughter. The Chinese triad will be looking for a Russian mobster’s wife, not the wife of an Italian mobster. Inessa agrees to this marriage of convenience which, of course, isn’t so convenient. The ruse fails, which forces Giovanni into a violent and bloody mob war, because he protects what’s his… and Inessa is most definitely his.
Because these books are short, I bundled the first three into a single volume titled Russian Love, with Russian Pride sold separately.
I wrote a mafia romance not to glamorize the mobster way of life or criminal values, but as a harsh backdrop for men and women who rise above their circumstances and show true devotion to one another. These relationships definitely come with sizzling romance, if only because that fierce kind of love demands it. But it also makes for surprisingly tender moments.
I’m running special discounts on each book of the series. The e-book versions in turn will be on sale for $0.99, beginning with Russian Lullaby in January and ending with Russian Pride in April. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did writing them.
Well, the only thing left for me to say is thank you, Holly, for this great series, and for coming by to talk about it. To you all, keep an eye on her amazon page because, as you read, there will be offers!
About Holly BargoHolly Bargo is the author’s pseudonym and really did exist as a temperamental Appaloosa mare. Holly and her husband live on a hobby farm in southwest Ohio where they still have horses, plus a llama, clowder of cats, and one very big dog. They have two children, one graduating from university in 2019 and the other enlisted in the military.
Follow Holly through social media: Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, Twitter, Amazon, and the Hen House Publishing blog titled “Eggs.”