About a week or so ago, one of my Twitter followers was recommending Kenya Wright’s The Lion and the Mouse series as an alternative to Netflix’s 365 DNI. I had no idea what 365 DNI was about, but I was told that Kenya Wright did it better with a black girl and a Russian mobster. So, of course, I was sold. Add in the fact that I had just gotten KindleUnlimited, and the entire series was available? Oh yea, I was good to go.
Kenya Wright’s The Lion and the Mouse series is an epic love story filled with mobsters, betrayals, and top notch sex. Emily Chambers is on the brink of going legit when she meets Kazimir Stolonik after his top washer is killed, and he is pointed in Emily’s direction. This series takes you from Harlem to Prague, Moscow to Paris, and, finally, to Italy with a host of great characters along the way. It is currently unfinished, but, with six books already published, you’ll definitely have something to occupy your time until the last book is done.
Before I begin, I need to point out that this series is essentially erotica. If graphic sex scenes are not your cup of tea, then these are not the books for you.
The series starts in Dirty Kisses, where Bratva boss, Kazimir Stolonik, makes a surprise stop in New York upon hearing that his top washer was murdered. Whilst investigating, Kazimir is pointed to art dealer, Emily Chambers, as a replacement washer, but both are betrayed before the business can start. Also, there’s a serial killer. In the next book, Dirty Love, Emily and Kaz explore the idea of permanency in the midst of crazy siblings, an even crazier uncle, and quite a few shootouts. Also, we learn an interesting secret, and there’s a bonus novella that you can skip because it’s fully fleshed out in book 3.5.
Books three to five are technically all one overarching plot, but Wright, the author, does a pretty good job of breaking it up. In Dirty Hearts, Kazimir introduces Emily to Moscow and the Bratva only to receive a worrisome welcome. Kaz and Emily pop over to Paris until Kaz can figure which of his men will die first, only for the French to pop in, and things to go way left. Also, the author introduces us to her characters from her The Butcher and the Violinist. In Dirty Minds, Kazimir races around Paris trying to reunite with Emily after she is kidnapped by the Corsican. Also, there’s nukes, and Emily can’t play damsel in distress to save her life. And finally, in Dirty Passions, Kaz and Emily get back to Moscow and killing racists, but not before Kaz reminds the other mobs that he WILL NOT TOLERATE THE DISRESPECT. Also, fortune tellings.
In Dirty Desires, which works in parallel to Dirty Hearts and is aptly numbered 3.5, we are introduced to Ava Jones, the black ballerina that Kaz’s cousin Misha has been obsessed with for at least a year. In the process of getting Ava to finally consider him as a romantic partner, Misha manages to neglect his cousin and the Bratva, his father’s funeral, and his common sense. Also, there’s a paternity test, and everybody’s connected to somebody’s mob. Wright had the audacity to hint at more stuff going on with this couple in the next book, but didn’t bother to actually write it. Thankfully, Wright is currently in the process of writing the sequel to this book, and I absolutely cannot wait.
So I just read the synopsis for 365 DNI, and I must say that The Lion and The Mouse series is miles better simply because nobody is being kidnapped and forced to love anyone. Now, there is some kidnapping for regular mob-related reasons, and both Kaz and Misha will admit that they have no real interest in letting go, but this is after the getting together and getting to know you stage. 365 DNI apparently starts with him seeing her, stalking her, and then abducting her. Even with a 5-year gap in between, that’s way too much and sounds like rape is inevitable.
Going back to The Lion and the Mouse, there are a few things that I didn’t like about the series, but they really all come to not being properly beta read, or whatever the publishing version of that is called. The wild part is, they all come at the beginning part of each novel, and they’re so random. There are relatively ambiguous ones like one of the protagonists being 30, and born in 1991, but somehow a year is never given and there is nothing to indicate that this is the future. Or, a grandmother being 52-years-old with a biological granddaughter in her early 20s. Both look like a miscalculation on the author’s part, and someone should have caught it before publishing. There’s also a point where one character’s name is used when the author clearly meant another, a couple of things are introduced but never used, and there might have been a continuity issue, but it’s not big enough to stick in my mind. Everything else is perfectly fine, but it would be nice if the fixable issues are cleared up in an update, as it really takes away from an otherwise great series.
That being said, I really like Kaz and Emily’s relationship. I like anything where the male protagonist is ready to begin a relationship almost immediately, but I was all about Emily’s initial resistance to playing Kaz’s game. The growth that these characters go through throughout the course of this series is really phenomenal. Kaz is so used to being in the lead and taking care of everything, that Emily’s need to take care of him is a whole surprise so it takes him a bit to adjust. Neither of them have ever really done relationships, all things considered, and the amount of times that Kaz has to tell Emily to chill and stop chasing down bad guys is ridiculous. I’m actually okay with Kenya Wright starting another multi-book arc after she finishes the next one, because I would love to see how Kaz and Emily handle being parents, and allowing Emily to really settle into being a mafia wife with territories of her own.
I also love Ava and Misha’s relationship, because Ava was just a regular degular from New York with the chance of a lifetime to be a ballerina in Russia, and here comes this Bratva bae, Misha, with all of his crazy. I love that Misha was so supportive of Ava’s dreams to the point of pulling her ballet company out of bankruptcy, and making sure that Ava had a place to stay even before they started dating. I loved that Misha was trying his hardest to present himself as a regular rich boy to Ava, and had almost succeeded until someone bothered her. I love that Misha goes from sweetheart to killer in the space of a teardrop. I need so much more of this couple and the rest of the St. Petersburg crew.
If Kenya Wright somehow manages to read this, please send Maxwell back to St. Petersburg. Maxwell is great as Emily’s best friend, but he shines in St. Petersburg with Misha and Kaz’s sister, Valentina. Also, the drama around Valentina’s baby? That sequel can’t come soon enough.
I read this series in two days, only stopping to eat and sleep. I haven’t been so invested in a series in progress in years, so I really appreciate Kenya Wright for even bothering to write this. I like that she bothers to talk about race and racism in the context of an interracial relationship because a lot of interracial romances – the few that I’ve read – don’t. It’s a little weird that all the key white players have black girlfriends (or a black not-boyfriend), but that’s technically why I read BWWM romances.
I like that the male protagonists get point-of-view chapters, and they’re so open to being in love. That cool guy stuff hasn’t worked since Mr. Darcy, and would have destroyed these books. I loved the sex scenes. I almost feel exposed in writing that, but they were really good. They’re also really graphic, so don’t expect to ever see them on film without a ton of censorship.
I know I cited my issues with the books already, but I really wish one of the characters from Emily’s crew hadn’t been killed off so early. She barely got any lines, maybe only one scene, so her death ends up feeling wasted because we barely got to know her. I think Wright even regrets it as the absence is brought up later in the series. Wright also likes to rehash whole scenes for some reason. It works for the most part, as flashbacks are needed, but sometimes it really doesn’t. I think the biggest offense was in Dirty Desires where the first five chapters are “Dirty Dancing”, the bonus short story from the end of Dirty Love, which is why I recommend skipping the short story entirely and just reading the book. I also hate that Emily’s love of wigs and how it’s like putting on a new persona doesn’t have a stronger presence after the first book. I’d love to see a return to that.
Lastly, as much as I loved Dirty Minds, the amount of exposure that we got to the characters from the The Butcher and the Violinist series made me lose any interest in bothering to read it. I don’t care for Jean-Pierre, his cousins, or his Eden, except for what they can do for the plot in the The Lion and the Mouse series. However, if Wright wants to write a series about The Dragon, and it happens to be an AMBW relationship, then I’ll be happy to read it. I feel like he was named dropped too much for there to not be a story there, despite the fact that Asia doesn’t seem to be a destination on Kaz and Emily’s world tour.
Ultimately, I enjoyed The Lion and the Mouse and I cannot wait to read the next installment. I recommend this series to anyone who loves a good romance with great action scenes and graphic sex. There’s only like one scene of BDSM in the whole series, and even that’s better than whatever went on in Fifty Shades.
If you would like to keep up with me and my adventures in appreciating the many different types of literature, please be sure to subscribe to this blog. If you just want to chat with me about this particular series, make sure to hit me up in the comment section.