by Cora Reilly
Sofia knows how it feels to be the consolation prize.
And definitely not an ice princess.
Her sister is—was all those things. Perfection. Until she wasn’t. Until she ran off to be with the enemy and left her fiancé behind.
Now Sofia is given to Danilo in her sister’s stead, knowing she’ll never be more than second best. Yet, she can’t stop longing for the love of the man she’s been crushing on even when he was still her sister’s.
Danilo is a man who’s used to getting what he wants.
The sought-after ice princess.
Until another man steals his bride-to-be. Danilo knows that for a man in his position losing his woman can lead to a loss of face.
Thirst for revenge.
A dangerous combination—one Danilo can’t leave behind, not even when a girl just as precious takes her sister’s place to placate him. Yet, she’s got one flaw: she’s not her sister.
Unable to forget what he’s lost, Danilo might lose what he’s been given.
I've been aware of this standalone book in Cora Reilly's mafia world for a while, but I am only getting to it now that I am reading the next generation of books. I won't lie ... I was definitely intrigued by Fragile Longing. I do love the in love with the sisters ex trope, but I don't see it done too often. I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed this.
One thing I have noticed with Cora's books, is the more she writes, the better she gets. She evoked emotion in me. In a mafia romance! Cora did a really good job bringing Sofia to the page. The emotional trauma this girl ... woman went through came through, and I felt for her. She comes from a loving family, and a powerful one, but her world is torn apart when the events of the book Twisted Pride take place. When Seraphina was taken, she didn't only lose her sister; in a way, she lost her family. Her parents pain over Seraphina's choices after she was returned to them affected Sophia's relationship with them. Having your future marriage arranged for you, at such a young age, where girls are already self-conscience, and set-up with your sisters jilted fiancé. Ugh. The pain and pressure she felt as she grew into a young woman felt realistic. The cringeworthy things she does to try to emulate her sister, and test her fiancé, felt very age appropriate for her character. Cora does a good job bringing across the page these characters ages, which is not something every writer can do. God, I'm only 35, and I still have trouble understanding my own teenagers.
As for the romance, when it actually happened, I really enjoyed it. I felt they had a lot of chemistry, and I did feel like Danilo made a good match for Sofia. That scene at the birthday party though ... ick.
Fragile Longing isn't overly important for the world Cora has built as a whole, but it does tie up some loose ends from Twisted Pride, and gives a couple of characters a happily ever after. But it is also bittersweet. Don't get me wrong - I love Remo and Seraphina, and no doubt, Seraphina made the right choice for her children and herself - but her family didn't get a happy ending. Her twin and her barely speak. Seraphina has no contact at all with her parents, and her parents feel the pain of her loss everyday. And Sophie felt the need to try to keep her family from crumbling, and try to get the attention of her fiancé, by trying to be Seraphina. It's just all sad. But you know ... you will still enjoy this book if you love Cora's work.
Thou shalt not covet.
I’d pined for Danilo even when he had still been engaged to my sister. It had been an innocent infatuation of a young girl, fantasizing how things would be if he were mine. My knight-in-shining armor, my Disney prince. No two snowflakes are identical in shape; every single one of them is unique—magnificent, icy perfection. Like my sister. I’d tried to imitate her, but an imitation would never be the original. I was an echo of the perfect melody. A shadow of an immaculate image. Always less. Never enough. Sofia: “How do you manage to make me feel stupid but at the same time make me feel better about myself?”
Anna: “Being stupid is the best thing about being young. We’ll be tied down with responsibilities soon enough. Let’s make stupid decisions as long as we can.” I’d messed up often in the past, and now I needed to figure out a way to make it up to my fiancée. Problem was my pride. It had always been and would always be a problem. Anna: “Be selfish for once, Sofia. In this world, we women get so few choices, so little freedom. We have to grasp happiness by the collar and drag it with us. We can’t hope for happiness to jump into our lap. Be selfish. You deserve it.” But I was done finding excuses for his actions, done trying to be what he wanted, what he needed, because so far, he’d done nothing to deserve my kindness or affection. Anna was right. I needed to stand up for myself for the first time in years, not just against Danilo, but also against my family. I needed to make them see that while they’d lost Fina without a choice, they’d willingly given me up. I made a dismissive sound. Then I extended my hand.
Danilo: “Will you dance with me?”
Emma looked almost wounded when I asked.
Danilo: “You always loved to dance.”
Emma: “I did, when I had legs capable of dancing,”
she hissed. I bent and slid one arm under her legs while the other supported her back before I lifted her out of her wheelchair. Her eyes widened.
Emma: “What are you doing?”
Her eyes scanning the crowd—everyone was watching. I didn’t care. If one of them said a single word, I’d make this a bloody wedding.
Danilo: “It’s my wedding, and I want a dance with my sister,”
I said firmly as I held her against my chest. Her arms finally came around my neck and she gave me a look that suggested I was delusional. Danilo: "Love doesn’t work from a distance. You can only love whom you know. Love means work and dedication, but most of all, time.” He took me on a gondola ride in the city center, and the gondolier even sang for us. Unfortunately, he got many Italian words wrong which led to a few very awkward wordings. I had to stifle laughter at some of his mishaps because I didn’t want to offend him. Danilo’s mouth twitched, and he leaned closer.
Danilo: “I had hoped this would be romantic. Alas.” Sofia: “Is this because your sister is getting married to my brother?”
Danilo: “I can’t believe she’s getting married today. I know she’s a grown woman, but to me she’s still the little girl I want to protect.”
Sofia: “That’s why Samuel doesn’t like you very much. You took away his little sister.”
Danilo chuckled, his arms coming around me.
Danilo: “Yeah, he and I have the same protective streak. But I’m not giving you back, either.” Danilo: “I wish you could see yourself through my eyes only once, then you’d never doubt my desire for you again.” Danilo: “I’ll protect you till the end of my days.”
I touched his hand.
Sofia: “I know.”