In Romig’s (Lies, 2018, etc.) romantic drama, a New York City entrepreneur marries the love of his life and gains a family—a Mafia family.
It’s the mid-1970s when Oren Demetri first sees Angelina Costello at New York University. He’s immediately enamored with her but fearful of approaching her when he realizes that she’s part of the Mafia-tied Costello family. Nine years later, after he’s made the real estate company Demetri Enterprises a success, he has a chance encounter with Angelina. This time, he doesn’t resist, and after a year of dating, he’s ready to marry her. First, he asks permission from Angelina’s crime-boss uncle Carmine, who’s raised her since her parents’ mob-related murders. Carmine makes clear that if Oren is marrying Angelina, he’s marrying into the family. For starters, this means that Oren must start carrying a weapon to ensure Angelina’s safety. He also begins working with Carmine’s son, Vincent, and his own company soon becomes a Costello umbrella. Although the businesses that Oren incorporates are outwardly legitimate, they provide an easy way for the family to launder money. The dark, violent world of organized crime eventually taints the Demetris’ home life when there’s a killing on the same day that the couple’s first child is born. Later, a rumor circulates that a hit on a mob boss was an inside job, and the Costellos may be in imminent danger from people who think they ordered the murder. Meanwhile, Oren faces the possibility of losing the family that he and his wife have made.
Romig concentrates his story on Oren and Angelina’s struggling relationship. As a result, certain elements of the Mafia plot stay in the background, including an ongoing federal investigation. The author also scales back the mob-related violence in favor of more suspenseful scenes; in several instances, for example, characters worry about assassins targeting Angelina. In fact, the perpetual sense of threat throughout the book helps to make Oren a more sympathetic protagonist. For instance, when his work for Carmine trumps Angelina’s weekend plans, he bluntly tells her the reason why: “I can’t say no to your uncle.” The evolution of the couple’s relationship is both riveting and poignant. Over the course of three decades, they experience a blissful romance before hitting numerous snags in their marriage. But even when they’re fighting, their love is beyond question; Romig provides readers with persistent reminders of their devotion to each other, such as Oren calling Angelina “mio angelo” (“my angel”). The author’s illustrative prose highlights these romantic aspects even when the two are arguing: “Against the white of the pillows, I could make out the curves of her face, her cheekbones, and the pout of her lips.” The novel becomes more tragic as it nears its end, with a few deaths and one of the Costellos insisting that the Demetris’ adult son take part in the family business. But the overall story, like Oren and Angelina’s marriage, is bittersweet and worthwhile.
A crime tale that’s enlivened by a sometimes-heartbreaking but always endearing romance.