A quick warning to those looking for an erotic novel focusing on lesbian/women-on-women relationships: you won’t find much of that in Mafia Aphrodite. That said, if you’re cool with whatever kind of erotica focusing exclusively on a very attractive woman with tons of attention to stylistic details, you may be enticed regardless.
Our leading lady, Lucy Incanto, is the daughter of a Don, Luca “Big Luke” Incanto. Right off the bat we see Lucy distressed and conflicted, and if this wasn’t erotica the sexuality would be surprising. It’s a good hook, and De Noux exemplifies in the first few pages the rule of “show, don’t tell.” It may be all internal, but we see what Lucy’s feeling and thinking just as much as we’re told. We see a hesitant but sexual young woman who’s determined to use the corner she’s been backed into as a way to further her maturation.
As a mafia princess, Lucy doesn’t hold much weight on her own. The power in her world belongs to men, even if it’s acknowledged that they may be serving just as figureheads. The power she holds as a woman is purely sexual, and purely to influence the men around her. Her main dilemma throughout the novel is to sift through the suitors that have been chosen and select a candidate as her husband, the next head of the Incanto family.
Lucy’s choice depends on who she feels most compatible with, as the candidate pool has already been narrowed down to trustworthy men the rest of the family feels comfortable leaving their business practices to. Her compatibility with each man is based first on sex, as she tests their boundaries and her own, and eventually blossoms into caring for each individually and coming into her own as well.
The plot, as erotica tends to be, is a pretty simple one. Girl in prominent family must marry to continue family, girl tests candidates to ultimately choose, girl finds happiness somehow. The way this is laid out is also simple but detailed, and the whole focus is hardly on the sexual scenes so much as it’s narrowed on making sure the reader can envision everything at all times. While reading this you could see the beaches, you’re almost in the restaurant, the storm isn’t just in the novel, but it’s right outside your own home. The attention to detail for all the important elements to spin this world into reality is all there, bright and vivid. The dialogue flows naturally and has enough individual flair to easily hear different voices for each character, and all in all if you have any familiarity with mafia films or shows like The Godfather (mentioned in the novel) or The Sopranos, you can see everything as easily as if you were there yourself.
It’s not without its problematic elements, which I want to address for anyone who might be too uncomfortable with these things to continue. Lucy is highly objectified and doesn’t seem to have as much personality or character as any of the candidates that compete for her love, which isn’t unusual for erotica, but still a little unnerving when you get a tantalizing glimpse of who Lucy could be compared to the solidity of who the male characters already are. At least, the white male characters. Lucy’s bodyguards are black twin men, and while there’s an attempt to give them a deeper bond with her, it falls short and shallow even so, and they’re reduced from fully-fleshed out characters to “Lucy’s black bodyguards.” Last, the heteronormativity is astounding. The one time Lucy is sexually intimate with a woman, the woman isn’t enough for her. Fair enough for Lucy as a heterosexual character, but I realize that can be disheartening to read as a queer woman. To anyone familiar with the mafia genre, this is standard fare.
As someone already a fan of the mafia genre in all forms, this was a sweet little nugget I enjoyed, despite the problematic issues named. Mafia Aphrodite isn’t groundbreaking, and it didn’t shake my world up, but I definitely don’t regret reading it and would recommend it to anyone looking for a quick, sexy read you can really get immersed in.