Made, companion novel to the Sempre series by J.M. Darhower, is packed with emotion and gives amazing insight into one of our favorite characters, Corrado Moretti. Put this (along with the Sempre series) on your Christmas list, for sure!
[Some Spoilers; For Mature Audiences]
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
“But the one thing I want most, I can’t take. You can’t steal time. You can’t rob God. And that pisses me off more than it should.” –Antonio DeMarco, Made
Made is one of my absolute favorite books. I’ve re-read it multiple times already. In fact, I was looking up quotes for this review and ended up reading it again. It’s just that freaking good.
Corrado Moretti is such a dynamic character. Readers know him as Carmine DeMarco’s (Sempre series) very lethal uncle. This book follows him from his childhood through his adult life, and it’s brilliant. Corrado always seemed like such a cold, reserved man, and he really is, but the readers get to see what made him that way in this companion novel.
As a child, his home life is nothing short of awful. His mother is abusive and his father is absent. The first person he ever loved was murdered because of something he said to do, and Corrado slowly folds into himself and his emotions grow even. He doesn’t cry. He doesn’t yell. He doesn’t show anger or terror. Corrado Moretti simply is.
As he grows up, he wants nothing more than to be exactly like his father, Vito. His father is someone important. People respect him and treat him well. It also helps that with a life like Vito’s, he can finally get away from his mother and twin sister.
There is a single bright spot in all of Corrado’s childhood, and it’s the summer that he goes to stay with the DeMarcos in North Carolina and meets a their daughter, Celia. She’s loud and full of life. Celia seems to take over a room, and she doesn’t let Corrado’s sister, Katrina, run all over her. The reason for the visit is never explained to Corrado until Celia shows him a scrapbook she keeps that contains the story of their families told in newspaper clippings. It’s a shock to find out who his father really is, but it all makes sense to him in a way.
After that summer, Corrado creates his own crew and they do odd jobs for people, but they always piggyback off the Moretti name to gain the credibility. In a very serious moment with his father, Vito explains what having a name like his means.
“Do you know who I am?”
Corrado’s brow furrowed. “You’re my father.”
“I am, but above that…before that…I’m Vito Moretti. And when you’re out there, using my name, associating yourself with me, they ain’t thinking about your father. They ain’t thinking about the guy who got you that Sox bat for your birthday one year. They’re thinking about Vito Moretti, the man they heard stories about.”
“I got a reputation that proceeds me. And if you wanna be out there, doing what you’re doing, you need to do it with your own name. You need to build your own legacy. And if you can’t? Well, then you ain’t got no business being out there. Understand?”
From that moment on, Corrado begins building his own reputation. He starts working for his father more and more. He runs money between casinos, but the night comes when he finally has to take a life, and he does so without even flinching.
Before he knows it, he’s in Chicago and working his ways up through the ranks of La Cosa Nostra, desperately wanting to became a made man like his father.
It’s at this point that we get an in depth look at how Corrado gains a strong foothold in the organization as a hired killer and also how his relationship with Celia evolves. The romance in this book blows me away because Corrado doesn’t know what love really is, but he feels this instant connection and safety with Celia.
He breaks the rules for her and lies for her. She twists him up inside and breaks him out of his shell. Where Corrado is quiet, Celia is loud. Corrado is run by logic and Celia is driven by emotion. Their interactions with each other are so sweet and funny. It’s those moments that drive home that Corrado is still a kid in a lot of ways. He and Celia are only eighteen, but he’s never had the opportunity to be happy with anyone before.
“You can’t put me on a pedestal. I’ll only fall.”
“You’ll never fall,” he said. “Not if I’m there to catch you.”
A small smile infused her lips, despite the self-doubt still lurking in her eyes. “How do you do that?”
“Say things so matter-of-fact and make people believe them?”
“It’s not that hard when what I say is true.”
And from anyone else, it would sound cliché, but Corrado is so honest. Celia is the love of his life and he has known it since he was a child. She’s the only thing he has ever allowed himself to want, and he takes the love she gives him very seriously.
“I’ll never deserve you, I’ll never be good for you, but I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to be enough.”
As their relationship progresses, and dating turns to becoming engaged to getting married, the other parts of the story fall into place that set the stage for the Sempre novels. Corrado gains his reputation as the Kevlar Killer and rises through the ranks of La Cosa Nostra all the while looking out for Celia’s younger brother, Vincenzo or Vincent, as he likes to be called.
The book continues on through Corrado’s life, and J.M. shows the background action of Vincent and Maura’s relationship. Their complicated beginnings and love story, and the devastating losses they suffer.
Corrado is there through it all. He’s playing his part and trying to appear unaffected, but as time passes, he starts to move pieces on the board more and more in favor of his family. He feels a protectiveness that is something beyond his obligation to La Cosa Nostra. He pulls his weight and digs deep to find out the secrets of what’s going on behind the scenes of the organization that he loves so much.
Corrado would say that he does it for Celia, but I think there’s a part of him that finally acknowledges his connection to the people around him. We see it with how he handles Haven with such care and how he helps Vincent that last time and his “Perdonatemi.”
The ending of the book leaves us with a sense of doom in a way. A man like Corrado can’t stay on top forever.
He wasn’t sure where it began, but he did know the end. He knew where the trail led to, what the last domino to fall would be.
It would be the last page in Celia’s scrapbook.
The last page in the novel is a brief addition, but punches you right in the gut. While stealing your breath, it was absolutely fitting for the story. For readers of both the Sempre series and Made, if you take the dates from the Halloween epilogue of Sempre: Redemption and the last page of this book, you’ll completely see what a genius J.M. is and how everything she writes is part of a plan.
There are so many great passages in this book. I wish I couldn’t have added them all. There are steamy scenes between Corrado and Celia that will leave you swooning and wanting more. You will adore their love story, and it will stick with you for such a long time.
Go HERE to read a teaser from Made, courtesy of J.M. Darhower!
***Recommendation: This is listed as #0.4 in the order of the series, but I think it would be best read after reading #1 and #2. It will give you a better handle on the story if read in that order.