One part Godfather, two parts Emma and a dash of Casablanca mixed together, "First, I Love You" isn't a detective novel, a gangster novel, a mystery, a romance or a family saga. It's a little of all of the above.
Imagine being a detective with a mobster for a father, or a mobster with a straight arrow, good cop for a son. This is a relationship that is tricky on its best day. Add in some well-meaning meddling from a mob princess sister, an arrogant DEA agent, and gangsters running a human trafficking ring and you have a recipe for a book that refuses to follow the rules. Told from the perspective and point of view of each the six main characters this is the first novel in a trilogy about love, loyalty, revenge and redemption.
Omaha Detective Tommy Gates has kept his gangster father at arm's length his whole life. Mickey Downey has spent the better part of the last two decades trying to find ways to get back the son he lost through Witness Protection. Now Tommy has taken an opportunity to work on a Federal Human Trafficking Joint Task Force in Chicago where his father lives. Tommy's sister Kiki and his mother Mary see this as an opportunity to build a relationship between the two. Tommy's new DEA partner James Hoffman sees it as an opportunity to gain leverage over Mickey Downey. Tommy's other partner, FBI Agent Ginny Sommers wants to keep Tommy's family as far from the case as possible. When Kiki and James join forces, sparks fly and it sets fire to a maelstrom of unexpected consequences for everyone involved.
First I Love You is the first book in The Downey Trilogy by Genevieve Dewey. This novel is unlike anything I’ve ever read. When I saw the story was told from the perspective of six different characters, I worried it would be difficult to distinguish between the characters’ narration and follow along with the story.
Genevieve Dewey wastes no time introducing the players and does so in a way that allows the reader to easily follow along without getting lost or confused. Each of the first six chapters is told from a different character’s point-of-view. Within those chapters, I learned so much about each character – their background, their motives, their personalities – and I couldn’t help but get hooked into the story and want to keep reading.
- Tommy Gates – He’s a police officer for the Omaha Police Department and son of notorious mobster Michael “Magic Mickey” Downey. His entire life has been a constant battle to distance himself from his estranged father so he may pursue his dream of law enforcement. Tommy wants little to do with his father despite Mickey’s endless attempts to forge a relationship.
“He had read once that a sign of intelligence was the ability to hold two opposing ideas at the same time and still be able to function.”
- DEA Special Agent James Hoffman – Coming from four generations of Federal cops, James relies on his intuition to stay one step ahead of everyone. He’s determined to break the human trafficking case by any means necessary, even if that means doing whatever it takes to get close to Mickey Downey. What his instincts didn’t prepare him for was Tommy’s firecracker sister, Kiki.
“Sometimes as a cop one just had a feel for these things. No other explanation, James just sort of knew.”
- Kiki Downey – Unlike Tommy, Kiki embraces her heritage and strives to make her father proud. All these years as Mickey’s only daughter have made her savvy, which is why she refuses to let herself become a pawn in James’ game. She’s making her own rules and she came to win.
“The trouble with having a father who adored her unconditionally was being left with the feeling of never quite having earned his approval.”
- Mary Gates – Two decades ago, Tommy’s mother and Mickey’s former mistress, thought she was doing the best thing for her son and herself when she testified against Mickey. All these years she’s been conflicted over her decision and the irreparable damage it caused. Although her guilt has waivered, one thing hasn’t. Mary is still deeply in love with Mickey.
“She’d made a rash choice that day, one that had changed the course of her life forever.”
- Michael “Magic Mickey” Downey – The ultimate mobster. Since retiring from the mafia lifestyle and moving to Chicago, Mickey’s only goal is to make amends and build a relationship with his oldest son, Tommy. However, temptation lurks regardless of what city Mickey inhabits. Is Mickey really ready to leave the only lifestyle he’s known behind for a relationship that may be damaged beyond repair?
“Most of his life, Mickey had figured the world was made out of fools, willfully blind to the realities of life, and it was their own fault if greater men were able to get one over on ‘em.”
- FBI Special Agent Eugenia “Ginny” Elaine Sommers – She thrives in the background, choosing to go unnoticed in order to gain the upper hand. Combine that with her meticulous research skills, and she’s a total package. Yet once she meets Tommy, she wants nothing more than to be in the foreground and noticed by him.
“The end result being that the bad guy routinely miscalculated with her and her coworkers routinely saw her as pleasantly feminine yet benign, minimizing their resentment if she outshined them with her casework.”
These characters are intermingling in a web so thick, no one character can escape. There were moments when I utterly despised Mickey Downey, and other moments where I couldn’t help but pity him.This story was full of twists and turns, making it completely unpredictable. The plot hooked and held my attention the entire time. Combining all the elements of a detective novel, a ganster novel, a mystery, a romance and family saga drama, First I Love You is the complete package.
I’d absolutely recommend adding this book to your TBR List, and I can’t wait to dive in to the second book of The Downey Trilogy, Second of All!
Genevieve Dewey is the author of The Downey Trilogy and the Downey spinoff short stories featuring Katelyn & Dominic. She is a wife, mother, sister, friend and recovering Anthropologist. She loves intelligent debates but has zero tolerance for uninformed opinions (unless it's stated up front it is based upon an irrational belief in which case props for your honesty!). She was raised partly in Nebraska and partly in Arizona. Her parents are from Chicago. Don't get her started on the subject of Chicago unless you want to be bored to death about how awesome Chicago is.
Gen got her Bachelors in Anthropology from Texas A&M University (Whoop!) and a Masters degree in Anthropology from University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Go Big Red!). She worked as an Applied Anthropologist for years (even ran her own research company for awhile) before deciding to be a stay at home mom. She has three insanely brilliant and diabolical children and an incredibly funny and patient husband who is not a Dewey (for which he is thankful because that would be gross) and who hates Chicago (for which his wife forgives him on account of the funny and patient part).