Delilah Miles grew up in a wealthy family from the north side of Chicago, but her life hasn't been all wine and roses. After her mother left them, her father became an alcoholic who abandoned his parental duty to her. Then Delilah got pregnant, but the father of her child abandoned her, too. Drunk and in a fit of pique, her father kicks her out of his car, along with her baby, late one night in a seedy neighborhood on the south side. When he drives away with her purse and cell phone, she hasn't a dime to her name and no way to contact anyone for help. Risking going into a bar, she asks to use their phone, where she meets one of the bar owners and total hottie, Lucio Gallo, who proves to be her knight in shining armor. When her father completely disowns her, Lucio offers Delilah a place to stay and a job at his bar with no string attached, while he and his family pull out all the stops to make her feel welcome. Delilah is deeply touched by this protective, loyal stranger, who's done more for her than anyone in her life ever has, but can she really trust that he isn't too good to be true?
I can't recall where I first heard about Maneuver, but I know I put it on my TBR list because the blurb sounded right up my alley. I'm a total sucker for an alpha with a heart of gold saving the damsel in distress theme, which this book has. Because of that, I liked it fairly well. It also has likable characters and a sweet but steamy storyline that appealed. However, it also has an insta-love theme, which isn't a favorite trope of mine, because I have a hard time believing that two people can fall in love within a matter of days. I also felt that the plot and characterizations were somewhat lacking in depth with many missed opportunities for correcting these issues which could have made it a perfect read for me. So overall, I enjoyed the book for what it was, but I felt that it had the potential to be so much more if additional attention had been given to certain aspects of the story.
Delilah grew up wealthy on the north side of Chicago, but her life was far from perfect. Her mother left when she was young and her father was an alcoholic who didn't give her the love and attention she deserved. Then she got pregnant, only to have her boyfriend leave her high and dry with a baby to raise on her own. When her drunken father kicks her and her infant daughter, Lulu, to the curb in a Southside neighborhood at midnight, speeding away with her purse and cell phone, Delilah has nowhere to go and doesn't know what to do. She wanders into a bar, the only place that seems to be open, hoping to use the phone. What she finds is a handsome and very generous man, who is a co-owner of the bar. He not only allows her use the phone, but he and his loving mom look out for Delilah and Lulu overnight. The next day, he offers her the vacant apartment above his and a job at the bar to help her get back on her feet. Delilah may have grown up with money, but she's not a snob and she recognizes good people when she sees them. She's absolutely blown away by the generosity of Lucio and his family. I could also relate to her initial shyness about being around a man as attractive as he is. She's a sweet heroine who needs a hand up, but at the same time, she has a backbone that serves her well in taking care of her daughter and standing up for herself when both her father and her ex come calling.
Lucio is the proverbial alpha with a heart of gold. He's protective and possessive of Delilah almost from the moment he meets her, but he's very sweet and kind to both her and Lulu. He co-owns the bar with his three siblings, and their mother lives in the apartment above. He does OK financially, but isn't made of money like Delilah's father. However, he has attributes that are far more valuable than money. Lucio's dad is in prison for being involved in organized crime, and while the guy wasn't a stellar partner to his mother, Lucio does admit that he was a pretty good dad to his kids before being put away. In spite of that, when he learns that his father is soon to be released from jail, he experiences some trepidation about the man's return, which was never really explored. In fact, his dad doesn't actually come home in this book. Overall, Lucio is a great guy who would be almost impossible not to like if for no other reason than because he treats Delilah so well and is an incredible father-figure to little Lulu.
Where I had a few issues is in the characterizations. While Delilah and Lucio are both very likable and pretty relatable characters, I still couldn't help feeling like they were kind of generic. For the most part, what I've outlined so far in my review is about all we get to know of them. I felt like I was just skimming the surface of who they were and what made them tick, rather than really getting to know them on a deep level so that they would stand out more. Also them falling for one another in just a few days time and being ready to make a lifetime commitment lacked a certain degree of credibility, especially since Lucio kind of had a reputation as a player and Delilah was in a vulnerable situation. I just felt like they needed a bit more time to get to know one another first. Additionally, there isn't a great deal to the story besides what I've mentioned and there's really no conflict to speak of. Both Delilah's father and her ex come looking for her, but both are dispatched with little fanfare and there's not really any internal conflict either. Delilah and Lucio merely get together, see how well they fit, and "lock it down." The book is on the shorter side, and I simply would have liked to see it fleshed out a little more to get to know the characters better and to feel like the stakes to them getting together were a bit higher.
Maneuver is the first book in Chelle Bliss' Men of Inked: Southside series. I'm not very clear, but this might be a spin-off of her original Men of Inked series. If so, I didn't have any trouble following the story or feel like I was missing anything by not reading the other series first. The remaining books in the Southside series follow Lucio's siblings. His sister, Daphne, is the heroine of the next book, Flow, while his younger brother, Vinnie, is the hero of the fourth book, Hustle. Lucio's older brother, Angelo, was probably the most intriguing of the three to me, because he's a widower with children. He gets to find love again in the third book, Hook, and their story continues into the final book of the series, Love. Maneuver was my first read by this author, and while it didn't entirely wow me, I did enjoy the sweetness of the story and it was good enough to make me interested in giving the other books a try.
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook