Review: Once Burned by Sam Mariano

June 20, 2018

Adrian live graphic hitmen.png Title: Once Burned (Morelli Family, #3)
Author: Sam Mariano
Genre: Mafia romance
Series: Morelli Family Series (NOT a standalone, series must be read in order)

Adrians cover  
Adrian Palmetto. 

Mine is a name known by every lowlife in Chicago. Mateo Morelli's right hand man: problem-solver, hit man, chief strategist, confidante—whatever he needs, I'm his guy. Kinda funny, since I hate the bastard. At least, that's what I've told myself over the last five years, serving a man I consider despicable—a man I once considered my closest friend. It's what I had to do, if I wanted Elise. And I wanted Elise more than I've ever wanted anything in my godforsaken life.

Thing is, I'm free now. I don't have to be Mateo's guy anymore. I paid the price for Elise's freedom and now I can start building a life with her. Only it's not that simple. Nothing ever is in this damn family. Elise carries emotional baggage from her own time served, and Mateo's in deep shit without me. 

You'd think I would've learned my lesson about the evils of Mateo's family at 8, when they ruined my life, or maybe even at 28, when they stole it. Now here I am, 33, faced with one final choice: do I escape this family once and for all, or do I dive back into the flames to save Mateo's ass one last time?

**Recommended for readers 18+ due to violence. Book 3 of 4 in the Morelli Family Saga. NOT a standalone. None of these are standalones. Start with Accidental Witness or suffer the consequences! (The consequence is that you'll be really confused. No one will murder you or anything. But I don't advise it.)**

*** It's also strongly recommended that you read Irreparable Damage and Irreparable Lives prior to this one. This book has ALL the spoilers from that duet, so if you ever wanted to read it, you'll want to do that before this book. ***

Once Burned by Sam Mariano is the third book in the Morelli Family series. Unlike the first two, this installment focuses on the relationship between Adrian and Elise. That fact actually made me think that I wouldn't enjoy it as much, but I couldn't have been more wrong!

Adrian Palmetto is many things to Mateo Morelli. He's his right hand, his enforcer, his conscience, and the closest thing he has to a friend. They grew up together in the Morelli household, but Adrian has held a grudge ever since Mateo's father murdered his mother and set him on fire. Who could blame him though, right?

Adrian wanted nothing more than to be free of the Morelli family long ago, but he made a deal with Mateo to work for him for five extra years. In exchange, Mateo would allow Elise, a woman enslaved by him, to leave with Adrian. Now, the five years are up. It's time for Adrian to grab his girl and get out, and he wastes no time doing just that. 

When Meg, Mateo's pregnant fiance, gets shot by a bullet intended for him, Adrian decides to go back to help Mateo on a temporary basis until he deals with the person responsible for the attempt on his life. Adrian may not agree with Mateo's way of doing pretty much anything or the way he treats people, but he still doesn't want him dead. No matter how hard he tries to hate him, he can't. Their bond is weird but strong. There is no one more loyal to Mateo than Adrian, so he is the only man for the job. 

Adrian has waited to be with Elise for half a decade. He finally got a chance to start a life with her. Will helping Mateo mean that life will be over before it really begins?  

Adrian is one of my new favorite characters. I love a lot of things about him, but his heart is what endears him to me most. His love and sacrifice for Elise and even Mateo makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It's comical at times, because he is so gruff on the outside. Adrian beats, tortures, and murders people, but the author writes him in a way that you can't help but love him all the same! 

Elise isn't so bad herself. Adrian is perfect for her. He's the one man that won't take advantage of her innocence and purity. She isn't the only one to benefit from their relationship though. He needed someone like her, too. How often do you find someone that can live in a criminal world and remain wholesome and good? Adrian is so conflicted that I think Elise helps him stay centered in the madness. Bottom line, I have no complaints about his other half.

Once Burned far exceeded my expectations! I had to start the next book immediately, because I haven't enjoyed anything the way I enjoyed this in a while. I've been in a reading slump for months, and this book brought me out! Thank you, Sam!  

If you haven't read this book or any of the Morelli Family series yet, what are you waiting for? It's fantastic! I recommend Once Burned to fans of the series, and I recommend the series to fans of mafia romance! 

Once Burned Hot kindle

Mia Mitchell only wanted a little privacy to make a phone call—but she ended up witnessing a mob hit. Worse, she was spotted. Now entangled with a notorious crime family, will her life ever be hers again?

Find out and meet the Morelli family in: Accidental Witness (Morelli Family, #1)
Adrian and Elise.png

Sam Mariano loves to write edgy, twisty romantic reads with complicated characters you’re left thinking about long after you turn the last page. Her favorite thing about indie publishing is the ability to play by your own rules! If she isn’t reading one of the thousands of books on her to-read list, writing her next book, or playing with her adorable daughter… actually, that’s about all she has time for these days. Feel free to find Sam on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, or her blog—she loves hearing from readers!

➔INSTAGRAM: @sammarianobooks
➔SAM’S (oft neglected…) BLOG:


  1. Fabulous review jessica!! Loved it!! Shared on all my socials!!

  2. You know I added this author to my TBR and put book one on my kindle after the way you went on about it on FB right? Freaking love this review!! I hope I love this just as much xoxo