REVIEW: 365 Days by Blanka Lipińska (trans. Filip Sporczyk)

The sexy and deeply romantic internationally bestselling novel that inspired the blockbuster movie.

Laura Biel and her boyfriend are on a dream vacation in beautiful Sicily. On the second day of their trip, her twenty-ninth birthday, she is kidnapped. Her kidnapper is none other than the head of a powerful Sicilian crime family, the incredibly handsome, young Don Massimo Torricelli, who is determined to possess her at all costs. Massimo has his reasons. During an earlier attempt on his life, a vision appeared before his eyes: a beautiful woman, identical to Laura. After surviving the attack, he vows that he will find the woman in his vision and make her his own. No matter what.

For 365 days, Massimo will keep Laura captive in his palatial estate and attempt to win her heart. If she doesn’t fall in love with him during this time, he will let her go. But if she tries to escape at any point, he will track her down and kill her entire family.

Soon Laura develops a fascination with her handsome and powerful captor. But as a precarious, risky relationship forms between them, forces outside their control threaten to tear them apart…

My thoughts

I’ve never read any mafia romances before this, but having seen and reviewed the movie on Netflix, I was intrigued to see how the book might differ. (And, if I’m honest, I’m a bit of an egomaniac and like to read anything that features a character with my own name in it. As Paris Hilton might put it: “That’s hot.”) The movie follows the book’s plot quite faithfully, although readers get a bit more insight into Laura’s thought process as she goes along with Massimo’s crazy plan, since the story is told from her POV. There isn’t much to be found in the text that can’t be gleaned from watching the film, however, since most of the observations are fairly surface, and Laura and Massimo’s verbal interactions are frequently shouted or whispered, just like in the movie. These two run hot and cold, and seem to only have two modes of communication: sex or slapping (and sometimes both together).

So, given the erotic nature of this book, your first question is probably: Are the sex scenes hot? The answer, unsurprisingly, is yes. They definitely veer towards the darker end of the scale, with BDSM elements and dubcon (dubious consent) heavily stirred in. Massimo promises Laura that he’ll never do anything without her explicit consent, yet perpetually pushes the line with her – and, to be fair, she does the same with him. It’s ultimately a game between them, pushing each other closer and closer to the edge, whether that’s towards orgasm or violence, and although this isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, I can see why fans enjoy this interplay between them, since Lipińska offers it in bulk quantities.

If I’m being honest, reading this book reminded me of the time I read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road for a job application. So many scenes were so similar that eventually they all started to blur together. Soon I was asking myself: “Will they fuck? Will they fight? Will they be eaten by cannibals? Will Armie Hammer star in the second movie? Where is this even GOING?!”

Thankfully, the book does not require you to slog through 365 actual days in this bizarre relationship. I mean, honestly, who could stand it? They fuck, they fight, they fuck while fighting… rinse and repeat. For an entire year?! Thanks, but no. No erotica writer is skilled enough to keep me riveted to each individual sex scene, played out one day at a time, almost 400 times in a row. It’s a matter of quantity vs. quality. No one would ever ask for a book with 365 sex scenes in it. It’s absurd on its face.

Still, the title is 365 Days, not A Couple of Weeks of Fucking and thus I naturally found myself wondering what else happened during their year together. The sexual tug-of-war could only take up so much time, and since Laura reiterates that she believes Massimo wants her to love him, not merely desire him sexually, something else had to happen. There are a few additional plot twists and turns before the end of the book, which is different than the film’s ending (no spoilers!), since this is a trilogy and there are two more books to come. I will leave it to readers to page through and discover these bits for themselves, if they truly desire more of Massimo and Laura.

So, is this an ideal romance? Far from it. Is it a fun fantasy, particularly as we’re all still in some form of lockdown? Sure, it’s a good escape. I appreciated the short descriptions of Italian cities, interspersed between the over-the-top luxury of Massimo’s remote castle, his collection of fast cars, and various other financial holdings.

Overall, if you don’t tend to prefer mafia romances or kidnappings as the starting point of your romantic tales, this one likely won’t work for you. The whole “365 days to make you love me” conceit only works with a strong suspension of disbelief, so if you can’t get past this crazy notion, the entire book unravels. So, baby girl, what’ll it be?