Marina Martino loves Las Vegas and has a knack for counting cards. She prides herself on never taking chances with cards—or her heart. But when she meets blackjack dealer Miguel Rodriguez, all bets are off. Marina is knocked off balance by her immediate desire for him and his seemingly mutual lust for her.

Despite the warning bells set off by his violent past and some scary encounters in the present, Marina wants to follow her heart and believe in a future with a man for the first time in a long time. Will Marina win big or lose everything—including her life? DiPlacido does a good job of drawing the reader into the glitter and the seediness of Vegas. Unfortunately, Marina and Miguel do not fare as well as their favorite city. These two are definitely not the boy and girl next door, but DiPlacido shows us very little of what is good about them, making it difficult for the reader to sympathize with them.

Everything about Marina and Miguel— from their language to their lifestyle to their intense lovemaking— is rough and hard. It is the pervasive violence and seediness, mediated by too few positive expressions of emotion, that ultimately makes this book more unsettling than enjoyable. (Feb., 441 pp., $17.00)
Reviewed by: 
Stephanie Schneider