arc · review · romance

The Kiss Thief by L.J. Shen

The Kiss Thief
by L.J. Shen

Rating: ★★★★★
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They say your first kiss should be earned.

Mine was stolen by a devil in a masquerade mask under the black Chicago sky.

They say the vows you take on your wedding day are sacred.

Mine were broken before we left church.

They say your heart only beats for one man.

Mine split and bled for two rivals who fought for it until the bitter end.

I was promised to Angelo Bandini, the heir to one of the most powerful families in the Chicago Outfit.

Then taken by Senator Wolfe Keaton, who held my father’s sins over his head to force me into marriage.

They say that all great love stories have a happy ending.

I, Francesca Rossi, found myself erasing and rewriting mine until the very last chapter.

One kiss.
Two men.
Three lives.
Entwined together.

And somewhere between these two men, I had to find my forever.

*ARC provided by author/publisher in exchange for an honest review*

You can also read this review on Goodreads

A story of a Nemesis and a Villain with no chance at a happy ending. Where the prince doesn’t save the princess. He tortures her. And the beauty doesn’t sleep. She’s stuck. In a nightmare.

What a fantastic beginning to reading in 2019!

I knew I’d fall in love with this, because it is L.J. Shen. One of, if not, my favourite author. Ever. She’s a proficient and excellent writer—her sentences are carefully and beautifully constructed into gripping scenes and concise prose—who continues to astound me with every release.

She’s mastered an ability to transform cold-hearted and callous asshole heroes, who undergo an inevitable transformation of redemption, into loveable characters we can’t hate. They’re always damaged, filled with cynicism and sarcasm and hatred towards the wrongdoer, yet loaded with vengeance and countless positive qualities that make them them.

God, she was sweet, and she was all mine. Not just her body but also her words and her courage.

I thought I loved Baron “Vicious” Spencer; adored Celian Laurent, but I’m unconditionally infatuated and unquestionably besotted with Wolfe Keaton—The Kiss Thief. On the surface, he appears to be nothing beyond ruthless; however, there’s an immense amount of depth, intrigue and enigma surrounding this mean anti-hero. Without doubt, he is complex and multi-faceted, someone who appears withdrawn and detached, yet beneath the tough exterior is someone able to love. And love hard. Fierce, without shame. Wild, without restraint.

We were entwined and entangled, connected with invisible strings, each of us trying to pull away, only to create more knots that made us closer.

Francesca Rossi is my newest fictional best friend. Tangent: I was almost named Francesca. Ergo, we’re best friends. I digress. Having been raised dreadfully sheltered inside a gilded cage, oftentimes Francesca appears to be docile, unsure of herself and awfully immature. Seeming complaisant, or sometimes quiet, however, doesn’t always mean being submissive or feeble-minded—she’s quick-witted and intelligent. Torn between an older life bound in tradition and a newer life promising freedom, Francesca transforms into someone more daring, challenging and outspoken.

He turned to me, his grays on my blues, two pools of beautiful lies.

Wolfe and Francesca are explosive. Passionate enemies who slowly and quietly transform into intimate lovers. Wrapped up in an unexpected fervid romance; embraced by an intense connection.

The Kiss Thief is an engrossing, riveting narrative of an arranged marriage set within a modern Chicago. Promises of revenge shadowed by danger is abundant—you will be turning the pages faster than expected. L.J. Shen continues to astound me with the ways she illustrates love. It is always an intense fierceness of earnest affection and vicious yearning that is wretched and heart-aching however real. To be in real love is to be free. To change. To transform into someone greater than you’ve imagined. And she’s portrayed this through Wolfe and Francesca.

arc · review · romance

ARC Review | Dirty Headlines by L.J. Shen

Dirty Headlines

by L.J. Shen

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SYNOPSIS

Célian Laurent.
Manhattan royalty.
Notorious playboy.
Heir to a media empire.
…And my new boss.

I could have impressed him, if not for last month’s unforgettable one-night stand.
I left it with more than orgasms and a pleasant memory–namely, his wallet.
Now he’s staring me down like I’m the dirt under his Italian loafers, and I’m supposed to take it.
But the thing about being Judith “Jude” Humphry is I have nothing to lose.
Brooklyn girl.
Infamously quirky.
Heir to a stack of medical bills and a tattered couch.
When he looks at me from across the room, I see the glint in his eyes, and that makes us rivals.
He knows it.
So do I.
Every day in the newsroom is a battle.
Every night in his bed, war.
But it’s my heart at stake, and I fear I’ll be raising the white flag.


REVIEW

You can also read this review on Goodreads!

First she got into my bed, then under my skin, then into my heart.

I have a confession to make: I’m cheating on Vicious with Celian.

I’ve said it before: L.J. Shen is my Queen of Asshole Heroes.

First, Vicious. Now, Celian. I know, I shouldn’t compare these two ruthless men because fundamentally they’re both very different, yet at the same time they’re eerily similar. They both share an obsession, a deep-rooted love for the women they want. They’re cold and mean. Assholes, inside and outside the boardroom. I could continue comparing these two wonderfully amazing fictional personas, but that would ruin the reading experience.

In short, if you loved Vicious, you’ll love Dirty Headlines.

Célian Laurent was the biggest jerk to ever walk on planet earth, and he carried that title like a badge of honor.

Dirty Headlines is flourishing with signature asshole personas, a unique heroine who doesn’t bend over backwards (I’m staring at you, Indigo Bellamy), an insane amount of titillating chemistry, tantalizing drama, unexpected storyline turns and comedic value. It is lighter, less angst-driven than any of her previous novels, but that doesn’t deteriorate this upcoming release’s value. It only furthers it.

Where to begin?

Celian Laurent is perfect. I know, how does an asshole be perfect? Guess what, L.J. Shen has the answers. Underneath his no-nonsense attitude and imposing personality is someone intelligent, brutally honest, ruthless and oftentimes humorous. He is rude, crude and has the filthiest mouth imaginable that’ll leave you blushing and fanning yourself vigorously. Beyond this persona though is someone with integrity, honorability and vulnerability. Celian Laurent is complex and somewhat damaged.

My heart is not a lonely hunter. My heart feels. It beats. It loves. It breaks.

Judith Humphry is going to become my next favourite heroine. I’m inspired by her ambition and determination to succeed in journalism. Enamoured by her fierce loyalty and incredible amounts of carefree love. She isn’t shy, or awkward or terrified to stand up against Celian, making her impressive as she doesn’t bend over backwards for his possessive and demanding attitude. I adored her witty and quirky sense of humour, her strong-willed manners.

First she got into my bed, then under my skin, then into my heart.

Some authors are meant to write.

And the amazing Leigh Shen is one of those. She’s established this reputation as someone capable of writing beautifully constructed sentences that are both concise and poetic. She’s also mastered the ability to transform cold-hearted bastard heroes into loveable characters, who are the perfect matching piece to the sassy, usually quirky heroines she writes.

She’s capable of changing writing styles and genres without disrupting the quality. It is indisputable proof that she’s a gifted storyteller and character creator; her future stories will continue to become better and better.

Dirty Headlines is rife with burning hatred and fierce passion and all-consuming obsession. It is the perfect enemies to lovers story, as it begins with delicious smut goodness before thrusting is into love-hate scenes, creating mouth-watering tension. It is light, filled with comedic value, humorous situations and references to various films and shows.

The girl was a lioness at work and a lamb in bed, the perfect combination for a predator like me.

Within the office environment, Celian and Judith are equal, but inside the bedroom Celian’s dominance and commanding presence, along with that sinfully filthy mouth, shined. They have intense chemistry, a captivating romance that is both dirty and romantic. They’re a complicated, but entertaining mess of emotions and passion.

Despite the missing angst-ridden story lines we’re used to, Dirty Headlines is still an enrapturing and addicting read. A perfect enemies to lovers office romance with a hint of slow burn.

review · romance

Review | Midnight Blue by L.J. Shen

Midnight Blue

by L.J. Shen

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SYNOPSIS

It should have been easy.
I needed the money. He needed a babysitter to keep him from snorting himself to death.
I was cherry-picked especially for him. Responsible. Optimistic. Warm. Innocent.
The worst part is that I should have known better.
Alex Winslow. British rock star. Serial heartbreaker. Casanova with whiskey eyes.
“Don’t get near the devil in a leather jacket. He’ll chew you up and spit you out.”
Guess what? I didn’t listen.
I signed the contract.
World tour. Three months. Four Continents. One hundred shows.
My name is Indigo Bellamy, and I sold my soul to a tattooed god.
Problem was, my soul wasn’t enough for Alex Winslow. He ended up taking my body, too.
Then he took my heart.
Then he took my all.


REVIEW

You can also read this review on Goodreads!

Before you cringe at my rating, I promise I enjoyed this. I really, really, really did. L.J. Shen is an amazing writer, there’s no denying it. She strings together sentences so beautifully, they become lyrically and poetically enthralling. While weaving a unique tongue-in-cheek sense of humour, and writing some memorable quirky heroines and angst-ridden asshole heroes, she’s established a reputation for herself as an amazing story-teller and character creator.

She’s my Queen of Asshole Heroes.

Some aspects of this made me swoon with stars in my eyes, or giggle in absolute delight. They just didn’t happen enough, hence my rating. I also experienced moments where I really wanted to throw my Kindle, but I’m awfully attached to my little piece of brilliant technology. However, my biggest issue is Indie, who’s both endearing and infuriating in equal measure.

“Life is full of secrets, and narrow-minded people, and sugar-coated, empty conversations that hold no weight. What’s real is what’s inside us. What’s important is what we feel.”

Travelling is one of my greatest hobbies, so to read about the characters on tour, jumping from continent to continent, exploring the various cities they visited, it feels as if you’re travelling around the world, watching relationships transform and experiencing the same moments as Alex and Indie.

Asshole heroes have a spot in my heart. Brooding, arrogant assholes are enticing because they are mean, dangerous and oftentimes the antithesis of everything wholesome in life. Alex Winslow isn’t just an asshole, he is an outright knob. I don’t care that he abuses booze and drugs, or that he is unsettled. I care that he harboured this fascination and obsession with Fallon, his ex-fiancee.

Indigo Bellamy is an interesting character. She’s full of contradictions. She’s neither tough nor sassy, but rather a pushover and doormat. I actually adored her during the beginning and ending. To watch her personality go downhill during the middle was disappointing and depressing because she could’ve been such a good character!

For more than 3/4 of this, Alex continuously tells Indie, in blatant and brutal honesty, that they have an expiration date, because he’s too busy chasing his ex-girlfriend. I know they tried to redeem Alex towards the end using a decent excuse to explain his treatment towards Indie, however no matter the reasoning he is still a giant knobhead.

“I waited for many things, but a few minutes later, I heard the door open and shut, and knew he’d left me there, like the disposable fuck doll he’d wanted me to feel like.”

I can’t stop myself from comparing Indie to Millie, the starring character of L.J.’s other novel, Vicious. They both have vibrant coloured hair, share similar creative and exuberant personalities (Indie sews, Millie paints), a quirky style of fashion and they have asshole men charging into their lives.

However, the biggest difference between them is Millie actually doesn’t take Vicious’ bullshit, whereas Indie rolls over despite everything Alex has said and done. Oh and another thing: Vicious is actually a loveable asshole because at least he cares about Millie, whereas Alex is just a five year old dressed up like an adult.

Then you came in, walked away, and guess what? Now I know. I know I’m incomplete and my soul, which I thought was dying, is actually in Los Angeles, riding a French bike in a ridiculous dress.

During the end chapters I actually started to fall in love with Alex and Indie. Despite the heartache and struggles they’ve been through, they grow and change into better characters. Indie gains confidence from somewhere and begins standing up for herself. Alex starts recovering from substance abuse, coming back down to humanity after suffering from an addiction.

I seem to have this love-hate relationship with literally every character this author writes. Will it ever stop me from reading her brilliant writing? Hell no. I love immersing myself in the worlds she creates.

arc · review · romance

ARC Review | Bane by L.J. Shen

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Bane (Sinners of Saint #5)
by L.J. Shen

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Bane
Naked surfer. Habitual pothead. A con, a liar, a thief and a fraud.
Last I heard, he was extorting the rich and screwing their wives for a living.
Which is why I’m more than a little surprised to find him at my threshold, looking for my friendship, my services, and most puzzling of all—looking humbled.
Thing is, I’m on a boycott. Literally—I cut boys from my life. Permanently.
Problem is, Bane is not a boy, he is all man, and I’m falling, crashing, drowning in his sweet, perfect lies.

Jesse Carter
Hot as hell, cold as ice.
I wasn’t aware of her existence until a fat, juicy deal landed in my lap.
She’s a part of it, a little plaything to kill some time.
She is collateral, a means to an end, and a side-bonus for striking a deal with her oil tycoon stepdad.
More than anything, Jesse Carter is a tough nut to crack.
Little does she know, I have the teeth for it.


★★★★★
You can also read this review on Goodreads

Sometimes in life we come across stories that we will never forget. It will grip you. Command your attention. Dominate your thoughts. It will stay with you for forever. That’s Bane, without a doubt. I was torn between wanting to devour this and wanting to savour every sentence, every single word as slowly as possible.

L.J. Shen blew me away with Vicious. Everything about it – the story, the characters and her flawless writing – is perfect. When Ms Shen said Bane is different, that it is darker than anything she’s written, she wasn’t lying. It is dark, heavy and emotionally raw. It is soul igniting and heart destroying.

I honestly never thought I could love anyone or anything as much as I love Vicious.

As soon as you read the prologue, your jaw will drop. Your heart will ache. It will ignite itself. Explode. It is raw, real and confronting. Goosebumps will trail down your arms. It will leave you hypnotised. That’s when you know you have an amazing story right before you.

Ms Shen reached brand new heights with this latest release.

And it’s earned a very close, well deserved spot in my heart right next to Vicious.

When Bane was introduced to us in Scandalous, I was intrigued straight away. Who was this bad boy? What made Bane savage, vicious and seeming dangerous? What made him different from our four beloved HotHoles?

I was me. I was an outsider, with no lineage, fancy last name, or historic legacy.

Bane is, without doubt, an egotistical and savage asshole. He’s sexy, dangerous, a criminal mastermind and habitual pothead. A con artist, a thief, a liar. Self-serving. Conniving. When you live in Todos Santos, what’d you expect? Bane does what he wants, as well as who he wants, when he wants for a hefty price and motive behind it. He doesn’t care about meeting society’s exceptions or maintaining an upstanding reputation. He is unapologetically himself. He is the perfect anti-hero.

But when fate puts Bane down an interesting path, he finally finds something to genuinely care about. It’s in the form of Jesse Carter, a broken and damaged and sheltered girl.

We weren’t a boy and a girl. We were two lonely, fucked-up souls. It made wanting Bane in my life acceptable. I wanted him to fix me.

I adore Jesse. It is often difficult for me to fall in love with heroines, because they lack complexity and personality. I love when my heroines have sass, quick wit, strength, intelligence and independence. When they bring down the biggest and baddest alpha males to their knees. Jesse fits that criteria. Her bravery and perseverance is awe-inspiring after everything she’s been through and experienced. It is harrowing and difficult, the things she’s lived through, but she’s earned nothing but respect and admiration from me. To live through that kind of hard life, yet still leave the other end of the tunnel determined to win yourself back is extraordinary.

She may be cracked around the edges, a little broken on the inside, but she isn’t irreparable. She’s still a gorgeous and wonderful character, inside and outside. She’s a queen, not a damsel in distress. While Bane might have reignited her spark, adding splashes of colour back into her dark life, she isn’t weak. She’s her own saviour. While her demons surround her, she’s determined to bring justice and sweet revenge to those who wronged her.

Maybe love wasn’t about feeling happy and whole. Maybe love was about breaking so the person you cared for would feel a little more whole.

Bane is everything. Perfection. It is also so much more. It is darker and grittier than anything Ms Shen has written, and the message she inserts into this twisted, beautiful story is clear. Bane and Jesse, despite the demons that follow them, despite the darkness that surrounds them, are determined to create something for themselves. And the way this unfurls, the way Bane and Jesse transform is done so beautifully.

I cannot find fault with this story – at all. Ms Shen has managed to deliver an emotionally raw, heart wrenching story with hope and love weaved throughout. It gives a good message that, even in dark times, light is always there. Watching. Waiting. Sometimes we have to find it ourselves. Other times we need that gentle push from someone else.

I’m so, so pleased Ms Shen wrote Bane. Thank you so, so much for delivering this masterpiece. It is beautiful. Heart warming. Heart wrenching. Confronting and inspiring.

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