by L.J. Shen
Publishing Date: January 7, 2019
Publisher: LJ Shen
The Premise: "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."
My overall thoughts and review: This was my first book of 2019 and I'm so glad to start off the year with such a great book. As I've started most of my reviews for Shen in the past, you should know by now that she is one of my favorite romance writers ever. Vicious is still to this day my favorite romance read ever, and Vic is the absolute book boyfriend (for me). Shen has such a way with words that leaves you thinking about the characters and stories for long after you finished it. She also has absolutely beautiful prose when it comes to feelings and describing moments, seriously though, I want to get her words framed and plastered all over my house. To begin with, when news of this book first broke out, Shen promised that the book would have "Vicious gritty, dark bite, and a forbidden twist" - I love Vicious so that immediately sold me. I will say in the beginning, I was a little reluctant and worried because of love triangles. I haven't been a big fan of love triangles, and I always find it's a tricky area to write because you have things like cheating thrown into the mix as well. The book does tackle this topic and how you can forgive the other person, but also learn to forgive yourself.
The story takes place in Chicago, where a prominent mobster is forced to offer his daughter up to the Senator for an arranged marriage. Francesca is said daughter, and she has been in love with her childhood friend, Angelo, her entire life. On a night when she thinks they will finally kiss, her first kiss is stolen by the Senator, Wolfe Keaton. She is enraged to learn that she is betrothed to this man who stole her first kiss. Wolfe definitely has the same cruelty, brutality, and honesty that I can't help but love in Vicious. I'm all for the tragic anti-hero trope, and I just knew going into the book that there was so much more than meets the eye with Wolfe. There was a reason for him being closed off and why he was so stuck on destroying Francesca's father, Arthur. I loved seeing them slowly grow on one another, and break down each others walls. I just loved Wolfe so much as a character because he was ruthless in what he wanted, but he also definitely broken down his own boundaries even when he said he wouldn't, and it was all for love of another person. I will say one tragic scene in the book definitely pushes boundaries and it's absolutely heart-wrenching. I get why Wolfe loves Francesca, I do, but for me, I wasn't the biggest fan of her as a female lead, and perhaps that's her age showing through. She is strong-willed and determined though, and in that one scene, where she serves Wolfe a slice of humble pie, I just wow. no words can describe what I felt in that singular moment. It absolutely breaks your heart. I really admired her strength in that moment and the strong reservation to go through with what she planned to do to prove her point.
Shen compared love to death in one moment in the text, and I found that passage to be so accurate, because you never know when it's going to happen and how it's going to happen. It just creeps up on you, and before you know it, you are in love. It's both fast and slow for Francesca and Wolfe. In many ways, the book also reminded me of Shen's other book, Sparrow, with the mafia elements, and how what your family does can affect you later on. I also liked that Francesca's parents own relationship was a nice juxtaposition against her and Wolfe, with how perceptions can change and what is presented on the outside is not necessarily reflective of what is on the inside. I will say, I expected more based on the blurb with her and Angelo, I thought maybe they had an actual relationship before Wolfe. The book looks at trust as one of the main issues and the characters return to this time and time again. It's not a beautiful HEA, and it's twisty, and I really loved that. I loved how both characters were deeply flawed and had to suffer to learn. It just felt more authentic to me because love isn't always easy, and it takes work. All in all, I found myself unable to put this book down and pushing myself to stay up late to finish it. Vicious is still my favorite, but Wolfe is a close second. This is up there as one of my favorite reads by Shen, and honestly, I feel like her writing gets better with each book? If you haven't read anything by Shen yet, I would definitely recommend this one as it's a standalone, and it's a dark fairy tale that will break your heart and put it back together again.
My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮✮ - 5/5 stars
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About the Author
L.J. Shen is an International #1 best-selling author of Contemporary Romance and New Adult novels. She lives in Northern California with her husband, young son and chubby cat. Before she’d settled down, L.J. (who thinks referring to herself in the third person is really silly, by the way) traveled the world, and collected friends from all across the globe. Friends who’d be happy to report that she is a rubbish companion, always forgets peoples’ birthdays and never sends Christmas cards. She enjoys the simple things in life, like spending time with her family and friends, reading, HBO, Netflix and internet-stalking Stephen James. She reads between three to five books a week and firmly believes Crocs shoes and mullets should be outlawed.
Connect with L.J. Shen
Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC of this book from Candi Kane PR to participate in this blog tour and in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.