My love affair with LJ Shen began with her book, Midnight Blue. I believe I found it on Kindle as a recommendation and thought the book cover looked interesting, so I began reading it. It did NOT disappoint. It grabbed my tender heart, tore it into a million pieces through the characters’ stories, and mushed those pieces back together again. After that, I read Vicious (gutted me again), Scandalous, The End Zone, and Bane. Each book reminded me of the genius of Shen’s ability to create flawed characters who find redemption in the end. This redemption, however, unlike in other stories, doesn’t make them weaker or desperately changed. Instead, Shen maintains her characters’ flaws but she allows their foils to love them through those flaws. It’s a thing of mastery.
Recently, she released Dirty Headlines. This post features my review for that book.
Characters: 💙💙💙💙💙 For me, the strength of this book is its characters: Celian and Judith “Jude”/Chucks. The chemistry between these two is a thing of beauty. Their verbal sparring builds their relationship, and it’s the glue of the chemistry. Both characters are broken in some way. Shen shows us that they can only find healing in each other. It takes 7/8ths of the book for that to happen, but it’s that dysfunction that pulls the reader into their world and keeps you there.
It’s easy to think that Celian is irredeemable. For lack of a better phrase, he is a world-class asshole. Some of the words that escape his mouth are so cringe-worthy that you almost don’t want to keep reading. However, Jude shovels it back ten-fold. That’s the beauty of their relationship, and it was my favorite part of this book.
Story: 💙💙💙💙 The story is secondary to the characters in this book. I loved the story, don’t get me wrong. I simply don’t think the story is the anything new to the romance world: god-like billionaire with family problems falls for the income-deficient woman who works for him and has a father who adores her. There are a few other surprises in the story, but they aren’t unusual to this romance trope. Again, the characters are the power of this story.
Sexiness Quotient: 💙💙💙💙💙 Off the charts. Celian Laurent is a kinky bastard. He loves sex, and he loves it with Jude. Their sexy is “fan your face” fun.
Style: 💙💙💙💙💙 When I read other romance review blogs, this isn’t something I find other’s considering. In the romance world, it’s easy to get trapped in characters and story and the “HAWT” factor (by the way, I HATE the word “hot” to explain the sex in a romance book). For me, the style is EVERYTHING. I’ve read books wherein I could have LOVED the characters and story BUT the writer’s style didn’t develop the nuances of those parts. That is DEFINITELY not Shen’s issue. Her writing flows, it’s witty, and it isn’t overly descriptive in the way that some romance novels love to overexplain every point. She gives enough detail so that you’re engaged from start to finish. I gobbled this book in a mighty book binge gulp. Her connection between words and ideas and characters allowed me to satiate my appetite in one fell swoop.
Overall, I am a HUGE fan of LJ Shen. This book did not disappoint, and I found two new favorite romantic characters in Celian and Jude.
“The circumstances were pure semantics. Sins wrapped in sugar so I could swallow them more easily.”
In love and romance,