They say love and hate are the same feelings experienced under different circumstances, and it’s true.
The man who comes to me in my dreams also haunts me in my nightmares.
He is a brilliant lawyer.
A skilled criminal.
A beautiful liar.
A bully and a savior, a monster and a lover.
Ten years ago, he made me run away from the small town where we lived. Now, he came for me in New York, and he isn’t leaving until he takes me with him.
She is a starving artist.
Pretty and evasive like cherry blossom.
Ten years ago, she barged into my life unannounced and turned everything upside down.
She paid the price.
Emilia LeBlanc is completely off-limits, my best friend’s ex-girlfriend. The woman who knows my darkest secret, and the daughter of the cheap Help we hired to take care of our estate.
That should deter me from chasing her, but it doesn’t.
So she hates me. Big fucking deal.
She better get used to me.
To say that I was so eager to read Vicious (Sinners of Saint Book One) was an understatement. So thrilled to have been given the chance to review an Advanced Reader’s Copy of it and it was perfect timing because I was on a mission to read something different–darker but not over the top twisted. I have also read so many raves about L.J. Shen’s writing style which predictably added up to the already burning excitement. Even from the start, I was certain that she will not disappoint in terms of narration style and writing quality. She has this unique yet easy flowing form that uses metaphors which added flare to the story. Her playful craftsmanship with words made Vicious a page turner and was flawless for the tone of the story. The constant theme of pushing and pulling, love hate relationship, the love triangle, became interesting hooks and means of foreplay during the early chapters of the story. The back stories didn’t make the pacing dragging even if I was more interested with the character’s “present” majority of the time.
I would like to go straight to the point and say that unfortunately, there are major aspects about the plotting and the characterization that left me hanging which affected my growing interest for the story. I knew for a fact when I read the blurb that the major male character was an anti-hero. I knew that I was in for a bumpy ride with a cold, calculating, bastard hero. The title in itself is already a dead giveaway. I’d be stupid to expect an indulgent Baron Spencer Jr. (dubbed Vicious) but not this callous if I am being honest. Emilia LeBlanc was a beautiful soul. She’s eccentric, witty, and a very talented artist. Fiery on the outside but her heart of gold shines through. And even though life was tough to her and her loved ones, she kept her head held high and has always been a ray of sunshine to those around her. Her messes were very relatable too. Now where did it all go wrong? I had a difficult time grasping the level of treatment she received from Vicious from the beginning to until 70% of the story. To me, Emilia was undeserving of being tossed out, black mailed, disrespected, humiliated and used.
“Since you barged into my life again and I was stupid enough to let you in – again – and I promised myself there won’t be a third time. What do you want, Vicious?”
“I want to fuck you again,” I admitted with a groan.
Yes, Vicious was playful and compassionate during some parts. He would lose control and honestly my heart jumped during those times, I got excited and hopeful, because I knew he’s a genuinely good human being. But sadly for me they were still lacking. The good times were eaten up alive by the hurtful moments. The courting came in just a little too late. The terms of endearment in the end didn’t make up for the numerous times he’d call her “help”. And I was not fully convinced that he was able to redeem himself either. They were radiating fireworks when they’re together and an on-point proof that opposites do attract, but for the love of everything holy I needed more from Vicious (more than what’s superficial) to convince me that he’s worthy of Emilia’s love.
Vicious’s personality and dysfunction stemmed from being abused as a child. His life was plagued by a family secret he kept to himself. He knew awful things about his father and step mother. The need to avenge the woman that he loved dearly ate up his soul. Conflict-wise, these premises have been rampant themes in this book genre called Romance. Of course as a reader, I understand and know how challenging it is for authors to create something unique and non-clichéd. I just wished L.J. Shen twisted these torments (even the physical scars) a little bit, to make the story a more distinctive experience.
One more issue has been lingering in my mind as to why Vicious hated Emilia at the start too much. Aside from other reasons, he despised her because she looked like her stepmother. To me this felt forced and should have been made clearer. Lastly, I loved the gritty revelations towards the end, I think they were epic and true to the theme of the story and Vicious’s characterization. But could use more detailedness maybe in a form of a back story to add more push and drama and to effectively draw the reader in as the story comes to a close.
For those looking for something bitter or a little dark, but not over the top I suggest to give this story a try. I am convinced that LJ is one gifted writer, her words will swallow you whole. Believe me, I felt bad that some (not all) aspects of this book didn’t work for my taste. To each their own, right? On a more positive note, from what I gathered about Dean and Trent in this book, I think the next instalments from the Sinners of Saint series could possibly be a great mix of charm and damnation. Absolutely, and still looking forward for more from these larger-than-life HotHoles!