Review: Vicious by L.J. Shen

Reviewed by Joanna

Baron Spencer Jr is a nasty piece of work. His family owns half the town of Todos Santos, including the mansion Emilia (Millie) LeBlanc’s parents are servants in. At age eighteen, Baron, known as Vicious, is a right handsome little terror. He’s a trust fund baby with zero respect for anyone, throwing wild parties at the mansion with his crew, the Four HotHoles (weirdest crew name I ever heard), and lusting after Millie whilst hating on her too. She hates him right back, but as the Help, won’t tell him where to go, else her parents lose their jobs.

Millie dates one of the other guys, hence some of the tension between her and Vic, but it’s an event she witnesses between Vic and a family member on the day she meets him that causes the real problems.

The story jumps back and forth ten years from events that happened between the two protagonists as teenagers, and when they meet again as adults. Present day Millie is twenty-seven and working crappy jobs in New York City to make ends meet, while supporting her sick sister. Vicious turns up in a bar she works in after they haven’t laid eyes on one another for that whole decade, and the love/hate sexual tension starts all over again.

Our girl won’t give him the time of day – he ran her out of town and ruined her life – but Vicious isn’t a man to be told no. He wants Millie, with her southern accent, lavender hair and crazy outfits. This asshole, uber-wealthy lawyer, who never has to ask for anything, has to find a way to get what he wants. And he’s desperate to sleep with the girl who turned him down.

This novel was so close to being great. The slow reveal of Vic’s character and his terrible family history kept me invested, but he’s very hard to love. He’s spiteful, whiny, childish, awful to everyone and doesn’t seem to have a good bone in his body. He sleeps around, disrespects everyone he meets and is cruel too.

Millie is a sweetheart, but fortunately no pushover. She’s a frustrated artist, having to give up her dream of interning in a NYC art gallery to work two jobs because of her sister’s illness. An admirable heroine if ever I met one.

This financial vulnerability is Vic’s In with her, but things don’t go the way he planned. Feelings arise he never expected. The man, whose only sensations extend to how good a woman feels under him (or over him, or touching him in any way), starts to change. And though I didn’t like him, I desperately wanted him to fall in love. Certainly in the first half of this novel I was getting all the swoons every time he made a concession for Millie and wasn’t sure why. The second half had some of these moments (he really has to grovel and that was just ace), but it lost pace and some of the reveals felt a little awkwardly placed.

The backdrop of Vic’s loveless family mansion, and the swanky NYC offices and apartments he haunts juxtaposes nicely with Millie’s world of happy normal minimum wage living. Her awesome character becomes a little diminished nearer the end as her outcomes are piled into Vicious’s, but she’s his match and never feels less than him for having much less money. In fact it’s more the other way around.

I’d loved to have whole-heartedly loved this book, with its shades of Penelope Douglas, but I felt quite distant from the story in a number of places, where scenes were shown in retrospect and lost impact. There was also a fair amount of I realized / I felt / I thought which, in a first person telling, had the same effect of removing me from the story.

Then there was Vicious’s character. Now, I like a mean hero, give me them wounded and lashing out, have them rain down misery on the woman they secretly love – I’ll lap it up. But they HAVE to be redeemed at the end, and Vicious only makes it to about 80% redemption points. I didn’t want him polished or changed in himself, I just wanted the bad stuff with Millie undone, the words and actions unsaid and better commitments made. I wanted to feel the true connection between them, instead of being told it had always been there.

Rating: B

Click to purchase: Amazon

by LJ Shen
Release Date: December 27, 2016

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