Review: Ruckus by L.J. Shen

Reviewed by Joanna

Ooh, I’ve been looking forward to this book. This author writes the best alpha a-holes, who I love to hate before I learn to love.

We’ve worked our way to the third of the Hotholes, and Ruckus, or Dean Cole is the a-hole in the frame. In book one, Vicious, he was dating Millie, who ends up with Vicious, the psychotic leader of the rich-boy gang. Yet even as Dean and Millie were an item, he loved someone else. Her younger sister, Rosie LeBlanc.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about inter-family dating, but my concerns went by the by pretty quickly, with some great background building to their romance, and also the time that passes in the tale. Add to that the fact Dean slept with pretty much everything that moved in the eleven years since he and Millie broke up, and the sister connection is pretty weak.

It wasn’t so much that he had a distasteful history with Rosie’s sister, but he had a distasteful history with a hundred more. Good? No. Diluting? Somewhat.

“He was my sister’s ex-boyfriend and my first love. These two facts should never be connected. Hell, they had no place being in the same sentence together. That didn’t make them any less true.”

This book is told in two timelines – the present day with a 29-year-old Dean, now a rich businessman in New York, and a 28-year-old Rosie, living in an apartment he owns, for non-existent rent. Which is good, as she works for low pay in a bar, and volunteers at a children’s hospital, so it’s not like she could ever afford the city on her own. Rosie and Millie shared the apartment before her sister left, and now Rosie is left to handle seeing a drunk and drugged up Dean with his conquests in the elevator most evenings, as he heads up to his penthouse. They taunt each other, but their chemistry is palpable.

So you see what I mean about a-holes. Dean starts off pretty rough – a drunken whore, and damaged to his core. But that just gives him all the opportunity to improve.

The other part of the story is in the past when they were teenagers, and we get to see how, even though there was something fierce between them, Rosie pushed Dean towards Millie. Her older sister needed his protection, and he felt obliged to give it. He resented Rosie for it and it’s part of the reason for his hostility to her. This was a tiny plus in the Dean-isn’t–all-bad box, as he was doing the right thing with Millie, even if she didn’t care about him all that much. Nice work, Shen.

The other interesting factor is that Rosie has a life-limiting illness. She’s got cystic fibrosis, which means she needs regular medication and treatment to aid her lungs, and is likely to die young because of it. Her best-case scenario is to make her fifties, and because of this she doesn’t have long-term relationships. She breaks up with her doctor boyfriend so he can have the chance of having a family, as she can’t. So sad!

Now, Vicious and Millie are getting married, and Dean and Rosie are both going to the wedding. Not together, as they can barely have a civil conversation, until Dean gets orders from Vicious to fly the woman first class with him, as her cheap tickets will make her late. Cue some proximity, where Dean decides now is the time. He’s waited long enough for ‘Baby’ LeBlanc to look his way. He’s going to have her.

He might have room for improvement, but Dean will never be all good. This dominant and possessive side doesn’t abate. Dean does some terrible things to the woman he supposedly loves, basically acting like an upset child, or acting out his demons.

Example – when, as a teen, she tells him she has cystic fibrosis, he gets upset and throws her into a freezing cold swimming pool. Yeah, not great for her lungs. She ends up with pneumonia. He jumps in with her and holds her, but c’mon! That’s just mean.

“Why did it feel so divine when the man who claimed he wanted to “save” me hurt me? Maybe because a part of saving sick little Rosie was by showing her what she was capable of suffering without breaking.”

In order for them to work, Rosie has to accept Dean for everything he is. As with all the Hotholes, he’s a lot to handle. But he doesn’t treat her like she’s made of glass, and he sees her for everything she is and could be. This is the opposite to her family, who want her to return home and stop being so selfish in making them worry about her when all she wants is to have her own life.

Both have to forgive the other, and both have to find a way to live with their issues. And that they can eventually do it together? Ah, that’s what I read for.

I devoured the book in a day, and though the ending wasn’t perfect for me, it wasn’t a deal breaker. I enjoyed seeing the cast of the previous two books (the second, Defy, is a novella), and I liked the glimpse of their future, with the next book’s protagonists being set up at the end. One of the Hotholes is now a single dad, and his kid is traumatized. He seems sworn off women, until he spots someone unattainable, and so the chase begins.

Rating: A

Click to purchase: Amazon

by L.J. Shen
Release Date: May 23, 2017


  1. This looks really good!!

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