Review: Sparrow by LJ Shen

Reviewed by Joanna

You may have noticed my fangirling over this author, and when I heard she had an arranged marriage tale, I leapt on it. I love her Sinners of Saint series, and she has a talent for writing guys who are so bad, so awful to their heroines, that you want to beat them with their own shoes for being so despicable.

Well, this guy takes the biscuit. Troy Brennan is a mobster. Mr Fixer, as he’s known, and where his father was a Boston big shot, after his death his son is a feared and respected replacement. Troy doesn’t run gangs or drugs, instead he works for other mobsters and cleans up problems they have.

Sparrow Reynes is problem for him. For spoilerish reasons he has to marry her, and the book kicks off at the preparations for their wedding. Sparrow has no idea what’s going on. All she knows is Troy has picked her as his bride, despite them having zero conversation or knowledge of each other, and she had to go through with it because her father is under his control. Truth is, their lives are more intertwined than she knows, and that all comes out in the wash.

Troy starts off seemingly irreconcilable to being a sympathetic hero. He is cruel to Sparrow, telling her about his mistresses and giving her a crude wedding gift bought by one of them. He doesn’t find her attractive and he does nothing to make the event easier on her.

I was not a good lover. Always took care of myself first, never thought twice about the women I was with.

Since that first night, work had taken over. I was too busy to try and fuck her. Frankly, she didn’t look like she was worth the time. Inexperienced, innocent, and pretty but in a pasty, wallflower way.

It’s hard to like this guy.

At least on the wedding night he doesn’t force her – and even typing that made me cringe. Can you see just how low Shen brought this guy? Yet somehow, despite despising Troy, Sparrow can’t help finding him attractive. Her body wants him, from across the open space of their large bed, even if she’d rather stab him with a bread knife.

Troy has a business associate, Brock, whose wife, Catalina, Troy is having an affair with. Brock takes an interest in Sparrow and seems to be offering her support and a shoulder to cry on. She’s not sure who to trust, and tries instead to carve out her own life amidst the disaster she’s found herself in. Troy is ultra-wealthy, and Sparrow asks him for a job in his top-end restaurant. Cooking is her escape, even if the job isn’t everything she’d hoped for. At least it’s better than being stuck in his penthouse with just the housekeeper for company.

In these kinds of stories, what interests me, and keeps me going with them, is the change in how the at-war couple see one another. The softening of edges. The slide to falling in love. Troy starts making tiny concessions to Sparrow, but there are no hearts and flowers. I wanted more from him, and wasn’t entirely satisfied with the changes in him. In the last third, I put the book down for a while and read something else as I wasn’t gripped by the love and by that point I should have been.

The back story of Troy trying to work out who killed his father, and avenge the death, and Sparrow trying to work out why on Earth Troy married her, pulled the story along, but it became a tiny bit boring. I needed the love to override and for there to be that gut-wrenching sense of change and commitment. It was almost there but by the end I’d lost it and wasn’t caught up in their romance in the way I wanted to be.

Troy does all the things he should, but I wanted his world shaken up and turned upside down. In the end it felt too easy on him and he was the one needing a good shaking.

Rating: C+

Click to purchase: Amazon

Sparrow
by LJ Shen
Release Date: March 8, 2016

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