Book Review: Playing With Fire by L.J. Shen

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Playing with Fire  is the latest contemporary, college romance book from popular romance book author, L.J. Shen. This contemporary romance novel will captivate you as you follow two tragic characters who find love. Read the book review from romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books to see if you’ll find this book worth reading

Playing with Fire
by L.J. Shen

Category: Contemporary Romance, New Adult Romance
College, Tortured Hero, Strong Heroine, Enemies to Lovers
Published September 2020

Rating: ★★★★★

Amazon | Goodreads

West St. Claire is a god on campus – he’s broody, he’s aloof, and he only does one night stands. He perpetuates his image because it helps sell tickets for Friday night fight night.

He’s a killer fighter, undefeated and couldn’t care less if someone actually stepped into the ring and pummeled him. He’d welcome it.

See he’s a tortured guy who believes he deserves to die and has just spent the last 5 years surviving. Until he meets Grace.

Grace is a fellow student at Sheridan University who survives by trying to blend into the background and stay unseen. She used to be the girl on top – the girl who knew her looks would take her places, until they were gone.

Now she just struggles to take care of her Gram and pass her acting class – until she meets West. West, who “sees” her and forces her to stop hiding.

I fell captive into this book from the very beginning. It’s one of those romance reads where by page 50 I was in deep with this story. There wasn’t anything fluff about it.

L.J. Shen strikes me as an author who writes with such focus that every single word is purposefully selected and every sentence crafted to convey so much more under the surface.

Seriously, her writing and dialogue is magnificent in this book.

Her character development is one of a kind as well.

These characters are such flawed people and yet they are so incredibly strong and wouldn’t want an ounce of your pity.

I don’t enjoy reading romances where the tragic characters make me feel awful because that’s not what I’m looking to feel when I escape into a book. That is not the case with this story.

These flawed characters drew me in and showed what strength people can exhibit despite the challenges they’ve faced.

It almost has an enemies to lovers vibe given the back and forth between these two.

Grace is in no way awestruck by West’s reputation and West has no problems going head to head with the girl who likes to hide. Even when they clearly liked each other, they were sparring with harsh words and yet it was arousing and full of sexual tension.

West was this perfect, imperfect man. His MO was to keep himself distant from everyone and never establish relationships and yet his actions with Grace were always the complete opposite.

He showed her he was all in with his actions time and time again even if his words suggested otherwise.

Their backstories are tragic yes, but this story is so much more than their pasts. I loved the metaphor of the phoenix that Shen weaves throughout the story because that is perfect depiction of the transformation that you witness in both Grace and West.

There isn’t anything unusual or unique about the trajectory of this storyline but it doesn’t have to be.

It is so well written that you’ll just absorb each and every word.

A perfect romance for those who love college romances and those who love tragic characters.

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Leslie Murphy is the owner and writer of She Reads Romance Books.

Why Trust She Reads Romance Books?

Leslie is the founder, writer, and producer of She Reads Romance Books (and the She Reads Romance Books Podcast), an online book community focused on romance books and the readers who love them because life is better with a love story.

Leslie reads 150 romance books a year and has been called a "book expert" by CNN. Reading romance is her passion and she cultivates her book lists with the best books worth reading in the genre. Leslie graduated magna cum laude from Davidson College where she honed her writing skills and also holds two Master's degrees. Join her community in the She Reads Romance Books Reader Lounge.

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