Playing with Fire

By L.J. Shen

ISBN# 9798680019214

Author’s Website:

Brought to you by OBS reviewer Heidi

Grace Shaw was beautiful, popular, and outgoing.  She was a cheerleader and thrived in the school plays.  That was, until everything changed.  The home she shared with her grandmother went up in flames and it damaged what was the most important to Grace; her face!  She’s no longer a part of the in-crowd.  Instead, she’s a scarred freak that hides herself as much as possible.  She wears tons of makeup, a baseball cap, and long sleeved hoodies not wanting anyone to see her scars.  She works at a food truck with her best friend, Karlie.  Grace is enrolled in the local college pursuing a degree in theater.  However, with her not wanting anyone to see her she is about to fail since she refuses to perform on stage!  And, the grandmother she loves is struggling with dementia and needs around-the-clock care, which Grace is trying to provide.

And, if all of that wasn’t bad enough … Karlie is having to cut her own hours working her family’s food truck and hires popular bad boy, West St. Claire as her replacement!  West is broody, cocky, and hot as hell.  And, he’s great for business bringing all the girls in town to their truck! Him working shirtless doesn’t hurt business either!

West is fighting his own demons of the past.  A tragic mistake that has cost him and his family dearly.  It’s left his parents as shells of their former selves and he has no choice, but to support them financially—even if it kills him!  And, it just might!  He puts his body on the line every Friday night during the illegal fights he partakes in.  And, now he’s taking on a disgraced MMA fighter who’s known for playing dirty to win.  However, the payout will be well worth the risk.  And, it’s not like he wants to live anyway …

“For some reason, West St. Claire wasn’t very happy he’d been born, and knowing that nearly undid my soul, breaking it to pieces.”

What happens when these two broken people are forced together?  Will they help heal each other or completely destroy themselves in the process?

Source: Author’s Facebook page.

I’m a huge L.J. Shen fan after I discovered her, quite by accident, a few years ago.  And, this was a decent read, but it wasn’t one of my favorites of hers.  West and Grace were college kids, but the book seemed a bit juvenile and high schoolish to me.

I hated how vain Grace was, especially in the early goings of the book.  She lost everything and her one true wish was to regain her beauty?  Although she was a popular teenager, at that point so it probably is more realistic than I want to admit.  I honestly think if I had liked Grace more, than I’d have enjoyed the whole book more.  I don’t think I ever got past her selfish hang-ups, even though she did grow throughout this novel.

West is our tortured hero in this story and I really enjoyed him (and his friends Reign & Easton).  His tragic past was heartbreaking and I’m not sure how you go about forgiving yourself for something like that.  I do feel he’s more mature than Grace even though they are both in roles that forced them to grow up.  I also found they had too similar of pasts to seem realistic.

This book did have a nice sweet ending although it left me wanting to see more of their happily ever after!  

“Because at the end of the day, we are all just phoenixes, rising from our own ashes, taking flight to an unknown destination, our wingtips forged by flames.”

 I do wish this was a series, so we could get East and Reign’s stories as well …

Source: Author’s Facebook page