Book Review, Romance Review

Review: Bad Cruz by LJ Shen

Bad Cruz LJ Shen

I would say Dr. Cruz Costello is my archenemy.

But that would require acknowledging one another, which we haven’t done in over a decade.

He’s the town’s golden child. The beloved quarterback-turned-physician.

I’m the girl who got knocked up at sixteen and now works at a diner.

He is Fairhope royalty.

I get my monarch dose from tabloid gossip.

He’s well-off.

I’m…well, off.

When our siblings get engaged, Cruz’s parents invite both families to a pre-wedding cruise.

Except Cruz and I find ourselves stuck on a different ship from everyone else.

Cue ten horrible, insufferable days at sea with a man I cannot stand.

(My fault, of course.)

But when the alcohol pours in, the secrets spill out, and I’m left with one question:

Can I take another chance on love?

This story’s much lighter than the usual angsty fare from LJ Shen but she killed it with Tennessee and Cruz. Tennessee’s snark and the attitude she gives the world are epic. This is one of those small towns where everyone knows (or thinks they know) everyone else’s business and this place has treated her horribly. She’s been the town joke for years, ever since her HS sweetheart knocked her up then disappeared when she refused to abort her child. Tennessee hides behind her revealing thrift store clothes and heavy makeup because she doesn’t have the confidence to be herself. It’s no wonder since her family treats her like garbage and she has no friends, thanks to all the gossip.

Enter Cruz Costello, town golden boy who has secretly loved her since they were kids. He pined after her for years but when he finally worked up the courage to ask her out, his so-called best friend intentionally beat him to it and the rest is history. They’re forced together against their will where the hate spirals into a torturous love-hate relationship, but once the forced proximity ends, they realize the love isn’t fleeting.

Tennessee wants to keep their relationship under wraps to avoid drama because nobody thinks she’s worthy of him but Cruz wants to go public so her refusal tears them apart. She needs to learn to stand up for herself, especially to her family but will she force herself to confront them or will she continue to suffer silently, since their abuse is all she’s ever known?

I love these characters, especially the way Tennessee transforms and finally begins to put people in their places. Cruz clearly loves her, but he’s no pushover blinded by love, so he makes her prove that she loves herself first. There’s a fantastic supporting cast including her whiny self-absorbed sister, his scheming ex and her deadbeat baby daddy, plus a slew of busybody townsfolk and overbearing family members. The romance is sweet, the subplots are riveting and the whole book is hilarious. I loved everything about Bad Cruz and hope we’ll see more rom-coms from LJ soon.

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