Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Damaged Goods by L.J. Shen Release Blitz

Available Now! Read free in Kindle Unlimited.

From L.J. Shen, the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Vicious and The Kiss Thief, comes a brand new angsty, delicious standalone in the All Saints series. This friends-to-lovers, boy-obsessed romance will make you cry your eyes out and laugh with joy, sometimes on the same page.

Underneath the goody-two-shoes persona is damaged goods… but can the bad boy across the street save her?

Bailey Followhill is the perfect daughter.
Sweet. Charitable. Pretty. Control freak.
Not a hair out of place, not an inch out of line, she is everything her troublemaking sister Daria isn't.
But when her A game turns out to be a lukewarm C- at Juilliard, Bailey's picture-ready life starts fraying faster than the worn satin ribbons of her pointe shoes.
She's becoming a piece of gossip.
The Troubled Child. A drug abuser.
No longer the girl her best friend once knew.

Lev Cole is so golden, he's got the Midas Touch.
Prized quarterback. Football captain. Hottest guy in SoCal. A textbook cliché.
But with a girlfriend he doesn't love and a career path he doesn't value, Lev is coasting.
The only two things he cares about―Bailey and becoming a pilot―are out of reach.

But Lev is done being satisfied with the life others have chosen for him. He wants to pick his own cards. To demolish the seamless kingdom of lies his family stitched together on the ruins his mother left behind.

The question is, can he save his best friend and his dream before too much damage is done?

Don’t miss our reviews of the rest of the All Saints High series!
For book one, Pretty Reckless, click HERE.
For book two, Broken Knight, click HERE.
For book three, Angry God, click HERE.


Add to Goodreads.


Damaged Goods by L.J. Shen

Book 4
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
Audiobook (US) Narrated by Savannah Peachwood, Maxine Mitchell & Aiden Snow
Paperback (US)
~  Also Available with KindleUnlimited in the US & Ca  ~



His lips taste divine, but it’s not them that make our kiss a once-in-a-lifetime event. It’s the fact that it symbolizes the complete destruction of what we were until now. Best friends.



Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

This is spin off from a very popular series… which I’m going to have to now admit I have not read! But whilst I recognise I will have missed some backstory, I didn’t feel at a disadvantage overall.

To me, this was a story of missed opportunities – and to give you the least significant yet most shockingly simple example, Bailey has physical injuries which are mentioned as being obvious, yet her parents do not seek medical attention for them, nor seem to even suggest she stops training and make them worse. The fact that they talk rehab repeatedly and yet nothing happens is also frustrating, let alone the supposed searches when we know where the pills are hidden. They are intelligent, wealthy people, who can see a genuine problem, but no one seems able to address it for a very long time. Given Dean and Knight had similar issues, it is even more strange.

Mixing this tragic situation with a long-time best friendship/romance was both confusing and – given Lev was in school and trying to decide his future – piled on the pressure. As a story of how people handle pressure, it took a whole group of families to keep avoiding the issues, and to rely on Lev at a time he needed support not responsibility.

It was great to have Thalia to hate for her role in Bailey’s access to pills. I would have expected to feel that way about some of his teammates, with their use of jealousy and trash talk, but it was brushed over – as was the violence, which thereafter never got mentioned.

For me, the journey to their happily ever after was very painful, and I’m not sure how they would ever really overcome it, but here’s hoping!

3.5 stars

Damaged Goods is the fourth installment of the All Saints High series, which is the spin-off of Sinners of Saint series. Can it be read as a standalone with little to no confusion? Sure. Should you read it as a standalone? No. Should you read the Sinners of Saint series first? Yes.

Since it's been nearly four years since the last installment, those who are foggy on the details may also wish for a refresher/reread.

Now, since those who haven't read the series first have now departed to go read it, that leaves everyone else who is up-to-date. So that helps eliminate spoilers, for the most part.

I'm not going to be harsh but I am not going to lie either, simply because I am a fan of Shen and this series of characters.

I felt as if this novel didn't know what it wanted to be. Was it a novel featuring the chaotic spiral of addiction, the heavy landing of hitting rock bottom, and the inspiring rise back to sobriety? Or was it a childhood best friends-to-lovers romance?

Because it cannot be both, no matter how hard it tried to be. Addiction and the subsequent new sobriety cannot survive romance and sex. Sure, the spiral can feature these concepts, but friendships cannot survive the fallout if you attempt a relationship during this tumultuous time, no matter if they are sober for the rest of their lives. The history of that toxicity hitches a ride on their relationship. So I struggled with the romance aspects.

Perhaps it's my mood. My mindset. My mentality. I'm not in a state of trainwreck to buy into the sex, love, and romance when mixed with all the toxicity. Maybe it's because I survived an addict/drunk and have a low tolerance for this, where the substance abuser is not the only wounded party that needs to heal.

If there was no romance, I may have been able to empathize or sympathize with Bailey, or if the romance bloomed after the healing began. No matter how much Shen used Lev to tell us how awesome Bailey was versus Painkiller Ballerina, I didn't see it. Not in the flashbacks. Not during the novel's journey. I found her to be a narcissistic abuser, where she didn't just abuse substances. Spot on perfect characterization of a manipulative, conniving substance abuser. Bravo, Shen! I just couldn't ship her with Lev... and then to surround Lev with Lookalike Bailey 2.0, who was just as toxic was a bit much for me.

Was the spiral factual and real to life? (Round of applause to Shen!) Were the enablers real to life? Yes, which is why I struggled to find entertainment in reading this novel. I was frustrated on every page, which was affecting my mood in general.

For more than half of the novel, every single character (aside from Bailey) did the wrong thing. Which was doubly confounding considering the history of substance abuse in Lev's family. They all knew the signs, how they weren't to enable, and the steps to heal their loved one. Yet... all they did was threaten to send her to rehab. More than half the book. So frustrating to the point I was getting angry.

It's no wonder Bailey ended up as she did with both of her parents threatening to send her to rehab, day after day as they see their daughter is high... and (drum roll) not actually sending her to rehab. Not the first time. The second time. The third time. The frustration to read this was a palpable thing for me. Imagine that. I guess that is also how her childhood punishments went down as well.

Then there is the dynamic between Lev and Bailey, which I didn't not find cute, or heated, or any of the other emotions other readers may feel. I found it gross due to the imbalance. Bailey is a 20-year-old nearing the end of her freshman year at college who is addicted to painkillers. Lev is a child in high school who is emotionally vulnerable and focusing on what school he wants to go to versus the military and fretting over telling his dad his future plans.

I don't care what the age-gap is or if their physical ages are close together, mentally, emotionally, and intellectually, that is a huge gap. A college-aged adult, who at 20 is generally in their junior year, is playing stupid games with the local high schoolers. This should have given everyone pause. All those parents. Your daughter OD'd and you don't think it weird that she's hanging with high schoolers? It's not sweet. It's not romantic. It's creepy, no matter the gender. And this was something I just couldn't get over the entire time I read.

During Lev and Bailey's banter, I was not titillated. I was aggravated. It was toxic. A grown woman playing head games with the high school student who loves and cares about her, leveraging his own vulnerabilities against him. Then all the inner monologue where Lev is like "I can't touch her in this state. She isn't really in there. This isn't my Bailey. She can't consent in this state." Where the reader is to get hot and bothered. I got bothered, all right. I found it disgusting and toxic that Bailey manipulated Lev to do exactly as he said he wouldn't do, where he'd do some hot AF dirty talk, which was bordering BDSM, that was so far out of his wheelhouse at his age and lack of experience (which was just to titillate the readers at the expense of the characters' relationship to one another or was so far out of character).

I groaned and not in a good way. It was that stuff that lessened the emotional impact of the addiction storyline, which in turn ruined any future romance they could share because there was simply too much toxicity to overcome. I don't care if Painkiller Ballerina was replaced with Lev's Bailey, she is not two different people. Bailey did that. Bailey said that. Bailey manipulated Lev and hurt him time and time again on purpose, and until that was actually truly addressed, she is at risk of backsliding. The romance made it ick for me.

I simply wanted Lev and Dean to go to a deserted isle, where they meet two worthy mates to spend their lives with, away from all the toxic people around them...

Which brings me to another point that seemed to create a war in the reviews: Dean and Dixie. I don't know if all these comments are by people who are too invested in the story (mad props to Shen) or by those who are projecting because they fear their significant other could move on without them. Rosie had a life-threatening disease from word-one of her character being written. It was beyond realistic to have their epic story end as it did. But, as in reality, it would take a horrible human being to wish someone, whether they be fictitious or real, to live out decades of existence in total isolation and loneliness to prove they loved someone. That is not grief – that is not love – that is mental illness, on the part of those who are so vindictive and petty they wish a fictional character to never move on. Am I the only one who wishes Dean a slice of happiness after all that pain and grief? Wowza!



Author Bio

L.J. Shen is a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, and #1 Amazon bestselling author of contemporary, new adult, and young adult romance. Her books have been sold in twenty different countries, and she hopes to visit all of them.

She lives in Florida with her husband, three rowdy sons, and rowdier pets and enjoys good wine, bad reality TV shows, and reading to her heart’s content.

Connect with L.J. Shen!

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Instagram  ~  TikTok  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads
Facebook Group: LJ's Sassy Sparrows



You and I are forever.


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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Damaged Goods (All Saints High #4) by L.J. Shen to read and review.

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