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Summary

From Wall Street Journal bestselling author L.J. Shen comes an enemies-to-lovers romance about the fine line between seeking revenge and finding love.

When she was young, Arya Roth became best friends with her housekeeper’s son. Soon, friendship turned to young love, and when Arya dared him to kiss her, a chain reaction of disastrous events led to the boy being sent away and out of Arya’s life.

Now, two decades later, Arya is an on-the-rise publicist with her beloved father as one of her biggest clients. So when her father is sued by a former employee, Arya sets out to prove that her father is not the monster he is accused of being. The only problem is the attorney who is determined to destroy her father’s good name. Christian Miller is charming, ambitious, and devilishly good looking, and Arya has no idea he is that same boy who kissed her all those years ago.

Past and present collide as Arya falls hard for Christian. But when she finds out who he really is and about his obsession with getting revenge on her father, can she choose love over family?

©2022 L.J. Shen. (P)2022 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

Critic reviews

"This addictive enemies-to-lovers romance…captures both characters’ intense emotions and undeniable chemistry. It’s sure to have readers hooked.”Publishers Weekly

“L.J. Shen is the master of enemies-to-lovers. She had me in her angsty grip from the second I started until I’d devoured the last page, and I loved every second of it!”—A.L. Jackson, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author

“FIVE STARS: One of the BEST of 2022.”—Tia Louise, USA Today bestselling author 

What listeners say about Ruthless Rival

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💘 oh my heart! *clutches heart*

I love LJ Shen & all of her characters in this book. Especially Christian, I'm worshiping the ground he walks on.

I've listened to all of LJ Shen's books. I'm grateful to have so many astonishingly well written book boyfriends now, 😉.....and those voices !!!!! The narration is perfect, wel, what can you expect with this collaboration.

Now I'm off to listen to 'Atonement' ......you'll understand why 💚

Apologies if there are spelling mistakes in the above, couldn't find my glasses for love nor money

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Loved it.

I just absolutely loved this new book from LJ. The narrators did a fantastic job, I’d quite happily listen again and again.

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Great angst but ...

I love this author's writing but I am sorry this one just didn't grab me.

I didn't warm to Arya and I couldn't believe that she didn't recognise Christian after all the time they spent together. Eyes and smiles don't change, even if everything else does. Also there was insufficient information on Christian's benefactor.

Having said this, I couldn't put it down until I found out the nitty gritty, so she's still great at angst!

The narration was superb!

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4.5 Stars

This was my first look at LJ Shens Cruel Castaways series.
I listened to Ruthless Rivals in one sitting, I really enjoyed Arya and Christian's second chance romance, enemies to lovers story. I did get Anatomy of a Scandal (Netflix series) vibes from the subplot regarding her fathers court case and his history with Christian. I didn't think there was as much chemistry between Arya and Christian as there have been between her characters in in other books, like The Boston Belles etc but this was brilliantly narrated by Joe Arden and Stella Bloom.

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  • Cami Cole
  • 05-05-22

Intriguing!

This was a great read! I loved how this couple had such an interesting history and how Shen brought them together again under such a unique circumstance. The storyline definitely kept my attention. I’m already getting excited about the next two books in the series! Stellar narration…Joe Arden is one of my absolute favorites. Well worth your time and money!

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  • CAROLYN 🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹
  • 06-05-22

💛 A DELICIOUS REWARDING SLOW-BURN 💛

Christian is a damaged Lawyer and, when the perfect case comes in enabling him to dish out his revenge on the man who shattered his young life.. along with his daughter who used to be his beloved adolescent best friend, he can’t wait to bring on their destruction. Now, two decades later, the boy is unrecognizable in the 32 yr old handsome, successful, ruthless sexy Lawyer. He’s one of the City’s most charming eligible bachelors.. and he’s fuelled by hate and revenge for Arya and her Father. However, with the fire and friction between them stirring attraction and explosive chemistry, their personal war went in a very different direction than either one could predict. But, what will happen when Arya finds out Christian’s truths and finally sees the boy from her past in the man who destroyed her life.. and will the fall-out be heartwarming or heartbreaking? And does Christian’s revenge need him to dig two graves?

For 10+ hours, LJ Shen skilfully weaved a story of tragedy and triumph.. of heartbreak and beautiful charades.. of star-crossed doomed young love and tentative beginnings with an agreed end date. And their dual POV journey was so damn addictive with lies, secrets and bitter verbal banter being the foundation to a relationship destined to end in disaster.

Worth a credit? Yes, I loved it.. L.J Shen’s writing skills are always awesome and this has emotional turmoil, broken trust and wrong steps taken in a fractured romance that had passion, drama, anger, angst and character growth. And Joe and Stella skilfully brought the angsty enemies-lovers characters, their journey, their growth, their feels and their love to life and their stellar narration made this listen flex and flow so well.

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  • M.Ghorm
  • 05-05-22

Second chance romance done right

LJ Shen is an auto buy for me because I like get the way she tells stories. Narrators were wonderful. Great story of second chance/forbidden love between Christian and Arya. Nothing too tragic or shocking in the story, just a good easy listen.

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  • JamieKoep
  • 06-05-22

Good

I am a huge fan of L.J. Shen. But for some reason I just didn’t really connect with the story like I have some of her other work. I found it entertaining and I was engaged enough to want to see what happens. But nothing about this story really stuck out to me. It was just OK.

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  • Iteachart
  • 04-05-22

Kept my interest

This story has several stories within which can often get tiresome but not Ruthless Rival, all stories worked together as a whole. Both H/h were likable even though frustrating as I am sure the author intended. Steamy scenes were mild but the lead up was well done. Joe Arden was amazing as usual with all the emotions! I recommend this audiobook.

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  • B. Roscoe
  • 04-05-22

Wow, Beautifully Written! For Fans Of Atonement...

Christian & Arya’s Second-Chance Romance Follows An Explosive Courtroom Drama That Could Potentially Ruin Both Their Lives. Fans Of Atonement May Enjoy This Story About Guilt, As Arya Believes That She & Nicky Were Cecilia & Robbie, Who Never Got A Happy Ending.


ABOUT THIS BOOK:

This is book one of the Cruel Castaways series about three rejected teens who, together with an older widow, form their own unlikely family. As teens, Nicky, Arsene, and Riggs were left behind, each in their own way. They all ended up enrolled in the Andrew Dexter Academy for Boys in Connecticut, a Catholic school and the number one all-boys boarding school in the country. The friendships they forged helped to fill the void in their young lives.

Nicky Ivanov is from Hunts Point – a place that reeks of crime and kills dreams. This is his and Arya’s story.

Arsene Corbin is an evil genius who has a difficult time relating to those who cannot keep up with his brilliant mind. He has a logical approach to life. He dresses to reflect his $200 million trust fund, and the women he beds must meet his exacting requirements – only the finest for him. School never took much time and effort for him, so he has enjoyed the party scene over the years. He bought an NYC penthouse after college, and his two friends followed him to the city. He doesn’t have a job per se, but he has an entrepreneurial spirit and dabbles in various projects. His family owns real estate in Manhattan, but he has been estranged from them for years. He detests his stepsister, and Gracelynn Langston appears to be instrumental in Arsene’s strained relationship with his family. He is jaded, cruel, and antisocial. Might an enemies-to-lovers stepsister romance be in the works for him?

Riggs Bates was raised in San Francisco by his wealthy and beloved grandfather, who had died the Christmas before Nicky came into the picture. He was then alone in the world, and he reinvented himself in the aftermath. His outgoing and magnetic personality ensures he can always find a good time and he enjoys the party scene. He is easy-going, a free spirit, traveling the world and avoiding most forms of commitment. At thirty-two, he still has no home of his own, preferring to crash with his friends when in town. You wouldn’t know by looking at him that he is the most wealthy of the three friends. The billionaire prefers to dress down and fly coach, and he is not picky when it comes to women. He is a delinquent at heart and lacks much sincerity. He does work despite his hefty net worth. His profession is a little unclear, as he is described as both a professional award-winning nature photographer and a professional mountain climber. It is also said that he has no responsibilities, but keeping a job should qualify as a responsibility.

Alice Gudinski had enjoyed a happy marriage, but her life became lonely after her dear husband had died. She hired Nicky Ivanov to be a stable boy one summer, and she soon found new purpose in her life. She took the young man under her wing, teaching him the ins and outs of the wealthy class that he so desperately wanted to prove himself to. Nicky and his two best friends, Riggs and Arsene, became her new family.

IN THIS BOOK:

Nicholai “Nicky” Ruslan Ivanov was born an illegitimate and unwanted child. The father he never met bought his mother a plane ticket from Belarus to the US when he learned about her pregnancy, and that was the extent of his involvement in Nicky’s life. His mother had no other family, so it was just the two of them. They lived in Hunts Point, a tough and crime-riddled neighborhood in the Bronx that gave little Nicky his profound sense of injustice in the world. Ruslana Ivanov might have given birth to him, but she hardly felt like a mother. He felt disconnected from others. Ruslana worked in the home of a very wealthy family in Manhattan, and the stories Nicky heard about that family furthered his belief that life was unfair. There were different standards for the wealthy and those born into loving families.

At age twelve, Ruslana worried that Nicky might find trouble if left to his own accord on the streets of Hunts Point over the summer break, so she took began taking him to work with her during the day. That is when he met Arya, the privileged little Roth princess about whom he had heard for years. He had always hated her for everything she had that he didn’t. But in reality, she was much different than he expected. He didn’t want to like her, but he couldn’t help himself. They became the best of friends. They swam and read books voraciously. He treasured their friendship, and eventually, he wished for more. There was one simple rule that he had to follow, though, and he was not about to jeopardize his ability to see Arya by breaking it. He was forbidden from touching Arya. He had excellent self-control, but Arya was his biggest weakness, and denying her was impossible.

Arya Roth, almost thirty-two, is fiercely independent. Highly competitive, bookish, and clearly intelligent, she is not afraid to speak her mind. She was born with a silver spoon in her mouth but chooses to live within her own means. Her father, Conrad Roth, runs a well-known hedge fund and once ran for mayor. She is the apple of his eye, and he was present for all the important moments in her life despite the crazy hours he always worked. Her mother was a different story. Beatrice Roth was active at the club and in various other activities, but she was more likely to vacation by herself than to spend a holiday with her family. Her mother seemed to be fixated on the loss of Arya’s twin, Aaron, who had died from SIDS as a baby. Most days growing up, Arya felt invisible in her mother’s eyes. It only made her cling more to her father, who could always be counted upon.

After attending Columbia University, Arya went on to work in politics for several years. Four years ago, she and her longtime best friend Jillian co-founded their own PR firm, Brand Brigade. Their company has been a great success, and it has Arya doing what she loves most – helping people. Arya has never had great luck in the relationship department. Many men are intimidated by her assertiveness and indifferent attitude, and her wealthy upbringing is apparent in her sometimes prudish air. She doesn’t date too much – she hasn’t been with a man in over a year – but she selects her male companions carefully. She prefers men with average looks, who she finds to be far less drama. Though she has a hunger for life, dating is not a priority. She throws herself into her work, and her workaholic habits don’t leave much time for a big social calendar. There had been one real love in her life, but that ended in disaster when she was fourteen and Nicky left her behind. She had tried to track him down years later only to learn that he had died. That discovery broke her heart again, and despite her efforts to move on, no man ever compared to Nicky.

Christian George Miller, thirty-two, has very few principles. Highly competitive and determined to achieve whatever he sets his mind on, he is now achieving his greatest dreams. After Harvard Law School, he worked two years at the DA office and made a name for himself in a big case. He was then recruited to Cromwell & Traurig, his Madison Avenue law firm. It is Manhattan’s finest, and leaving before making partner would be career suicide. It would add years to his efforts to make partner, which to him, was one of the best ways to prove his worth to the city that had destroyed him in his youth. He wanted to become one of the wealthy elite, to blend in, and in his mind being named partner was the pinnacle of success. As Nicky Ivanov, that would have been impossible, which is why he had his name changed after graduating from the Andrew Dexter Academy. That school had been his punishment, but at the same time, it was his saving grace. Because of it, he had met Alice, his benefactor, and his best friends, Riggs and Arsene. It cost him dearly, though. There was nothing he wouldn’t have done for Arya, but she had set him up to take the fall, so he had since scrubbed her from his life.

Christian is a newly minted millionaire and now one of NYC’s most coveted bachelors. His rugged good looks and confidence ensure he can have any woman he wants. His playboy ways work out well with his workaholic habit. He is hungry for achievement and success. He was never one for parties, too bent on rising to the top. He has never been capable of love, and he blames Arya for that. He does sometimes engage in physical arrangements. Claire Lesavoy is the sexy junior associate with whom he recently came to an understanding. It is convenient, given the long hours he works. After three years as a senior associate, he is ready to demand to be named partner. He pulls more than his own weight, and he wants what he feels rightly belongs to him. Cromwell, however, is resistant to the idea. To delay the inevitable, Christian is asked to prove his worth. His specialty is torts and equitable claims, a messy field in which he thrives. He settles nearly all his cases out of court, however, due to his fierce reputation. No lawyer wants to go against him in a courtroom. The partners, however, want him first to give them a sensational case that takes place in the courtroom, showcasing the firm and his own abilities. He considers it a temporary setback, confident that he can achieve that in a matter of weeks.

When Amanda Gispen walks into Christian’s office, it is like fate sent her to him. It is the chance to earn his partnership and to ruin the man that had taken everything from him. He can also get his revenge on Arya by ruining her family. Conrad Roth is being accused of harassment in the workplace, and a case with him as the defendant will captivate the public. Sweet revenge has been dropped in his lap. He has no business taking the case because of his history with the Roth family, and if his real identity is discovered, he could face disbarment. Still, he cannot pass up the opportunity. He has an excellent ability to control his impulses in all areas of his life, except when it comes to Arya. And he is willing to risk everything to see the Roth family’s destruction.

When Christian and Arya come face to face once again, the chemistry they once shared immediately comes to life. Christian, always the professional, finds himself acting irrationally. Arya finds herself fired up by the infuriating attorney that is bent on taking her father to court. She hates him, and she hates herself for being so attracted to him. He is not her type – and he looks like trouble. As the case commences, they find themselves at odds. Eventually, though, they find their chemistry too strong to resist. Christian makes her promises that he cannot possibly keep, and as the case continues on, Arya does some investigating of her own. As the facts unfold, they are torn apart. The couple eventually finds a happy ending.

Wow! Christian and Arya’s story is incredibly angsty from beginning to end. It is the sort of book that I would read a second time. It is dense with facts and details that lend a terribly realistic feeling to their story. The story in the present revolves around the court case that will forever change the Roth family. When it dips into the past, it sets up the pivotal events in Nicky’s youth and helps give perspective on the jaded power-hungry attorney that he becomes. Both Christian and Arya have struggled with relationships since their separation at age fourteen. Each has issues to address before moving on. They have both made false assumptions that have only served to exacerbate their pain. They also must both face some hard truths and question their priorities in life. Their story is incredibly emotional. There is some mean-spirited behavior that is difficult to digest without perspective. But as their love story unfolds, it is beautiful to see the pieces of Christian and Arya’s story come back together.

Christian and Arya’s second-chance romance follows an explosive courtroom drama that could potentially ruin both their lives. It is a story about guilt, about how a moment in time can change more than just one life. Fans of Atonement may enjoy this story, as it is Arya’s favorite book. She believes that she and Nicky were Cecilia and Robbie, who never got a happy ending. She lives with the guilt of what took place during her fourteenth summer. Their story is beautifully written. There is a blend of realism and angst along with a little steamy chemistry. There is a lot of buildup here, and much is at stake for both as the truth unfolds. There is an occasional inconsistency in the ARC copy; at least some of that made it to the published copy, but these points are rather insignificant so they are easily overlooked. The plot is somewhat complex; the truth is slow to be revealed. The characters are carefully crafted, three-dimensional, and very real. The story is told in first person. The POV alternates between Christian and Arya. I rate this book a strong 4.5 stars.

I received an advance copy of this book and am voluntarily leaving a review.

As for the Audio: it is very well-performed and consistent with the book.

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  • Stacey
  • 15-06-22

So good!!

LJ Shen has this amazing ability to make you fall for the anti hero of the story. The way she builds their world and tells their story makes them justified in their behavior and outlook on the world. Christian Miller’s story is told in alternating past and present view points and it is the perfect way to build his character. Intertwined in both the past and present is Arya’s story. These two characters were both broken in their own way because of the other, and were both healed because of the other too. Fantastic story!! So glad to know there will be two others in this world.

Stella Bloom and Joe Arden are simply perfect in their roles for this novel. The audio was really good and added so much to this story.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 13-06-22

Meh

Was hoping this would be better than it was. I just didn't get drawn in like the all saints, Boston belles or sinners of saints series. Was really missing the classic shen banter

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  • 🖤 Nanda 🖤 Dream Books Club 🖤
  • 05-06-22

Too predictable to be entertaining.

Another LJ book that i read expecting to find that old spark from her old books, but unfortunately, it's not really there.

I liked Nicky/Christian and Arya's friendship as kids, and I liked them as adults... Mostly. He wasn't a complete egomaniac jerk, and she wasn't a doormat. So that's a given in any LJ book.
I also liked that he was the poor boy and she was the rich girl, even if she wasn't snob about it. They were on the same ground as adults.

The story though, was shallow and quite predictable. Cliche and forgettable.
From day one it was clear that her father was shady and how everything would unfold and end.
So at one point, i was just listening it to pass time, cause I already knew how everything would fall in place.

Her Mom lack of interest in her during her whole life, and her excuse to approach her own daughter 30 years too late, when she was on the verge of bankruptcy, was ridiculous and unrealistic! Especially the easy way that Arya accepted it.

A few things kept bothered me in any LJ Shen book, and one of them, is the way she ALWAYS insert a designer name for shoes or clothes into the guy's internal thoughts! Like seriously?
As if ANY man would identify if a woman walking into a crowded dark bar was wearing a Jimmy Choo or a Target high heel! Unless he's an insider in the fashion circuit, he'll only see a difference if she's wearing Crocs!

Anyway... I think it's time to forget that I've loved her books in the past, cause it's been a couple of years since she surprised me with something new and really good.

The narration was good... Probably why I finished without being mad for even starting it!

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  • The Bookish Girl Reviews
  • 02-06-22

absolutely perfect

Joe arden always does amazing but combined with LJs words was utterly perfect! soooo amazing!