Friday, October 28, 2016

Audiobook Review: Sparrow by L.J. Shen

Pub. Date:June 20, 2016
Narrator:Michael Pauley
Length:9 hrs 23 min

Sparrow is a tale of an modern-day arranged marriage of the Boston underworld. It's not a heart and roses story, so pick this one up when you are in the mood for something gray and shadowy.
Troy Brennan was the devil, but sometimes, even good girls wanted a healthy dose of evil in their lives.
Troy Brennan is the son of an Irish mobster who eschewed running the organization, but hasn't left the lifestyle completely. Somewhat infamous around Boston, Troy is now a fixer for those who can afford his services. He is also a power that no one wants to cross, and he wears that power well. Unfortunately I think the mantle he has worn for so long has eroded any emotions that he could express for new people in his life. When he is forced into marriage to gain his inheritance, he certainly doesn't show any tender feelings or consideration to his new wife. I had a hard time with Troy's character. He was adulterous and cruel and I didn't appreciate his treatment of his wife. However, if you looked beyond the surface of his persona as the story built, you can catch glimpses of his humanity and compassion under the tough guy persona. He is never going to be a warm and fuzzy hero, but every once in a while a strong, stoic, and dangerous guy is just what you're looking for.

Sparrow Raynes seemed like the quintessential Catholic good girl. Given that the story started with her forced marriage to a questionable character, I was worried that she was going to be a doormat heroine. But Sparrow's abandonment by her mother and ensuing upbringing by an alcoholic low-level mobster taught her from a young age that she needed to be independent. So despite Sparrow's innocence in some ways, she was world-weary in others, and her character had a good amount of depth. I liked that she was adept in the kitchen and wanted to work instead of putter around Troy's penthouse all day. 
We didn't make love, we made war.
The relationship between these two was tumultuous to say the least. It verged on hate a good amount of the time, and exploded with lust at others. Both sides denied their feelings outwardly, but luckily we were privy to their innermost thoughts and feelings so we knew that there was something more than hate sex between them. This is the story to pick up when you want a gritty and drama-filled relationship where the couple is pulled together almost against their will.

There is a suspense side plot to the story involving left over mafia business that helped advance the story in the absence of a meaty romance. This aspect of the book was fairly predictable, but I think suspense is a necessary element of any mafia romance so I was glad that there was a bit of mystery and intrigue.

I listened to this book in audio and I was not all that crazy about the narrator. While the story was good, the audio performance left something to be desired at times. Michael Pauley did a good job with all the male characters, but his female affectations were not believable and were somewhat monotone. I think a dual narration would have been a better choice for this book. So I think if I were to ever do a re-read, it would be the print version instead of audio.

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