How to Bang a Billionaire, by Alexis Hall
Series: Arden St Ives, Book One
Published by: Forever Yours
Release Date: April 16, 2017
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
If England had yearbooks, I’d probably be “Arden St. Ives: Man Least Likely to Set the World on Fire.” So far, I haven’t. I’ve no idea what I’m doing at Oxford, no idea what I’m going to do next and, until a week ago, I had no idea who Caspian Hart was. Turns out, he’s brilliant, beautiful . . . oh yeah, and a billionaire.
It’s impossible not to be captivated by someone like that. But Caspian Hart makes his own rules. And he has a lot of them. About when I can be with him. What I can do with him. And when he’ll be through with me.
I’m good at doing what I’m told in the bedroom. The rest of the time, not so much. And now that Caspian’s shown me glimpses of the man behind the billionaire I know it’s him I want. Not his wealth, not his status. Him. Except that might be the one thing he doesn’t have the power to give me.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was intrigued when it was announced that Alexis Hall had decided to tackle the most overused, overdone, and arguably, the most popular trope in romance – the bildom.
I mean, this is the person that made us believe that a successful doctor on the verge of 40 would gladly relinquish control of his body and his heart to a 19 year old short-order cook with problem skin in the award-winning For Real. He also the same author who made us fall in love with a brilliant, sharp-tongued, depressed author and an earnest but uneducated, over-tanned, Essex boy – who turned out to be the wisest of the two – in Glitterland.
So yeah, I was very excited to see how he would spin a trope made uber popular by the much maligned FSOG and make it into something of his very own.
How To Bang A Billionaire (henceforth known as HTBAB), is everything the bildom trope should aspire to be; smart, funny and sexy with the added bonus of Alexis Hall’s trademark gorgeous prose. To paraphrase Meghan Trainor (because why not) it has “all the right words, in all the right places”.
Arden St. Ives is an absolute delight. I’m not sure I’ve fallen in love with a character quite so quickly before as I did with Arden. He’s not only delightfully funny and self-deprecating, he’s also smarter and more insightful then he gives himself credit for. Whether he’s struggling through making a cold call for a fundraising campaign, worried about his grades and his future plans after Oxford, or gamely negotiating a “short-term, prearranged” relationship with a billionaire, he’s always eminently relatable.
“Arden, I want to fuck you.”
He wanted to…Gosh. Well, I hadn’t been expecting that. Especially not when I felt – and probably looked – like I’d been shat out by a gastrically distressed camel.
Far from being the wallflower virgin who is plucked from obscurity (and from his aforementioned virginity) by an ultra-rich alphahole, Arden is well aware of what he is looking for when Caspian Hart enters his life. Unfortunately, what he wants and what Caspian is willing to offer are two different things. While Arden would be perfectly happy having a fling with the intriguing and handsome billionaire, Caspian initially dismisses the idea out of hand.
“…I’m quite a busy man, Arden, and I have neither the time or inclination to embark upon something both complicated and inevitably unsuccessful.”
And again with the half-empty glass. “How can you say that without even trying.”
He sighed, a finger stroking the crease between the eyes, as though it pained him slightly. “Because I know myself. I know what I’m capable of and I know what my life permits.”
While he’s not impervious to Arden’s charms and eventually does relent, Caspian insists on a restrictive verbal contract that stipulates a start and end date to their relationship, plus the requirement that Arden always be available on Caspian’s schedule. The payoff? It comes with a luxury condo and a credit card. But Arden desires something more than…stuff. Okay, he *likes* the stuff, but it’s the man he really wants. The ‘real’ man, not the aloof, watered down version Caspian is offering.
“I told you I wasn’t very good at caring for people.” A pause. “You keep saying you want me, Arden. Well, this is who I am.”
“No.” I came at him like a very small but determined tornado. “This is bullshit.”
Since HTBAB is told almost entirely from Arden’s perspective, any insight into Caspian Hart is filtered through Arden’s impressions. He’s precise, demanding and almost always implacable, except when he’s…not. These few exceptions are like a tease, both to the reader and to Arden, who is desperate to push their boundaries and pursue the D/s dynamic that he knows Caspian wants but refuses to allow.
For God’s sake, Caspian. Can’t you see I’m desperate for you to let go and dominate the fuck out of me? I like it rough. I like it filthy. And, most of all, I like it with you. When it is you. Not just the paper-thin façade of the man you think I want you to be.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“Isn’t it? It’s just sex. And I’m a fully consenting grown-up. No matter how rubbish I am at the grown-up part.”
“Those impulses in me aren’t…that is, they don’t come from a good place.”
Combined with the scorching prologue that starts this book, the above exchange is utterly enticing and leaves us with more questions than answers about who Caspian Hart really is and where and when “those impulses” were born.
If I haven’t mentioned it already, and if you couldn’t tell from the above quotes, a huge part of this book’s charm is it’s humour. Arden isn’t only the heart of this story, he’s also it’s funny bone. Whether it’s an extended internal dialogue or a throwaway line, he brings a beautiful levity to this story. Even Caspian is allowed to show a subtle wit and gentle teasing manner with Arden that makes him likeable and sympathetic despite knowing so little about him.
He took a neat little sip from his own glass. “Well, this is a Piper-Heidsieck Rate Vintage from 2002, reputably their best year since 1996.”
Oh dear Lord. I was so outclassed. “You know that just from tasting it?”
“It’s, ah, written on the bottle behind you.”
His tone was very careful, his expression unreadable, but his eyes were full of secret mischief.
Any similarity you see between HTBAB and Fifty Shades of Grey is strictly intentional (just look at the names of the characters). But don’t make the mistake of thinking this is some sort of parody. To me, this is the book that FSOG *should* have been if it hadn’t taken itself so seriously. Yes, Caspian is just as closed off and broody as Christian (albeit with a dry sense of humour), but Arden…oh, Arden is everything that Ana wasn’t and this book is all the better for it.
I will spend the next little while eagerly anticipating the next book. I want to know all of Caspian’s secrets and I definitely want more of the wonderful Arden. I would also like to see a little more of Caspian’s buttoned up assistant Justin Bellerose, who I didn’t mention in this review (I only have so much space here!) but who intrigued me greatly.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a witty, sexy billionaire romance that, above all, else is just plain fun.
Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the 21st century is the future. To this day, he feels cheated that he lived through a fin de siècle but inexplicably failed to drink a single glass of absinthe, dance with a single courtesan, or stay in a single garret. He did the Oxbridge thing sometime in the 2000s and failed to learn anything of substance. He has had many jobs, including ice cream maker, fortune teller, lab technician, and professional gambler. He was fired from most of them.
He can neither cook nor sing, but he can handle a 17th century smallsword, punts from the proper end, and knows how to hotwire a car.
He lives in southeast England, with no cats and no children, and fully intends to keep it that way.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.