- Publisher: Forever Yours
- Publication Date: April 16, 2017, December 12, 2017
- Sold by: Hachette Book Group
- Language: English
How to Bang a Billionaire/How to Blow It with a Billionaire
Note: This is a review of both books together. Might be a bit spoilery. Definitely long-winded.
I’d been putting off reading both novels since I found out about them because the third novel is scheduled for release in September and I wanted to read them all at once. Especially with a writer like Hall, you get so much out of reading his series all the way through. But I broke down and, while the books were amazing, I’ll now have to wait the entire summer for the third installment. That is the not-so-fun-part
On the surface, this series functions as a rebuttal to 50 Shades of Grey. It takes the larger beats of that series and reworks them into a completely different story that, in the most simplistic terms, fixes most of what was wrong with James’ series. All the ick factors that characterized 50 Shades, from the poor writing and ridiculous depiction of BDSM to the worrisome message it sends about romance and abuse, are demolished and replaced with, like, good stuff in Hall’s novel. And it works.
In Book 1, we meet Arden, a young but resolutely un-virginal, soon-to-be Oxford graduate who will probably just barely pass his classes. However, he is sharp, witty, and bookish, but not in an academic way. He is positively gleeful in the pursuit of his sexual pleasure. When his friend, Nik, comes down with laryngitis, he takes over for him to man the telephones for an alumni fundraiser. This is when he speaks to Caspian Hart for the first time. A reclusive, incredibly successful billionaire, the attraction is instantaneous. Caspian surprises Arden by meeting him at the fundraising dinner later that week. The chemistry hinted at in their telephone call explodes in person and it is off the charts.
Arden is understandably lost as he approaches the end of his schooling but he is full of joy and intelligence. I’ve only read this series and the Spires series so I might be talking out of my ass but I always believed that Ash in Glitterland was the smartest of Hall’s creations. However, Arden possesses a wittiness and cultural withitness that makes his character literally sparkle on the page. It’s no wonder Caspian is so taken by him.
Caspian is mysterious, wealthy, handsome, and ruthless, with an edge of cruelty. The mystery of Caspian Hart is sustained by using Arden as the first-person narrator. We discover Caspian as he does, and trust me, there is a lot to excavate there, especially as more is revealed about his backstory in Book 2. Basic forms of intimacy are an issue with him and many times, when he speaks, he sounds almost robotic. While he is clearly attracted to Arden, he tries to resist the attraction at first and, when he no longer can, arranges a short-term arrangement wherein Arden is put up in an apartment, his bills and expenses paid for, all in exchange for a sexual relationship with Caspian. Arden, and the reader, quickly suss out that Caspian has dominant tendencies he is not comfortable with, even though he has a willing partner in Arden.
One thing I like about these books is that Arden rightfully frames their sexual preferences as healthy kinks, whereas Caspian sees those impulses as deviant and dangerous. This was one of the great (among many) failures of 50 Shades – the idea that Christian Grey was a dominant because of his sexual coercion as a boy, a condition that he needed to be cured of, whereas Caspian has, along the way, been manipulated to believe that these tendencies are unnatural and it is Arden tries his hardest to liberate him of that misperception. In fact, sex in all its forms is depicted positively and isn’t used as a deviant crutch to manufacture false conflict. There is conflict around Caspian’s discomfort with his kink but it isn’t the kink itself that’s portrayed negatively. It’s one of many instances in which Hall inverts the roles and dynamics found in 50 Shades and the results are much more effective.
There’s so much to work with in this series. The first installment leaves the reader with a satisfactory ending, while the second ends with a heart wrenching cliff hanger. As a reader, you are rooting for this couple but each of them contribute to tensions in the relationship. Caspian’s are obvious – he is just this side of fucked up. And Arden can be impatient with Caspian, pushing him at times when he would do well to slow down.
Caspian is mesmerizing when he lets his guard down. He may have ruthless tendencies, but there is something vulnerable, painful and loveable about him. There were several instances where I kept saying, “Ardy, baby – Run, don’t walk, away from that man!” I spent much of both novels in fear for Arden because I knew Caspian had the power to hurt him deeply. When Caspian inevitably does, I truly ached for him. However, Arden, grows in personal power throughout the novels until he comes into his own in book two. Watching that development is one of the best things about this series.
And Hall’s writing? Besides the craft stuff, at which he is a master, and his use of language, which is pure poetry, he can, in one page, go from invoking Harold Bloom to Mace Windu and it’s so thrilling to see someone so intellectually nimble at work. It’s scary. And intimidating. And downright humbling.
Now, the hardest part for me as a reader is to get through this summer before the last installment comes out.
Of course, both books are 5-star reads
PS – I couldn’t stop listening to Energia by Camila, which reminds me of Arden in the preview chapter for book 3. If you do decide to spear your soul by reading the preview of How to Belong to a Billionaire at the end of the book 2, this song is the perfect accompaniment.