Heat Factor: Spicy enough
Character Chemistry: He berates her and does angry seduction and she melts under his caresses, so you know I am ALL about it
Plot: She’s his bodyguard, but he thinks she’s an escort/con artist
Overall: Once I started pretending this book was published in 1980, my enjoyment increased dramatically
I am probably not the right audience for this book, because billionaire books are just not my cup of tea. The only way to become a billionaire is by exploiting the people under you, so I just can’t get on board with them as romantic heroes. Plus the heroes tend to be emotionally closed off, paternalistic sex gods, which is sooooo not my type. I went for this one only because the heroine was a bodyguard, and I thought that maybe the author would play with some of the tropes given the opportunity for some gender role reversal.
Imagine my dismay, then, when this happened on page 2:
As she was dressing, she gazed critically at her body, cursing her pert little breasts and slim derriere. It was a daily ritual.
What. The. Fuck. First of all, “pert” breasts are desirable. “Slim” derrieres are desirable. If she were really upset about these body parts, she should use negative language – “tiny breasts and a flat butt”, perhaps. Beyond that, heroines who are so lacking in self love that their daily ritual is cataloguing all of their body parts with loathing are, uh, terrible. Yes, many women are insecure about their bodies (and probably do engage in such self-loathing rituals), including women who are skinny, but the whole trope of “she doesn’t know she’s beautiful and then a man tells her” can die in a fire.
And the aggravating tropes just kept coming! Here are some other tropey things that happen in this book, all of which would be right at home in a good ole Old Skool Bodice Ripper:
- He thinks she’s a whore, but she’s so innocent and virginal! So confusing!
- She is irrationally jealous and throws other women in his face for no reason whatsoever! (This is extra infuriating because an escort wouldn’t pull this nonsense, and for a bodyguard to do so is unprofessional in the extreme.)
- She skips ALL the meals, or only nibbles toast. And then wonders why her derriere is so slim. And then he forces her to sit down and eat.
- He flies into a jealous rage and accuses her of “flirting” every time she speaks to another man. To be fair, because She Doesn’t Know She’s Beautiful (™), she probably is inadvertently flirting and having all the men fall in love with her because she’s actually the most beautiful woman on the planet because she’s Unique. Still doesn’t excuse the jealous rages.
- He treats her like garbage. As in: verbally abusing her while pulling her clothes off, and not in a consensual dirty talk kind of way.
- He sneak attack kisses her, and she just acquiesces. Or he leans in and her response, instead of saying something, is to look at him beseechingly while thinking, “please kiss me.”
Yikes times 1000. There’s a lot of toxic nonsense to unpack here, but instead of doing that I’m just going to reiterate: once I pretended that I was reading an older book where nonsense was par for the course instead of a book published in 2020, I felt a lot less ragey about all of it.
I do want to acknowledge some things that this book did well. There are a couple of scenes at the end, when everything has come to light, where Hilliard flipped the switch on my expectations and I finally felt like I could root for these two. For one, Lex finally tells Michael off for being a selfish jerk, and I felt like cheering. Even bigger, when Michael realizes that he doesn’t know Lex at all because it was all a lie, he doesn’t freak out and blame her – he blames himself for being a selfish jerk. His grovel is a thing of perfection.
And finally, the villainess’ name is Ivana, and she looks like this:
Gotta take my pleasures from the small things.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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