When I started Stranded with a Billionaire, I knew it was going to be a silly read. The title gave it away, as did the whole billionaire premise to begin with. What I didn’t know was that I was already going to be shaking my head incredulously inside of the first five pages. So, I decided to do something I haven’t quite done before in a review, which is something of a live-blog of this book.
-> 3% Wasting no time at all, our hero enters the guarded back room of a bar where he is clearly out of place, because it’s in a bad neighborhood and he’s wearing an expensive suit. (Me: well, that’s just ASKING to get mugged!) In the back room are four other men in expensive suits, for whom we are immediately given first and last names and basic job descriptions as a matter of exposition, thereby setting up the rest of the books in the “Billionaire Boys Club” series.
The men raised their drinks, clinking bottles together. “Fratres in prosperitatem,” they all said in unison, as they did every month. It was the motto of their clandestine society—“Brothers in Success.”
-> 4% Holy shit, the heroine’s name is Brontë.
-> 7% I’ve read this book before. It’s the one where the hero is an ass to everyone, including the heroine, because that’s what desirable men are, assholes. And the heroine is “smart,” or at the very least bookish, and we know this because she quotes classical philosophers in casual conversation.
“Well, aren’t you Miss Suzy Sunshine?” he said. “At least I’m doing something instead of sitting around and giggling.”
“‘Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge,’” she quoted.
“Plato,” Brontë told him, lifting her chin in the darkness.
“Brontë? After Charlotte or Emily?”
Her esteem of him grudgingly went up a notch. Normally people cracked jokes about dinosaurs rather than realizing where her name was from.
-> 13% This book is like fish in a barrel. I’m going to have to slow my roll so this “review” doesn’t end up being long as shit. But really:
Whoever Brontë was, she was smart and interesting, even if she was just a waitress.
Can I have a minute? Classism aside, this quote caps off a passage that embodies a romance trope that I hadn’t thought about too much before, but is really sticking in my craw in this particular instance. Authors have to show (or tell, if they’re not good at the showing) why the mains are meant to be together, why they are special for each other. Even in erotic romance, where the connection is basically physical, the author has to establish SOME reason why they connect physically better than either has with anyone else. What ends up happening too often is the male character goes through this point-by-point breakdown of everything he knows about her to basically assess how worthy she is of him. Which is something that some people do in real life, but it’s not quite as gendered as it appears to be, reading these books. The alpha male is always grading the woman in front of him not only to his general standard but also on the curve of every woman who came before her, in great detail, versus the heroine just being chipper like “He makes me feel good!” I’m not a fan of it. It reinforces female competition and the idea that we have to tie ourselves in knots to be good enough for some guy, and the guy can literally be just some guy who gives us vague feelings of warm fuzzies. /rant over
-> 22% To recap what we have so far: Logan hates golddiggers and women who compete against each other for the men with the most money, but only dates models, actresses, and ballerinas. He’s a cliche who hates cliches. He likes Brontë because she is cheerful and has open, honest eyes, and she doesn’t know about his money. Brontë likes Logan because he got her out of an elevator in a hurricane and helped her find food and water. He was also “nice.” Editorial note: Brontë’s definition of “nice” needs work.
-> 41% Are we doing this? That thing where the woman is insistent she doesn’t want to see you again (because you’re an asshole) so you BUY THE PLACE WHERE SHE WORKS to force her to be close to you? I can’t tell if this is a thing that authors think women actually want or if at this point they’re just pulling random details from 50 Shades and hoping they stick.
-> 45% You guys. You know that thing in historicals where they get busy in a snowstorm? Here’s the new contemporary equivalent: the walk-in freezer in a restaurant. Frigid AND sanitary!
-> 61% Serious question: there are tropes and then there are just … things that are identical. Blonde ice-queen scorned lover corners brunette Bambi new girlfriend at party to try to scare her off? I’m risking embarassment with how much I remember from 50 Shades, but how many of these details are actually that common in the billionaire category, or are they just very liberally applied homage? Either way, it’s appalling.
-> 63% Giving the hero POV sections is such a mistake. When he is a controlling dick but I’m not in his head, I can try to pretend that he’s just charmingly misguided about how he thinks women want to be treated. When I’m privy to his thoughts, they confirm what a low opinion he has of women in general and how little he cares for the heroine’s agency.
She’d told him she loved him, and he’d given her a hug. He wasn’t the kind to declare his love, though. Not before a prenup was signed and he could be sure of her feelings. He’d traveled down that road once before, and he wasn’t going to be taken again. His father had been a tough buzzard, too… Hawkings men didn’t declare their feelings, because it gave power to someone else.
Logan wouldn’t make that mistake again. So he had said nothing when Brontë had confessed her feelings to him, even though he’d felt a surge of satisfaction at her admission. She loved him. His beautiful, sweet Brontë loved him.
Is this supposed to be romantic? That he is dicking with her feelings, taking full advantage of how good her love makes him feel, and being purposefully withholding from her? Logan has issues, and they need to be worked out on his own time before he manipulates the shit out of this newborn kitten heroine who doesn’t know any better. When authors write this way from the male perspective, do they actually think this is what men are like? Just walking fountains of bilious disrespect? Centuries of patriarchy have given men a lot of ideas that could stand to be corrected, but writing them so awfully does a disservice to men and women, because it reinforces that men are pigs and women shouldn’t expect any better from them.
Hunter had suggested a test, and Logan thought it was a brilliant plan. He’d give her something valuable out of the blue, something that would be important to her, and watch her reaction.
If she was pleased with his gift, or demanded more, he’d know that she wanted it more than him. If she refused his gift, he could feel more confident in how she felt about him.
“It’s an expensive gift,” he pointed out, frustrated by her mulish responses. “Most people would say thank you.”
“I guess I’m confused. Why do you think I’d want the diner?”
“So you can make something of yourself.”
She stiffened. “You mean, so I can be something other than a waitress?”
“Something like that,” Logan said.
The papers smacked his chest. Brontë leapt to her feet. “Keep the diner.”
She didn’t want it. Didn’t want his money. Elation surged, and Logan watched her get up and cross the room. “You don’t want it?”
She didn’t answer him.
She was . . . angry? Logan got to his feet and followed her down the hall. She stormed into one of the guest rooms, and when he followed, he noticed she was emptying one of the closets. He noted her stiff shoulders, her furious movements.
And that she had a suitcase open.
“Where are you going?” he asked, frowning.
“You said I could stay as long as I wanted,” Brontë said, her voice tight. “This is as long as I want. I’m done here.”
“Why?” His voice was harsh. Anger rocketed through him. This was completely irrational of her. “You’re mad because I tried to give you a gift?”
This is your prize, ladies. He will try to trick you by giving you an expensive gift, but it’s not a gift, it’s a test! If you are happy with the gift, you’re a gold-digger and he was right not to trust you. If you’re unhappy because you correctly deduce that this gift/test is insulting, utter fucking bullshit, you’re completely irrational.
I guess, to be fair, the heroine ends up putting a lot of that into words herself, but I still need to say it, because having your heroine pay lip service to the hero being a complete pig means nothing when she’s just gonna forgive him in a minute.
-> 71% Here’s another related example to what I was just complaining about. Gretchen, a new friend of Brontë’s and likely female lead of the next book, says: “Save me from rich, attractive alpha males. They think they’re the heroes from a fairy tale. Little do they know, they’re more like the villains,” later emphasizing that brains are more important than looks. I’d be inclined to give Jessica Clare points here for the meta commentary, but then you get the immediate followup from an eavesdropping dude opining what women REALLY want. Just… stop undermining your own female characters! All the rah-rah girl power dialogue and laudably assertive moments in the world won’t make your book less declarative of your internalized sexism if the male characters get to keep being so chauvinistic and get exactly what they want.
-> 72% Holy shit. He did it AGAIN. He bought her place of employment AGAIN to force her into his presence.
-> 73% I don’t care about your grovel. I don’t care that you technically maybe said the right things to apologize to Brontë. I don’t care because you’re STILL framing this like she is the ONLY WOMAN IN THE WORLD that doesn’t care about your money, when your past experience has probably been entirely reaping what you sow. If rich men only want to date models, actresses, and ballerinas because they are thin and conventionally attractive, then I think those women have a right to be equally shallow and date men for their money. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, MRAs and sexist, judgemental female romance authors. That is the bargain that has been struck.
Brontë was blaming Logan for being . . . Logan. Logan was who he was—a little alpha, take-charge, and always thinking ahead. And she’d been punishing him for being who he was instead of loving him for it.
She’d been the problem all along.
-> 93% They’re back together and having a lot of sex. Neat.