How to Bang a Billionaire by Alexis Hall is like 50 Shades, if 50 Shades were
- Gay (do I have your attention now?)
- Actually set in the UK (no real American uses the word ‘clamber’)
- Main characters are both into BDSM (though this book doesn’t have much of it)
- Laugh out loud funny (intentional)
- Beautifully written (really)
- Profound (proof to come)
Arden St. Ives is about to sit for his exams at Oxford (for Americans: he’s about to graduate from university, not just end the semester), when he takes the place of his sick roommate (sound familiar?) at a fundraising drive. The fourth alum on his call list just happens to be billionaire Caspian Hart. Caspian graduated in 2010. So, still young. Under 30? Definitely hot, even on the phone.
(Smallest of quibbles: would a billionaire really be on the regular alumni call list? Is this a British thing? In the US Caspian Leander Hart would be on the university president’s hotline.)
Arden (read ‘Anna’ but not) is an epic catastrophizer and let’s it show. Caspian (read ‘Christian’ but not) is intrigued by Arden’s quirky kindness: “I had forgotten how potent sincerity can be.” Swoon. Later, Caspian shows up for the Alumni dinner and he’s unexpectedly considerate and shy.
- Hart is a stag, a male deer with large antlers.
- Hart is also a homophone for ‘heart’ (see: Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night – god I love the internet)
- Caspian is… a sea? Maybe the sea is gray?
- Or maybe it refers to Prince Caspian of Narnia. In which case I need to re… No. I’m never reading Chronicles of Narnia.
I don’t know. Just go with it. Go with the whole thing.
Alexis Hall wrote For Real, which immediately went to the top of my all time favorite romance novels when I read it, then re-read it, then listened to it. Like For Real, How to Bang a Billionaire employs apt literary and pop culture references, most humorous, some devastating (like Dorothy Parker’s Resume).
Hall has a way of getting at the heart of a character and story, social and cultural issues with the mundane, the everyday, the obvious once stated. Examples:
- I curled up in the corner bit of the sofa. Sofas with corner bits were the best sofas and this one, being an elegant U-shape, had two. (Truth)
- People who fucked your mouth didn’t have the right to pretend they hadn’t. (I’d never thought about it, but this statement is profound on so many levels, both for consensual sexual relationships and #metoo)
- Besides, I think I just… liked sex. In all its innumerable, multicolored shades. (heroines in romance novels rarely get to think this let alone act on it. A moment for growth)
- “This,” said Nik [Arden’s roommate], “is like… if there was a unicorn made out of vanilla and sparkles, and it was running through a field of primroses on a spring morning to meet its best unicorn friend for honey cakes… like… if that was champagne.” (I read this and thought: I will never know what real champagne tastes like)
Like 50, How to Bang a Billionaire ends on a cliffhanger, both a literary cliffhanger and a literal cliff. Their location at the end of the book is in a house on a cliff!
(Another quibble: I wish the title were different because I think it would get more readers. What’s the opposite of grey? Color? Light? I understand the title makes explicit what’s inside, unlike 50 Shades of a Gray which could be about interior design.)
The next book, How to Blow It with a Billionaire is already out. But note: the third novel in this trilogy is as yet untitled, and isn’t due out until 2019.