Author ~ Alexis Hall
Publisher ~ Forever Yours
Published ~ 16th April 2017
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
Rules are made to be broken . . .
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.
This is one of those books that’s going to have a distinct divide between loved it and hated it. Alexis Hall’s take on the broody, kinky, emotionally stunted billionaire-dom who is suddenly taken with the awkward college student, starts off seeming like a parody of Fifty Shades of Grey. The framework is there, with striking similarities to start, but after the first few chapters the parody feel was gone. It is still clearly a play on the familiar theme, but Arden isn’t Anastasia Steele and Caspian isn’t Christian Grey.
I loved Arden from page one. He is about to graduate Oxford with hopes of a journalism career, but he’s been lazy and has no real prospects. He does have an inner monologue that is smart, witty and self-deprecating. He’s not an innocent flower, but he is rather emotional. Our pansexual hero has had a parade of people through his dorm room and wants to be a slut in a dungeon for Caspian from their first meeting. When the two actually meet for the first time and have their first sexual experience, Arden knows that Caspian wants something similar, but things don’t go well after that.
The men eventually come to an agreement. Caspian wants Arden but doesn’t want more than sex. Arden wants Caspian and agrees to a six month period of just that. No strings attached sex when Caspian wants it. Caspian installs Arden in one of his apartments in London, convincing Arden that it will be easier to meet up and will provide Arden with the freedom to look for work and not worry about being homeless. Things pretty much go downhill from the start. Arden just wants to be with Caspian – not the billionaire, not the closed off man, but the man he had glimpses of the first time, the man who apparently has a certain sexual appetite for rough sex and bondage. What he gets is a closed off Caspian who treats him like a whore (unintentionally because Caspian is apparently just clueless). Arden isn’t a shrinking flower and he thought he could work with what Caspian offered, but he’s just too emotionally invested.
Arden wants rough sex, he wants to explore a BDSM relationship and he makes that clear, but Caspian keeps throwing out this nebulous fear he has of hurting Arden and his need to maintain control. A need which Arden clearly tests. We don’t get more than that – a fear he’ll hurt Arden like he hurts others, that he isn’t a relationship man, that he must have control. While it’s obvious that Caspian is taken by Arden and that he’s trying to be what Arden wants, within his own limitations, it’s just as obvious he doesn’t know how to deal with Arden’s effect on him. That is still all we know by the end of the book. We don’t get to know Caspian much. There is the capacity for warmth and tenderness but most of the time he’s just very cold even when he thinks he’s being kind and sweet. We know that Caspian has family issues, we meet his troubled younger sister, but it all remains a mystery.
This book has me all jumbled up. I loved the writing. Alexis Hall always gives spectacular dialogue, witty with a beautiful use of language (I always learn a new word or two). I loved Arden. He is a bright light any time he is on the page, but Caspian is another story. I didn’t hate him, I certainly didn’t love him, it was more I was indifferent towards him for much of the story and that was a problem for me, even though with the story’s framework I know that was the way it was supposed to go. The initial spark between the two when they first talk and then meet, slowly dwindled for me to the point that I didn’t feel a connection at all. Whether it’s Caspian’s cold nature or what, the flame didn’t grow for me until the last pages of the story where we finally see a peek of Caspian as person, the glimpse of what Arden saw early on that kept him coming back for more. The sex scenes were often vague and I felt detached, likely the way Arden felt while it was going on, but that also did little for me as far as feeling the connection. While some of this may have been the author’s intent, it made it difficult for me to want to see them together, especially once Arden decides he’s had enough.
There’s not a lot of romancing in this book, there’s also not really any BDSM at this point. The story started off great and was a lot of fun, the middle lost me a bit, but It ends on a hopeful note, what some may consider a bit of a cliffy, a HFN with a promise to try. I knew going in it was a series, but didn’t realize it was going to follow the same couple. Now that I know it, even though there were some big bumps in this one, my love of Arden and the author’s writing will have me crossing my fingers and coming back for the next installment.
Meet Alexis Hall
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.