Why I read it: I follow Jenny Trout (the author – Abigail Barnette is a pseudonym) on Twitter and I picked this one up some time ago when it was either free or 99c. At the time of writing, it was free from Amazon. The other books in the series are available from Kobo but I couldn’t find this one there for some reason.
What it’s about: (from Goodreads) Sophie Scaife almost ran away once, trading her ticket to college for a ticket to Tokyo. But a delayed flight and a hot one-night stand with a stranger changed her mind, putting her firmly on track to a coveted position at a New York fashion magazine.
When the irresistible stranger from that one incredible night turns out to be her new boss – billionaire and publishing magnate Neil Elwood – Sophie can’t resist the chance to rekindle the spark between them… and the opportunity to explore her submissive side with the most Dominant man she’s ever known.
Neil is the only man who has ever understood Sophie’s need to submit in the bedroom, and the only man who has ever satisfied those desires. When their scorching, no-strings-attached sexual relationship becomes something more, Sophie must choose between her career and heart… or risk losing them both.
What worked for me (and what didn’t): I might be remembering wrongly but I think Jenny Trout is open about this being her attempt at writing a Fifty Shades of Grey/Crossfire type book; except better. There is the billionaire and the young girl, kinky sex, a work connection and drama-llama. I’ve never read Fifty and I don’t plan to. I read and really liked Bared to You but I haven’t read beyond book two of that series because I lost interest. I think this book is better. And there are a number of reasons for that. Let me explain. *beckons*
First off, Neil Elwood is a believable billionaire. His comes from family wealth and he’s 48 when the book starts. He’s good looking and fit but he’s not super young. (Ten years ago I may have thought this was old but now, really, 48 is in the bloom of youth as far as I’m concerned. Just sayin’.) He hasn’t started from nothing a la Roarke from the In Death series but he has worked hard to create and amass more wealth independently and given his age, it fits.
Sophie Scaife is 24. She only really fits the “ingenue” mould in that she’s young and she’s not experienced in terms of relationships (or BDSM) but she is sexually experienced. She thinks of herself as having been the “queen of one night stands” before this and there is no slut shaming of it at all. In fact, the whole book is a glorious acceptance of sex in all the different consensual ways to have it and I enjoyed that very much. Sophie is intelligent and hard working and self aware.
Six years earlier, Sophie, then 18, had met Neil (who at the time identified himself as “Leif”) at LAX. She was running away from going to college and had made an impulsive decision to go to Tokyo (I think the book was a little vague on this but I can’t say I’m sorry not much time was spent on it). Leif was heading to Tokyo as well and when their flight was delayed, the ended up heading to a hotel together where they both had the best sex of their lives (let’s face it, for Sophie this is probably not difficult). The next morning Leif was gone and Sophie, because reasons, doesn’t go to Tokyo but instead heads to college. Both of them remember their encounter and for Sophie (the book is told from her first person POV) it informs her attempts at relationships thereafter. No-one can measure up to Leif.
When Neil’s company takes over the magazine, Porteras, where Sophie works as First Assistant to the Editor, Sophie finds herself confronted by the man she thought never to see again. While she had seen pictures of Neil (he’s a billionaire, everyone has seen pictures of him and he has his own Wikipedia page etc etc) she had scoffed to herself that Neil and Leif could not be the same person. Things get a little clunky when Neil apparently doesn’t recognise Sophie straight away (especially when other things about Neil’s feelings for Sophie are revealed) but after they sort out their identity issues, things progress much more smoothly in terms of the story.
Sophie and Neil are actually pretty good at talking to one another. Neil is a genuinely nice guy. He’s thoughtful, interested, open and caring, as well as dead sexy. Sophie sometimes blurts things rather than approaching them more subtly, but the point is that she does tell him what she wants and they set ground rules very early on which work for them. They discuss safe sex and birth control. They start to have a D/s relationship and they explicitly discuss likes and dislikes. Neil’s sexual freedom helps Sophie be confident to ask for what she wants and that Neil will never shame her for wanting whatever that is. Neil makes genuine apologies without excuses when he makes mistakes.
Neil is also a bisexual (and there’s a free novella called The Hook-Up where there is a *cough* demonstration *cough* of this) and his own openness and Sophie’s in this regard was refreshing and appreciated.
After about a week while Sophie is training her replacement, she moves on to a different division in the company where she doesn’t work report directly to Neil. The takeover which brought Neil into Porteras, was hostile and there are ructions at some of the changes Neil wishes to make. Sophie finds herself caught up in the machinations of others while she tries to juggle her own career goals and very real issues regarding job security with her burgeoning relationship with Neil.
Sophie has a good friend in Holli, a model. They have been friends since freshman year of college and have lived together in New York ever since they graduated. The book covers body image in a different way to the usual as well – Holli is tall and very skinny. She has a metabolic disorder which means she has to eat like a horse just to stay skinny. Even though it is presented about a skinny person, the book does have some things to say about people judging others based on their looks/body type – that is: they should shut up and stop it.
Sophie is confident in her appearance without being vain and I so appreciated that she owned this aspect about herself. That said, she was also “normal” in that she wanted to look her best and got the horrors if her mascara was running all over her face or her hair was a mess. Neil is always accepting of Sophie’s appearance – no, that’s not right. He loves how she looks. It’s very soon apparent that he loves her.
In fact, it is Sophie who is skittish about being in a relationship. She’s worried that Neil and his billions and his busy corporate life will overwhelm her. There are things she wants to do, things she wants to achieve. She loves Neil but she doesn’t want to rush into living together or anything like that because she’s quite relationship-shy. Besides they’ve only just got together – there’s no rush.
Neil, who believed Sophie was 25 when they’d met six years earlier (because that’s what Sophie told him) does have a bit of trouble in accepting a relationship with someone who is literally the same age as his daughter but his feelings for Sophie soon overwhelm any concerns. Things are tense for a fair while between Sophie and Neil’s daughter, Emma, and their first meeting is most inauspicious – and also really funny.
“Don’t you think it’s only going to be worse if I stay?” I asked, getting to my feet.
“Perhaps, but…” he sighed. “I like being with you. I don’t want to cut our time together short. And your presence generally improves my life, so if I’m going to endure the most uncomfortable father-daughter breakfast ever, I might as well do it with you beside me for moral support.”
I thought the way Sophie interacted with Emma was really good and showed further evidence of her maturity.
I loved how open Neil was about his feelings. I loved how he didn’t play emotional games with Sophie or try to manipulate her emotions. Even though the book is first person, I felt like I got a real sense of who Neil was through his actions and dialogue and this definitely served to increase my enjoyment of the story, being the hero-centric reader that I am. That said, I liked Sophie very much and was happy to be in her POV. Even when she messed up, she was trying to do right and she owned her mistakes early and forthrightly.
I also loved that Neil was able to separate his role as Sophie’s employer from that of her lover.
The sex is off the charts hot. It is well written, creative, sexy, dirty and fun. I loved the dynamic between the pair and their chemistry and connection was palpable.
What else? Sophie has a self-deprecating sense of humour and some parts of the story were very funny. Mostly these were in the form of asides which broke the tension on the page such as here:
Without thinking, I mused, “Maybe you just look different when you’re looking at me.”
Do you know what Maybachs really need? Ejector seats. Even if the only option for escape is to be flung into traffic.
I hadn’t realised the story has a cliffhanger ending however. It was only because I had the next book already on my reader that I was able to cope. Things are pretty dire at the end of this book. Message to romance readers: you need to get the first two books in the series if you want a happy ending. I had to read them back to back because otherwise my romance-loving heart would have been broken. Frankly, if I had read this before the other book was available, I’d have been crabby. CRABBY. I’m not a fan of cliffhangers and things were very much up in the air at the end of this book. Even in Bared To You Eva and Gideon were together at the end (not for long because of course, but they were a couple on the final page at least).
There is that feeling of emotional rollercoaster-ness that one might get in a Fifty-type book but without the overt manipulation I saw (but accepted happily enough) in stories like Bared to You. There was no tortured backstory with sexual abuse from either partner and both of them generally had their heads on straight. There are high stakes in the book, be in no doubt, but it didn’t feel like I was being manipulated in quite the same way. That is, I didn’t the see authorial hand in play and I appreciated both main characters are intelligent and not emotionally stunted.
The book is kind of hard to grade because I read the next book immediately after so I didn’t suffer from cliffhanger-itis (which may have been fatal for my reader – it’s a very serious disease) and I now think of them as all one book. I liked it very much and I think it is one of the best examples of its type I’ve read but because of the cliffhanger ending, it gets a B+ from me.