Arden St. Ives is finishing up at Oxford when he volunteers at a phone bank to solicit wealthy alumni for donations. That is how Arden ends up talking to Caspian Hart, a gorgeous, young billionaire. Arden has no idea who Caspian is; frankly he is shocked the man hasn’t hung up on him like everyone else so far. But Caspian takes some time to chat with Arden, and surprises Arden even more when he shows up for a fundraising dinner. Arden is a pretty normal guy, nothing that should make a sexy billionaire look twice. But despite the fact that Arden has no idea what he wants to do with his life and has mostly spent his college years hanging out and having sex, Caspian seems intrigued.
The problem is Caspian is also cold, aloof, and incredibly restrained. Despite Arden’s best efforts to get the sexy man into his bed, Caspian is keeping his distance. At least most of the time. But occasionally, Arden gets glimpses behind that stoic facade, and he can see a bit of the real man behind the exterior. A man who definitely (and inexplicably to Arden) seems to want him. When Caspian suggests a formal arrangement of sorts between them, Arden is eager for the chance to get his hands on the sexy man, as well as to get to know him better.
But being Caspian’s “prenegotiated short-term sexual encounter” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. As much as he enjoys his time with Caspian, Arden can also feel how much the man is holding back. Arden can tell that Caspian’s tastes run toward the more dominant, and he would love to explore that with Caspian. But Caspian is determined to exercise his iron control and not go down that path with Arden. Arden loves being with Caspian, but being kept at arm’s length is becoming too much for him. Arden wants to know the real man behind Caspian’s controlled exterior, but unless Caspian is willing to open up to him, there is no hope for things to continue between them.
How to Bang a Billionaire is the first book in Alexis Hall’s new Arden St. Ives series and I absolutely loved it. This one pretty much had me from “billionaire dom” to be honest. Interestingly, the dom/sub side of things doesn’t play prominently here in this first story. In fact, Caspian quite clearly is trying to keep that side of him at bay. Yet I was captivated nonetheless with this one from the very start.
First off, I have to say this story rests strongly on Arden’s incredibly engaging shoulders. The story is told strictly from his POV, which is a really clever choice. So much about Caspian is a mystery to Arden and the man holds so much of himself back, that it makes sense that we never truly know what is happening in Caspian’s head. Plus, Arden is so adorably, unintentionally charming I couldn’t help but love him. Arden pretty much admits he has wasted his time at Oxford having fun and has no idea what to do with himself now. And he has such a great voice, I found him so incredibly entertaining.
My final final was the worst final. It crawled by. Such a vast room and it was still stifling. Full of identi-kit people in black and white, heads bowed over papers, hands moving in jerky lines. Silence broken only by the occasional rustle. The scratchscratch of nearby pens. A long, deep sign.
Oh. Wait. That was me.
As I scrawled out a few more desultory sentences.
My concentration wasn’t so much flagging as flagged. Post-flagged. Beyond the reach of even the most determined flags.
Despite being a broke guy quasi-dating a billionaire, Arden is very clear about not wanting to be bought or kept. He is playful and fun and charmingly self-deprecating, but he also stands up for himself and is a good, kind person who clearly cares. So I loved being in his head, and I think Arden is what makes this story work so well.
Caspian is fascinating, but sort of unknowable. We get glimpses of the man Arden sees; we can tell that there is a softness and vulnerability buried (VERY) deep inside that on occasion he lets out with Arden. Caspian could have come across as so cold as to be unlikeable, but Hall gives us enough sense of how torn Caspian is, how much he struggles with what he wants and what he will let himself have. This is a man who made billions before he was 30. He didn’t get where he is without control and strength and discipline. So I love how we see those things slip, just the tiniest bit, when he is around Arden. This is just the first book in the trilogy, so we don’t see the full Caspian quite yet in this story. But there is enough here to keep the reader (and Arden) eager to learn more about him.
Like I said, this book doesn’t go quite into the Dom/sub arena just yet. Caspian is still holding out too much for that. In fact, while there are a couple of hot scenes, most of their sexual encounters are described very simply, in keeping with the reserved way they play out in the story. I found this quite clever, as we really can feel the difference between the times Caspian lets go and things are explosive between them, and the times when he is holding back. I am expecting this to be developed more as the series continues, and I am really eager to see where things go between the men. I was totally captivated by How to Bang a Billionaire and I can’t wait for more in the series.