Things almost fell apart for Arden St. Ives and his not-quite-boyfriend, billionaire Caspian Hart. But Caspian agreed to try harder to open himself up to Arden and involve him more in his life. And Arden agreed that he will try to be more patient and understanding as Caspian works through his need to keep so much of himself hidden away. The reunion in Scotland, followed by some kinky plane sex, leads into the men moving forward with their relationship. Caspian is much more open with Arden and things are no longer all on his terms. Arden can see Caspian letting go more often, letting Arden in, even spending the night and going out on dates. Add in the explosive sex between them and in many ways it is everything Arden could want.
But Caspian still has his secrets, still has parts of himself he refuses to share. And while sometimes Arden is ok with that, there are other times he struggles. It is not just that he wants to know more about Caspian, but he can’t be there for him when he doesn’t understand what Caspian is going through. And it is clear that Caspian has a lot of things that he struggles with emotionally. Caspian worries that opening up to Arden, letting Arden see parts of him Caspian is afraid to bring to the light, will just send Arden away. But keeping Arden at a distance may drive a wedge between them as well. If Caspian really opens up to Arden, will it bring the men closer together? Or will it destroy the tentative relationship they have built?
How to Blow it with a Billionaire is the second story in Alexis Hall’s fabulous Arden St. Ives series and follows directly from the wonderful How to Bang a Billionaire. I really loved the first story and was super excited for the follow up and Hall really delivers with this second installment.
I think Hall advances things between the men just the right amount here. As readers, we can really see how hard Caspian is trying and how much he clearly cares about Arden. And we can tell Arden sees it too. Caspian is more open, there is more tenderness between them and more ease. We can see their connection growing from more than just a sexual encounter where Caspian keeps himself at a distance, to something much closer to a real relationship. Now I say closer, because Caspian doesn’t change completely here, nor would I expect him to at this point in the series. But we can really see the growth here in their relationship, which I think is important in this middle book in the trilogy, especially given where things end in the previous story.
What works here incredibly well is the way Hall strikes that perfect balance between the humor and fun of Arden as our narrator and the more poignant and intense moments in the story. That is something that I think is critical to making a series like this work, and Hall pulls it off so well. Yes, Arden is still a fabulous POV character. His self deprecation, his sense of humor, and his quirkiness make him such endearing and such a fun person to navigate the story. Here is an example from a scene that I just loved. It totally shows off Arden’s personality and humor, but it also perfectly captures Caspian’s vulnerability as well:
“Good God. What’s all this?”
“Just your standard, everyday, perfectly average collection of sexy toys.”
“I wouldn’t call this average, Arden. I would call it expansive. I mean–”
He covered his eyes with a hand. “I don’t know what to say.”
“How about: I respect your commitment to self-pleasure.”
“This is quite the commitment.”
“Nothing. Just do you..are we…am I not satisfying you?”
“Where did that come from? I love sexy times with you.”
“Well.” His frown intensified. “I can’t help but notice you have gathered masturbatory aids with the determination of a squirrel preparing for a long winter.”
I couldn’t help giggling at the image. Arden St. Ives: wanksquirrel.
But what really makes this story work is that alongside this humor and lightness, there is a real depth and intensity to the story. We hit a lot of deeper notes here, from Arden finding the direction for his life, to his friendship with Ellory, to an accident that befalls a friend. And mostly importantly, as we just begin to unlock some of Caspian’s secrets. Hall builds this element in quite deliciously right from the start. First off, we have the title. There is no hiding that something is going to happen here. And second, the book starts with a prologue from an unknown POV. I don’t want to go into it too much, but this person is sharing thoughts on Caspian and it’s dark and insidious. So we know there is this malevolence out there, but we don’t really understand what it means or who it is until the story develops. So these two things played so perfectly in the back of my mind as the light and fun stuff is happening, just waiting to see how it would all come together. And let me say the ending here is so perfectly done. Yes, you might hate Hall a little bit because we have to wait for the next book to see how it plays out. But the way he so masterfully puts all these pieces in play over the course of the two books to let it all come together at the end here is just fabulous. I am anxious for the next book, but happily so, because I just loved how this was all done so well.
So yes, I am dying for the third book (which looks to be out in a couple of months). And this one definitely leaves a cliffhanger. But it is so worth it. I just love this series and think this is another fabulous installment. If you haven’t started it yet, go grab the first book and get yourself ready for a great ride.