This anthology offers up six stories promising steaming sex, bad boy billionaires, and happily ever afters. From high school sweethearts reunited, to a bold ballet dancer offering up his body in exchange for funding, a clueless boss blindsided by the new hire, or a ruthless mobster falling for a sweet young bartender, there’s a little something for everyone.
The first story, Beautiful Chains by L.J. Longo hints for a moment at something dark and depraved, with power games, mind games, and a man forced to choose between the man who fulfills his darkest desires and the man of his dreams… but it peters out to a sweet, mild ending. Or Something by Loralynne Summers and Can’t Be Bought by Victoria Vallo are tales of office romances, misunderstandings, and mistaken impressions. They’re pleasant and nicely written with some good smut, but the happy endings came too quickly and too easily. Still, they had their moments.
The other three stories, though, are worth a bit of discussion, and two are well worth the reading. The first is Fallen Angel by Louise Collins, involving Aaron, who may or may not be a mobster (though I know which one I’d put my money on) in love with Jett, an average young man who tends the bar at Aaron’s only above-board bar. Aaron flirts in a long, slow, languid sort of way with the young man, in no way willing to get Jett caught up in his sordid life. Jett has the idea to host a theme night at the bar in an effort to bring in new customers, and Aaron lets himself be begged into allowing it.
What follows is something stupidly cute. Watching Aaron boast and strut, rambling on about three-legged dogs and suits with poor pockets, was… well, it was adorable. (What evil, murderous mob boss wouldn’t want his chest-thumping efforts to show off to be called adorable?) It’s a light, quick, fun read, and easily the best story of the collection, for me.
Coming in at a close second is Possession by Pelaam. Liam is a Dom who works hard but fair, who puts his employees above his shareholders pockets, and who has been without a sub since the last man he trusted used him, then left him — but not before taking a good chunk of change with him. Liam has a crush on his assistant, a young man called Zeno who is intelligent, cool and composed under pressure, and beautiful. But Zeno’s an employee and off limits … until, that is, Liam attends a masked party at a friend’s house. Everyone there is either a sub or a Dom, and who should Liam run into but Zeno clad in heels, horns, and very little else …
Zeno was abused by his previous Dom, but he’s ready to move forward with his life. When the two men find one another at the party it’s fate. The story is a little on the safe side, with neither Zeno or Liam wanting to push the other man too fast or too far, but it’s pretty much candy and whipped cream — with a bit of lace, leather, and handcuffs for that extra spice. The care and concern Liam shows Zeno is sweet, and so is the story.
The final entry, As Long As You Love Me by Megan Slayer is an oddness that left me with mixed and unhappy feelings. In essence, it’s a pleasant story about high school sweethearts given a second chance at their high school reunion — Carson, who left town to become rich and Luke, who stayed behind and became a librarian — ruined by the most cartoonish caricature shoehorned in as ‘conflict’ who came across as completely and irretrievably stupid.
Duncan served no purpose that I could see and acted in a way no rational person would. I honestly wondered for a moment if Duncan was meant to come across as, frankly, quite so intellectually and socially challenged, or if he was exaggerated for effect because, while the rest of the story was cute enough, his insertion was … well, if it were a full length book, it would be getting 2 stars. This is not my usual hyperbolic or florid description; this character and his social blindness are beyond caricature and into confusing, and altogether he ruined the final story for me so completely that I honestly suggest you just close the book when you’re done with the fifth story. It’s a shame, because without Duncan, Carson and Liam’s story could have been a nice ending to the collection.
In the end, the anthology was more about love than it was about billionaires. Money is mentioned, but it’s never a part of any story beyond “I have a house” or “I”m your boss.” There are no displays of wealth beyond Aaron’s watch and his story about why he’s wearing an expensive suit, and if it weren’t explicitly stated by the rich man in question, you would have no way of knowing these men had billions at all. Thousands, maybe. Maybe one or two was a millionaire, but it lacked the sheer, dripping, gluttonous displays of wealth that make a billionaire bad boy for me.
Five stories out of six makes this a good investment, and each story has a steamy scene or two (or three), but the smut is all relatively vanilla despite mentions of or promises of anything more exciting. If you want feel good love stories and happily ever afters, then you should consider this anthology. The only dud here is due to the forced conflict, not the love story itself.