Fifteen years ago, Ellison York let a dare get out of hand. He was drunk and when he was encouraged to try to hook up with a caddy at the club, Ellison let his attraction to Grey Blackwood get the best of him. Ellison had long desired Grey, and his interest in having an encounter with a man for the first time was real. But when they were caught, Ellison’s father and his powerful friends ruined Grey’s reputation and any chance he had for the critical connections into the investment banking world he had been struggling to attain for years. Ellison deeply regrets not speaking up at the time, not making it clear that it was he who encouraged Grey into the storeroom, that Grey did nothing wrong. But now it is too late as the damage is done and no one will listen. The only thing Ellison can do is be a better man and try to turn his life around.
Grey has let his anger fuel him for the past fifteen years and he is determined to destroy those who sought to ruin his life the best way he knows how — through business. Grey has built his own investment banking firm, working three jobs and countless hours to go from the poor kid from a struggling family into a success. Not just a success, but a billionaire. One by one, he has slowly taken over each of the companies owned by the families who tried to ruin him — the ones who fired him, the ones who rescinded job offers, the ones who black balled him. Now Grey is ready for the jewel in his crown, to take over York Capital and see the look on Warren and Ellison York’s faces when they realize that he now owns their precious family company.
Ellison wants nothing to do with his father or York Capital. In fact, he has finally extricated himself from that life and is starting work at a private school he runs with his sister in Vermont. But when Grey takes over York, Ellison knows he needs to help. He may hate his father, but he loves his mother and sister and he hates the idea of the family company being in someone else’s hands. Not to mention that his greedy father has sheltered all their family assets in the company, meaning Ellison’s mother will be left without a home if Grey takes the company. Ellison knows Grey’s takeover is ironclad, but Ellison figures he may be able to negotiate a little. He is willing to agree to whatever it takes, including being ordered around for two weeks by Grey as his “personal assistant,” in order to help out his family.
Things start out nothing but tense between the men. Ellison is incredibly remorseful for his mistakes of the past, but Grey doesn’t want to hear his apologies. But slowly, the men start to realize that there is more to each of them than they both knew. Grey puts up a wall to almost everyone, polite but unyielding. Yet he has a compassionate and caring side, as well as a warmth that entices Ellison when he catches a glimpse. And Grey realizes that Ellison isn’t the stuck up ass that he once thought. The men are still at odds, but slowly coming to respect and even care for each other. So when Grey needs access to a York family friend for a critical business deal, Ellison agrees to help him out. It means pretending to be boyfriends, which should be a hardship, but the men are finding there is something real between them. As they start falling for each other, it seems like there could be a chance between them. But with so much baggage in their past, it is going to take a lot of trust and communication to make it work.
Hostile Takeover is an engaging and intense enemies to lovers story by Lucy Lennox. The book opens fifteen years ago as we see Ellison at the club with friends acting out the dare with disastrous results. It then jumps to present day as we see the men in the aftermath. For Ellison, the incident affirmed what he was already realizing — he wants nothing to do with his father, the company, or the awful people he seems to surround himself with. Ellison has worked for years to steer his life in a new direction and has finally broken free of his father’s influence. He is genuinely remorseful for what happened and has tried many times to clarify that he was the one at fault, but no one listens to him. And while Ellison wants nothing to do with his father, he also can’t sit by while Grey takes the family company and his parents’ assets, at least not if there is anything he can do to help. For Grey, he has worked tirelessly to makes his dreams come true on his own after all his opportunities were torn away. He grew up poor and had worked hard to gain the connections he needed to get started in the investment world, only to have it all destroyed in one night. Now, Grey is a huge success, but he is driven by his need for revenge. So these guys are primed at the start for a conflict and Lennox does a wonderful job building the intensity, the animosity, and the chemistry. Because while these men may be at odds, there is a fierce attraction between them that only grows. At first, it is lust and desire, but soon it is a real connection and appreciation for each other. It is a slow burn and it takes a while for the guys to get there, but Lennox really keeps the tension high and I enjoyed the intensity between the men. And when they ultimately get together, it is explosive.
I appreciated that Lennox shows that Ellison has really grown and changed all on his own prior to reconnecting with Grey. I liked that he isn’t just remorseful when Grey turns back up in his life, but that he has regretted his mistakes for years and taken positive action to become a better man. While he doesn’t want to let Grey harm his family, Ellison also recognizes that he is deserving of Grey’s anger and he accepts responsibility. I also liked that Ellison acknowledges that his 15-year crush/obsession on Grey is more the idea of him than actual feelings for the man, at least a first. Ellison has wanted Grey for years, but he acknowledges that Grey has sort of become representative of his desire to be with a man, to explore this other side of him, to break free of his father’s expectations. So often I read books where one night together somehow leads to true love that lasts despite years apart, so I really appreciated that Lennox addresses this, while still showing the connection between the men from their past.
This is a story where you have to just be able to go with the premise for it to work, and I think some folks may find it more challenging than I did. First off, Ellison made a big mistake when he didn’t defend Grey all those years ago, and Grey is angry and at times cruel. At the very least, he starts off wanting to hurt and humiliate the Yorks. So these guys don’t start out in the most positive light and I needed a little bit of time to warm up to them. But the bigger issue is accepting that these men would ever even tolerate each other long enough to develop a romantic relationship. Grey detests Ellison and has made it his life’s mission to destroy his family business. And while Ellison may be hot for Grey, Grey has also not only taken over the family company, but due to the way Ellison’s dad tied assets to York Capital, Grey has taken their homes, their jewelry, and all their other personal assets. They should absolutely hate one another, particularly given Grey’s long sought revenge. So for some readers, this may be too big a hurdle. For me, I was able to go with it for some reason. I think maybe because of the way Lennox builds the tension so nicely, and also that we see that there is a softer side to these guys that slowly gets revealed. But like I said, you have to be able to go with this transition from true enemies to lovers over a very short period of time.
The area where I struggled more was that things just got a little convoluted. There are a lot of schemes and machinations all around and following the intricacies got complicated. This is particularly an issue with the fake relationship plot. It seemed so contrived and confusing and hard to imagine anyone would actually believe it. I mean, one day Grey is taking over York Capital and destroying the family in explosive fashion and the next, their family and friends are supposed to believe Grey and Ellison have been secret boyfriends all along and Grey took over York to help Ellison (it gets explained why this would be helping, but again, it really doesn’t land for me). I could list a bunch of reasons why various things don’t really make sense or seem realistic, but I don’t want to give too much away. Again, Lennox does nod to the fact that this is far fetched by showing the guys talking through scenarios and about why this fake relationship will be a tough sell. But it still happens and it still doesn’t work, particularly given there are other ways Ellison could have connected Grey and his godfather for this deal. It just felt like a very contrived subplot. Then the romance ties up with declarations of love in what felt like way too short a time (less than two weeks from hate your guts to in love, by my count).
So I think those who are bothered by some of these issues may struggle at times with the story, but overall this book did work for me. Honestly, I don’t think the fake relationship plot line came together, but I think the book overall is strong and entertaining. It is an intense enemies to lovers with great chemistry and two men who turn out to be really wonderful people. It takes some time for things to all come together for them, but I enjoyed Grey and Ellison together and found the story overall to be enjoyable.
Note: Lennox released a free prequel short in her newsletter called Luca & Marcel, which features Grey’s PA and his boyfriend. The story is now available free on Amazon. I didn’t read it first and had zero issues here, but after reading this story, I was intrigued enough by them to pick it up.