How to Belong with a Billionaire is an empowering story about being free to express and explore your desires, and enjoy sex however you like it (consensually, obvs). It's also about finding your freedom and identity outside of being an abuse survivor. And because Alexis Hall's writing is a wonderland!!! [crying emoji] [confetti emoji] [sparkles!] sentences like "And my love was a dog off its lead.", even when the story is about heartache (and this one is), there's joy in the way he makes mundane things feel like moments of awe.
Arden St. Ives is radiant and confident, gentle and kind, and so damn hopeful. He is a rainbow among the light beams that are Alexis Hall books. I do not know the actual science behind this metaphor, but I know it to be true in my heart. But, if you're in it for the Caspian-Arden romance (not just fangirling over Arden & Alexis) here's the thing:
- I... don't have a grasp on the concept of infidelity. Or the panicked guilt that's apparently a rational response afterwards even though both parties knew what they were doing and did it anyway. If you do --be aware that almost right until the end, Caspian is categorically cheating with Arden.
- Most of the book is Arden heartbroken over losing Caspian, and learning live without him. It's hopeful in that sense, but it really felt like we were earning the HEA with how much we had to go through. As we neared the end, I couldn't see how we would get an HEA that felt believable, but Alexis Hall is Romance king of my heart for very good reasons, so we get a supremely British and spectacularly sweet finish.
- There's lots of great sex in this book, but most of it's not between Caspian and Arden. While Arden and Caspian spend only a handful of moments together, at least half of this book is Arden giving us extreme bi energy while being charmed by his super cool co-worker, George. George gives Arden what he needs at the moment: kindness and fantastic, lovely, kinky sex. She's gorgeous and adventurous and interesting, aaand... not Caspian.
But I'm here for Arden so I was all in! Belong is a perfect balance of giggling at Arden's quirky comments and witnessing the patience, perseverance and open-hearted generosity with which he goes through life. --His very full, very dramatic life! There's surprise parental drama, the highs and lows of living with Ellery, a moment in the spotlight as a photographer's muse, and the paparazzi are still following him for a scoop.
A moment I especially loved is: "And I had this... this clarity now --as if I'd finally ripped off the dirty glasses of my own insecurities and could see the world as it truly was. Full of hope. Adventure. Possibility. Nothing I couldn't handle."
Andrea received a digital review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Content warnings: BDSM, flippant suicide jokes, several characters have a history of sexual, emotional and physical abuse (including child abuse and rape), confrontations with abusers, sexual assault, victim blaming, drug use (described in a seductive, triggering way), infidelity, grief over a father's death, aversion therapy, and a sentence I didn't like: "They're not porn. I'm not ashamed."