Tempted by the Billionaire Next Door is a sweet, heartwarming story about family, forgiveness, and falling in love with your best friend’s brother.
The view from Jessica Steyn’s window is spectacular. It isn’t a majestic mountain range or a beautiful beach that has Jessica captivated— it’s her hunky next door neighbor who has her attention. Jessica spends a week covertly enjoying the sight of tall, dark, and shirtless chopping wood in his backyard until a runaway log brings the two of them together in what has to be the cutest meet-cute to ever meet-cute.
When Jessica finds out her mystery man is none other than Dylan Nel, the older brother of her best and boss Anja, her common sense tells her to run— not walk— in the direction. Dylan and Anja’s relationship is strained and the last thing Jessica wants is to poke that particular bear. Anja isn’t just her boss or her friend, she’s the only family Jessica has. So what if Dylan is easy on the eyes and there’s an instant connection between them? So what if Dylan’s eyes are haunted and reflect a pain Jessica knows only too well? So what if he’s come home to make amends? Her loyalty lies with Anja.
Plus, there’s the tiny matter of Jessica being pregnant with Anja’s baby, as in she’s the surrogate for Anja and her husband, Chet. A surrogacy that Dylan knows nothing about.
With a set up like that it would have been easy for Beharrie to pile on trope after trope and give us over the top melodrama. Instead, she gives us a sweet, slow burn that allows us to get to know and care about both characters. Through honest discussions and painful revelations we see the initial attraction between Jessica and Dylan grow into something deeper and far more meaningful than either of them expected.
One of the things about this story I found refreshing was the characters talk to each other. While there’s plenty of adorably flirty banter between them, there are also deeply personal conversations and moments of tender vulnerability. Dylan and Jessica both had less than idyllic childhoods and as a result each of them has a lot of insecurity and guilt they’re carrying around. The way they help one another through past hurts and current fears goes a long way in making them relateable and believable. Neither of them tries to rescue or fix the other. This is a couple that doesn’t fall in love; they grow into it.
There’s a lot to like about this book, especially if you’re a fan of sweet romance. Although some of the themes dealt with in the book are fairly heavy (infertility, parental neglect, addiction) there aren’t any graphic flashbacks or anything of nature. There are, however, a couple of instances where Anja’s infertility is discussed in a fairly cis-centered way. I understand what the author was trying to convey (the feelings of failure a lot of women who experience infertility go through) but the way it’s phrased might be painful for some trans readers.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. Dylan and Jessica are easy to root for, both as a couple and as individuals. The secondary characters don’t take up too much page time or steal focus but they do serve a purpose and aren’t just filler. There are some super cute interactions between our MC’s. Plus, there’s a dog! I repeat, there is a dog!
This was my first Therese Beharrie book but it definitely won’t be my last.
Content Warnings: Gambling Addiction, Parental Abandonment, Discussions of Infertility, Cis-Centered Language