How does an almost-graduate of an Oxford college meet a billionaire? How about interview him for a college newspaper…oops, wrong story! Take two.
I was supposed to be doing this college fund-raiser thing where undergraduates called up wealthy alumni and connected deeply with them in a way that got them all nostalgic and wallet-opening or bank-transferring. To be honest, I wasn’t exactly an ideal candidate for the role.
Alexis Hall, though, is an ideal candidate to marry the fantasy of meeting a billionaire with an impressively realistic means to accomplish that feat. Noting that our student caller isn’t even supposed to be there since it his “best friend Nik was actually the one who’d signed up, but he’d come down with laryngitis.” Our hero is not temperamentally suited to cold calling, not well trained, and he’s surrounded by fellow students who are having “life-enriching, college-benefiting conversations.”
I dialed the next number. They’d told me you could hear the smile in someone’s voice, so I made sure I was grinning as if I’d swallowed a coat hanger.
Success at last. Who knew that abject desperation on the phone was the way to ensure that an “implacable, cut-glass voice” would actually converse with you?
God, his voice. From the moment I’d heard it, I’d thought it was pretty sexy, in a chilly, upper-class way, but amusement-softened, it was as rich as honey. Irresistible.
Miraculously, Arden and the sexy, aristocratic, disembodied voice on the other end of the phone have a time out of time conversation. Flirtatious, silly, intense, all circling around the key ephemeral question of what might we be to each other. When Mr. Cut-Glass voice says, “But I’ve enjoyed talking to you and I’m sure others will too,” Arden panics. He doesn’t want him to get off the phone so he blurts out that he’s the only person who didn’t hang up on him.
“You asked me not to.”
“I was honestly pretty desperate.”
“Well, it seemed to work.”
“I guess you took pity on me.”
“I wouldn’t call it pity.”
I nearly asked him what he would call it, but I didn’t quite have the balls. I’d been told to telebond, after all, not teleflirt. I wondered what he looked like. What he was doing right now as he was talking to me. Probably he was sixty-five and tending a bonsai tree, but his voice made me imagine wingback chairs and whisky. A riding crop with a silver tip laid idly across a knee… Okay, maybe that was too far. Or just far enough.
Is this fantasy “like calling to like?” If Arden had bothered to read the biographical material provided to him about the alumni candidates, he would have known that he was speaking with Caspian Leander Hart, “the third richest man in the UK with a net worth in the region of twelve billion quid.” Phew. And yet even with all that lovely lolly on the table, Arden and Caspian continue to talk. About really intense, life-changing, philosophical stuff.
Perhaps that is the greatest difference between How to Bang a Billionaire and other “meet billionaire/bang billionaire/walk into the sunset” books—Arden is never less than honest with Caspian when he disagrees with some of his “Master of the Universe” precepts and Caspian always sees Arden as a genuinely special, gifted man. Caspian sees talents in Arden that Arden definitely doesn’t see in himself. They must meet—and Caspian puts himself down as a “firm maybe” when Arden invites him to a formal fund-raising dinner at the college.
The temptation when reviewing a book—any book—by Alexis Hall is to quote every single fabulous allusion to pop culture, every segue to Georgette Heyer, every slutty, salacious, shimmering bon mot about the gorgeousness and take-charge*ness of the object of love but there’s no need. How to Bang a Billionaire is a glorious romp permeated with the tender, tentative, rigid tale of two very different men forging a relationship. But oh the beginning riffs—could they be any more cinematic?
As Caspian Hart lifted two champagne glasses and passed one to me, it felt a bit like the scene in a black-and-white movie when the hero lights a cigarette for the heroine. Under the brush of his fingers, silvery condensation gathered and ran down the side of the glass. It made me think of sweat and skin and bodies moving together. Of glistening under his hands. Because I was clearly depraved.
Undoubtedly, there are overtones of Fifty Shades of Grey nostalgia in the plot but Alexis Hall shakes the kaleidoscope of impoverished meets billionaire trope and creates a fresh, intensely honest and thoughtful story, shot through with his signature snark and turned-to-perfection phrases. Like Arden dreaming of more time with Caspian, readers will want more of this compelling couple.
Learn more about or order a copy of How to Bang a Billionaire by Alexis Hall, available now:
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anet Webb aka @JanetETennessee moved from the San Francisco Bay to eastern Tennessee. Baseball is my passion: I follow the Chattanooga Lookouts and the Nashville Sounds (farm team of my beloved Oakland Athletics). Social media devotee. Stories on royals and politics catch my eye. Ottawa born. Grew up on Georgette Heyer and Helen MacInnes. I also review at Criminal Element.