Tuesday Book Recommendation: THE TAMING OF THE BILLIONAIRE by Jessica Clare

TamingBillionaire

So I am going to start trying to recommend a book I like every Tuesday. It won’t necessarily be a recent release, and it won’t necessarily be a fantasy or science fiction book. (When you write it all the time, sometimes you don’t want to read it anymore!) It’s just going to be a book I really liked and want to spread the word about.

My first Tuesday Book Recommendation is The Taming of the Billionaire, a contemporary romance by Jessica Clare.

So I realized some months back that contemporary romances about billionaires are my book crack—which makes Jessica Clare my main supplier. There are a lot of books on the market right now featuring billionaire heroes—it’s wish fulfilment, amiright?—but for my money, none of them are as sexy, funny, or just plain entertaining as Jessica Clare’s. Her Billionaire Boys Club focused on a secret society of billionaires who helped each other to success. Now that series has ended, and Clare has moved on to another series, Billionaires and Bridesmaids, set in the same world, with many of the protagonists from the previous series playing secondary roles.

The Taming of the Billionaire is the second book in this spinoff series, but you don’t need to read any of the other novels to enjoy it. While I liked Clare’s other books, this one had some elements that seemed specifically designed to appeal to me.

–A video game programmer hero.

–A cat behaviorist heroine with an—ahem—acerbic personality.

–Lots and lots of cats.

Seriously, it’s like she took a look at my Twitter feed and said, “What can I write for this girl?”

The book is a take on The Taming of The Shrew. The heroine, Edie and her sister Bianca attend an engagement party, and one of the groomsmen, Levi, falls hopelessly in love with Bianca. But Bianca is Edie’s assistant; Edie was disabled in an accident several years earlier and now has difficulty sitting, walking, or standing for long periods of time. Bianca gives Levi an ultimatum: find someone to distract my sister so I can go out with you.

Enter Magnus, Levi’s brother, who unfortunately didn’t make such a good impression on Edie during their first meeting. (She overheard him insulting “crazy cat ladies.”) He comes off as sort of a jackass when you first meet him, but you start to see his softer, more caring side quickly. He’s a video game programmer, and he and his brother made billions off of a game they created years before. My fiancé is a programmer, albeit not video games, and Clare’s portrayal of Magnus makes me think she must have known a programmer or two in her time. The scene where Magnus is sitting at his computer, headphones cranked up full-blast, cursing at the screen was very, very familiar to me. Verisimilitude at its finest.

But what really made me love this book was Edie. Edie has a take-no-shit kind of personality that leads others to sometimes call her bitchy. (Boy, can I relate!) She seems to keep people at arm’s length, lashing before they can get close enough to hurt her. But some of her takedowns—like her evisceration of the guys who she overhears making sexist comments at the engagement party—are things of beauty. Her disability is dealt with directly. You see some characters react quite poorly and trip all over themselves, and some treat it matter-of-factly. One of my favorite aspects of Edie and Magnus’s relationship is how he just accepts her disability without angst, and he tries to find ways of accommodating her and making her life easier without treating her like an invalid.

…And the cats, did I mention the cats? Edie is a cat behaviorist (think Jackson Galaxy, only without the tattoos and guitar case), basically my dream job when I forget that I’m still a teeny bit afraid of getting my eyes gouged out. As a cat lover and animal shelter volunteer, I loved that this book dealt so honestly with the realities of cat behavior and the difficulties of adopting out older or sick cats. Kittens, on the other hand, are sweet and cuddly and adorable. One of the reasons I do the volunteer work I do is that I hope I can help, in some small way, get the adult cats adopted out faster and make sure they find the right homes. So right away, I was in Edie’s corner, fighting the good fight with her.

This is a sweet, sexy love story that will appeal to fans of the billionaires…and of course, fans of cats. For me, it hit exactly the right notes.

 

Why Romance is Feminist

Earlier this week, Heroes & Heartbreakers published a piece on whether “feminist romance” was an oxymoron.

In a word: no. In two words: absolutely not.

The H&H article also comes down on the side of “no way”—not surprisingly, since H&H is a romance blog. But there were a few other points that I wanted to touch upon:

Romance is a genre written primarily by women, for women

UnboundRomance is the only genre dominated so wholly by female readers and writers. And that’s pretty amazing. Last year, I attended the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Conference in New York City. Never before have I been to a writing conference that felt so inclusive and welcoming to me—in spite of the fact that I was an unpublished writer who, technically, didn’t even write romance. (Although there is a lot of crossover between urban fantasy and paranormal romance, but that’s another story.)

Studies have shown that, in group atmospheres, women don’t talk as much when they’re outnumbered by men. So in creating a predominantly female environment, whether at a conference or on an online forum, you are creating a space where women’s voices will be heard.

Romance showcases female desires

I’m not going to deny it: I read some romance novels simply because they turn me on. I’ve likened romance novels to “girl porn” in the past. Five years later, I still think that description is accurate, if maybe a little reductionist.

As I said then, the lines between romance and erotica are blurring more and more, and that trend has only continued. In the last five years, I’ve seen more and more romances meant to appeal to a woman’s “darker” (read: kinkier and less socially acceptable) desires.

HostageBargainTake Cara McKenna’s Unbound, about a woman who meets a mysterious British loner who turns out to have a hard-core rope fetish. Or Annika Martin’s The Hostage Bargain, about a woman who gets kidnapped by three hot bank robbers and ends up having kinky sex with all of them. Or Jessica Clare’s Beauty and the Billionaire, about a woman who moves in with a horribly scarred billionaire and introduces him to sex for the first time. And those are just three of the ones I’ve read.

Hell, why do you think 50 Shades of Grey, despite its mediocre writing, is a thing?

For generations, women have been taught to suppress their desires, that they were dirty and wrong. It’s a mentality that, unfortunately, many women still haven’t broken out of. Today’s romance novels take that sentiment and declare bullshit.

And feminine desire doesn’t always fit into the pretty little, “They fall in love and get married” box that our society is comfortable with. (Though we have romance novels for that, too.) Some women have rape fantasies. Some women are dominant or submissive. Some women want to have polyamorous relationships. Some women want to participate in orgies or partner swaps. Some straight women are turned on by m/m or f/f sex. We’re seeing an expansion of what the romance genre encompasses, thereby appealing to the desires of more women.

The romance community continually questions itself

Romance readers, writers, and reviewers are some of the most self-aware, self-questioning people I’ve ever met. What I mean is that they are constantly questioning their genre and its tropes, considering its relative strengths and weaknesses. Romance readers and writers are constantly critiquing the genre regarding its consent norms (specifically, that “consent” seems to be dubious in some romances). More recently, on the Smart Bitches Trashy Books blog, I recently read a post talking about slut shaming in romance—which, unfortunately, is still much more prevalent than it should be. If you dig into the comments, they get into a very thoughtful discussion of the “Not Like Other Girls” syndrome, something that has been discussed in feminist media quite a bit, but can pretty much be summed up by the Taylor Swift song “You Belong to Me.”

Earlier this month, I received my copy of Romance Writers Report, the magazine for RWA members. On the first pages, it discussed the first meeting of the 2015-2016 RWA board, and this jumped out at me:

Diversity. For multiple reasons, members of color, LGBT members, and disabled members have felt marginalized. RWA leadership is dedicated to ensuring every member feels welcome. […] Work on diversity issues is an ongoing priority.

The section discussed suggestions from the Diversity Committee on how to improve the situation, including changes in how RWA speakers are selected; adding a section to their Policies and Procedures manual mandating that no RWA-affiliated professional shall refuse to work with any member on account of race, ethnicity, age, marital status, or disability; ways the RWA can better accommodate differently-abled members, such as priority seating, closed captioning, and an on-call ADA staff member; and a discussion of the diversity problems in the publishing industry. (I remember that last discussion coming up quite a bit at the RWA conference last year.) Obviously, it’s not a perfect organization—otherwise, the discussion never would have been needed at all—but what got my attention was the fact that the RWA leadership saw the issue and is taking steps to address it. It’s taken 87 years and the threat of a boycott by several prominent industry professionals to get the Motion Picture Academy to take similar steps!

 

Romance as a genre is not perfect, by any means. There are still huge representation and diversity problems in the genre. Some romances are not very sex-positive or women-positive. Some seem to promote rape or coerced sex as “romantic.” (The hero just couldn’t help himself, because he wanted the woman so much!) And yes, many romances do continue to promote the idea that all a woman wants is a man, and that she’s incomplete until she has said man in her life. But what I’ve found, over my years of reading romance, is that it’s one of the most flexible, evolving genres out there. I believe that, combined with the woman-dominated readership and authorship, make the genre incredibly feminist.

Best of 2014: Romancing the Billionaire by Jessica Clare

Romancing the Billionaire (Jessica Clare)

First of all, I have to apologize for being terribly, horribly behind on posting and my best books of 2014 list.  The holidays came and hijacked me, and I just haven’t had a chance to post or update or do much of anything since then.  As a matter of fact, I am still on vacation, and I will be until January 3.  I have a few more of these posts written, but I still have several more to write.  Between my day job and rewrites on The Demon Within, I am completely, utterly, massively burned out.  My brain is just exhausted, and I need this last week of peace and quiet before I can get back to the grindstone again.  So I’ll do my best.  The best of posts will get published, but I won’t get all 10 up before the end of the year.

With that out of the way, the next pick in my best books of 2014 is Romancing the Billionaire by Jessica Clare.

The blurb:

The Billionaire Boys Club is a secret society. Six men of astonishing wealth. But there’s one thing money can’t buy. When it comes to love, success doesn’t come so easily…

Jonathan Lyons. Playboy, billionaire, and adventurer, he lives life on the edge. When he hears that his mentor, Dr. Phineas DeWitt, had a secret journal that leads to a legendary artifact, Jonathan takes action. It stirs his blood, but it comes with a heady challenge: DeWitt’s daughter Violet. She has what Jonathan needs. And she’s not giving it up it to the man who broke her heart.

Violet is Jonathan’s weakness—he’s still in love despite their volatile breakup a decade ago. But Violet’s memories have a sharper edge. She’s never forgiven him for abandoning her. Or so she thought. When Jonathan’s attentions turn seductive, she’s in danger of falling for him all over again. And she can’t help but wonder…does he really want her, or just what she’s hiding?

Jessica Clare’s Billionaire Boys Club series has been a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine for about a year now.  Ever since I read Beauty and the Billionaire—which featured the beauty and the beast trope, one of my personal favorites—I’ve been hooked.  These fun, frothy books feature just the right combination of sexy romance and fantasy indulgence—how many among us get to date billionaires?—to whet your appetite when you’re in the mood for some light reading.

This installment features Violet, a schoolteacher whose workaholic, absentee father has just died, and Jonathan, Violet’s long-ago lover and her father’s former protégée.  Jonathan and Violet had a passionate relationship as teenagers, and they parted under bad circumstances.  Ten years later, they’re drawn together again after the death of Violet’s father to follow through with his last wishes: a scavenger hunt that takes them through their own shared past.

I’m a big fan of the trope of lovers reuniting after a long time apart; it always seems to give the relationship more weight and depth, not to mention more conflict.  Violet and Jonathan have a lot of hurt and misunderstanding to overcome before they can hope to be together again.  It’s also great to read about a couple whose relationship has already evolved beyond that initial stage of excitement and awkwardness.  Violet and Jonathan’s interaction is, at least at first, tinged with bitterness and regret, but there’s also this witty rapport that comes out of their mutual knowledge of one another.

This is not going to be the book for everyone.  It’s definitely lighter than my usual fare, and the only fantasy element is the dream of mingling with the 1%.  But it’s well-written and fun, with mystery and romance that keep you engaged throughout.  It’s also easy to jump in at any point in the series, so feel free to pick this one up first and work your way backward.