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REVIEW: Billionaire Next Door by Jessica Bird

Dear Ms. Bird:

The Billionaire Next Door (Silhouette Special Edition)One thing that seems a lost art in the new crop of romances is its failure to focus on the development of the actual relationship. Romance, at its best, is character driven with the central plot being the intersecting of two individuals to mesh into one stronger, better unit. A great category novel does this better than any book out there because the focus is solely on the relationship and nothing else. But category novels are so plentiful and the quality so varied that you never know whether you will be getting a rare orchid or common weed.

In this book, I had some trepidation but the quality of the story, the focus on the two individuals reminded me of what makes romance so great.

Sean O’Banyon is a self made billionaire. He put himself through college at Harvard, then an MBA, to become one of the top financiers in New York. Unfortunately, being rich generally means being a target. Women generally only want him for the prestige or the money so he’s made a practice of requiring all the women he dates go dutch. It scares off the gold diggers and saves himself personal hurt but it also prevents emotional attachments.

There are definitely genre cliches in this book but what makes it so brilliant is that the story transcends the cliches or perhaps shows why the cliches are so appealing. Sean O’Banyon might be made of money but inside he’s terrorized by his childhood. You show how vulnerable he is which makes his knee jerk reactions palatable. He’s not healthy emotionally and thus his intimate interactions will be unhealthy as well.

Elizabeth Bond, on the other hand, while low in funds is rich in friends and spirit. Lizzie is a nurse and works more than one job to help care for her mother who is needs financial assistance from time to time. Lizzie rented one half of Eddie O’Banyon’s duplex and in the past two years became close to them with Eddie serving as a kind of surrogate father. When he dies, Lizzie calls the contact number in Eddie’s papers which happens to be Sean, his son. Only Sean has different memories of Eddie and his emotional unrest reaches out to Lizzie. The two begin to forge a relationship but Sean’s unhealthy distrust of females, his fear of intimacy, his fears overall, cause him to sabotage their budding love affair. Lizzie, however, is no doormat. She doesn’t hesitate to show him the door.

It is Lizzie’s emotional state that allows her a position of power within the relationship. She makes Sean work for everything and doesn’t hesitate to send him packing when he can’t treat her right. This isn’t to say that she doesn’t long for him, but she doesn’t rely on him to make her a better person.

When I first read this book, I thought it was a keeper but in a second perusal, I felt that the tone was too flat. There is very little movement in the mood which sometimes feels oppressive. There is also the non stop use of brand names from the clothes, to the cars, to the restaurants. At one point, Lizzie and Sean are having a picnic and Sean reaches into the “Deluca's paper bag and took out a Poland Spring bottle.” Poland Spring? Is it really important I know the type of water that they are drinking? Regardless, this is still a very good book which focuses on the development of the relationship and had an unexpected twist to the happy ever after ending. B.

Best regards

Jane

This book can be purchased in eform from Harlequin or mass market from Amazon.com.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

11 Comments

  1. Barbara B.
    Aug 03, 2007 @ 07:20:58

    Thanks for the great review, Jane. Categories are great for those times when I just want to read a basic contemporary romance. I still love Harlequins and Silhouettes, but I HATE the ridiculous titles.

    “There is also the non stop use of brand names from the clothes, to the cars, to the restaurants.”

    I find the constant use of brand names offputting, too. Still, this book seems like something I want to read.

  2. MZ
    Aug 03, 2007 @ 08:15:47

    I gave up on Harlequin long time ago. I hate their type of formulaic romance with the same tired characters. For once, I’d like the heroine to run away with the pool boy (who is NOT really a millionaire in disguise). So though I love JR Ward even she can not make me read a category romance.

  3. Jane
    Aug 03, 2007 @ 08:39:59

    Barbara – please come back and tell me what you think of the book. I laughed my head off at the scene where Bird describes the WATER that they are drinking. Poland Spring? LOL.

    MZ – there is some devotion in romance to the leisure class and why that is needs to be explored but I think it has to do with perpetuating the fantasy of being freed from the grim realities of day to day living. There was a book I read a few years ago by . . . and I am blanking on the author right now, but the heroine was very poor and she lived a hand to mouth existence and much of the story was her worrying about making ends meet, paying the bills, and so forth. It was really gloomy.

  4. jaq
    Aug 03, 2007 @ 10:36:16

    Like MZ I’ve all but given up reading Category. I find unless the author has mad skillz, the book length works against them and often brings out the weaknesses in the crafting of character/plot, rather than strengths of doing so adroitly.

    The odd thing with Bird/Ward’s STs vs Categories, for me, is that while the 2 Brotherhood books I’ve read are on my keeper shelf (& I think #3 is in the tbr pile) those books aren’t auto-buys. I’ll buy them if the mood strikes and if its convenient, but I can’t see myself haunting the book aisles for them. On the other hand, I will go out of my way for the Bird books, they are auto-buys. But they’re not keepers. Go figure. :-P

  5. Christine Rimmer
    Aug 03, 2007 @ 11:17:42

    Jane wrote:
    >There are definitely genre cliches in this book but what makes it so brilliant is that the story transcends the cliches or perhaps shows why the cliches are so appealing.

    Jane. You so nailed it here. The above is exactly what the best series (no we no longer call them category. We call them series. Please.) books do. They deliver the beloved “cliche” (read “setupt”, “situation” “character archetype”) and then do it in a way that totally sweeps the reader away, that makes the cliche new and fresh and wonderful all over again.

    It’s what Robert McKee said in his work on screenwriting, STORY: “We give the audience the experience we’ve promised, just not in the way it expects. This is what separates artist from amateur.”

  6. Robin
    Aug 03, 2007 @ 11:24:13

    To me, the satisfaction of a category is often different than for a single title. I think about the Seidel category I read and loved (Mirrors and Mistakes), Linda Howard’s old categories, Tom and Sharon Curtis’s Regencies and contemp categories, and LaVyrle Spencer’s Spring Fancy, the very first Harlequin Temptation, and I KNOW that the form has potential for really tight, really kick ass stories, with great character development, fleshed out plots, and strong emotional development of the love story. The experience of getting that in a category is so great, IMO, because it’s delivered in one solid punch. I’d actually like to read more good categories.

    Re. BND, if only Bird could find a place for a woman like Lizzie in her Brotherhood books, it would be a whole new world for that series. What I liked most about Lizzie was that she could stand up for herself and still be “nice” — so on one level she was sort of a stereotypical Romance heroine (nurse, caregiver, etc.), but she was an emotionally healthy woman, which IMO lifted her beyond the stereotype and made her appear strong without the benefit of some paranormal power or physical prowess so popular these days. Ahd she wasn’t emotionally isolated and alone in the world, praise whatever deity you choose. Sean was a jerk at several points in the book, and while I wanted to slap him, Lizzie wouldn’t put up with it, so I never felt like Lizzie was victimized by Sean. Plus, the reasons for his behavior were actually pretty compelling (if a bit Romance-novely, too). The book stumbled at the end for me, too much in a rush to deliver the happy ending and pull out a resolution that felt forced on one end and inconsistently easy on the other. And I despised the first scene, which I suspect included a set up for a future book (there are still two of Sean’s brothers left, and they need some serious love, too). But it was a B read for me, too, and in fact, I enjoyed it more than the last few Brotherhood books. As for the name dropping, perhaps that’s becoming Bird/Ward’s signature (ha ha, bad joke, I know — but perhaps true, nonetheless). The Poland Springs water (but it IS real spring water, you know) was by far the best one in this book, that’s for sure.

  7. jaq
    Aug 03, 2007 @ 15:13:21

    I suspect I’ll still call them categories, just habit and, also, sites like CataRomance or The Romance Reader being around. ;) But, yes, when cat– er, series are done well, then they hit spot on. I should add that I also agree with grade. A solid B read.

  8. anadaslu
    Aug 03, 2007 @ 20:27:37

    Er, Jessica Bird is JR Ward, and she does the brand-name dropping too in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series.

    Now I’m wondering if she does that in all her books. Don’t get me wrong, I heart BDB, but the name dropping is very ugh.

  9. Christine Rimmer
    Aug 04, 2007 @ 12:46:35

    le sigh. Some people are simply untrainable. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. ;)

  10. Shannon
    Aug 21, 2007 @ 20:18:44

    I bought this one after reading your review and I enjoyed it immensely, so I went to her website to find out when the next two come out and how this series connects to past books and…nothing. No coming soon (not even a mention of having won a RITA). You’ve always got the scoop, so do you know when Billy and Mac’s books come out?

  11. REVIEW: A Man in a Million by Jessica Bird | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    Dec 24, 2008 @ 15:00:39

    […] O’Banyon, the hero of Billionaire Next Door, plays fairygodmother and matchmaker of sorts. He forces Madeline to confront her brother because […]

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