REVIEW: Billionaire Next Door by Jessica Bird
Dear Ms. Bird:
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.