REVIEW: The Boss (Book 1 in the Boss Series) and The Girlfriend (Book 2 in the Boss Series) by Abigail Barnette
I read this book at the behest of Kaetrin, who is a trusted book recommender for me. I didn’t realize at the time that Abigail Barnette is a pseudonym for Jenny Trout, and we have a cordial relationship online. Anyway, Kaetrin recommended the book because I was saying how I wanted to start 2015 off right, reading something I was sure to enjoy. I’d tried reading another book and it just wasn’t doing it for me at all. When I found that The Boss was free on Amazon, I one-clicked immediately.
Sophie Scaife has never forgotten that night. Six years ago, while on a layover in LA, she met an intriguing older man. She’d just finished high school and was off to Tokyo to teach English when she met Leif. He was intriguing and older and gorgeous and she was desperately attracted. So she told him she was 25 and they went to a hotel and had the hottest sex of her life. When she awoke, Leif was gone, as were her tickets to Tokyo, though he’d left her $4,000. Instead of going to Tokyo, she followed her dreams and went to New York, where she has a much coveted job as the second assistant to Gabriella Winters, the Editor-in-Chief of Porteras, the most important fashion magazine in the world. Sophie is excellent at her job. She does exactly what Gabriella tells her, and everyone is happy. Gabriella is a well known dragon, and Sophie’s life is a lot like a scene from The Devil Wears Prada, but she likes her life. She lives with her best friend, Holli, who is an up and coming model, she gets to be around fashion every day, and sure, she wishes to move up within the magazine, but she’s content to stay where she is for the moment. That is until Gabrielle is late one day. It soon becomes clear that Gabriella has been fired. Sophie is advised of this fact by Neil Elwood, her super hot hook-up from six years ago. Sophie is shocked, never having expected to see “Leif” again. It turns out, Leif is Neil Elwood, billionaire magazine magnate. He certainly does remember Sophie. He never forgot her. And he is absolutely delighted to find her in his office.
They both realize immediately that they are still deeply attracted to each other. Soon they’ve rekindled their attraction and are discussing a “friends with benefits” relationship. They realize that Sophie will have to move out from reporting to Neil. Gabriella had been considering promoting Sophie to an assistant Beauty Editor anyway, so her promotion goes through and they begin a sex only relationship. But things get serious quickly between the two of them. How will they keep their business and personal lives separate?
It’s difficult to talk about this book without giving away major spoilers, which accounts for why this book description is so vague. First, I’ll say this, the book does require a good deal of suspension of disbelief. Sure, a billionaire mogul probably wouldn’t get involved with his assistant, and sure, it’s totally inappropriate that he promoted her so she wouldn’t report to him at all. If you’re unable to get over those issues, it’s unlikely the book would work for you. For me, I freaking LOVE the boss/secretary trope, so it worked for me. I also loved that Neil was 14 years older than Sophie, a dynamic that you explore fully throughout the series. Sophie is absolutely a submissive, and almost all of the sex she has with Neil is D/s based. It’s well done, seemed very technically researched to me, and had what I felt were realistic depictions of how a submissive engages in a relationship with a Dom. Not only that, but the sex is inventively written and superbly drawn. It’s an extremely hot book. I also really liked both Sophie and Neil. They have a relationship that starts with attraction, but is credibly explored. They have real issues, not the least of which is their age difference, and you do a terrific job of allowing the organic tension between them to inform the story. The only other downside to it is that it is a cliffhanger ending. Fortunately Kaetrin had prepped me, so I had book 2, The Girlfriend, on hand, otherwise, I’d have been really irritated. Final grade for The Boss: B+
TRIGGER WARNING: The Girlfriend contains a vivid depiction of abortion
In Book 2, The Girlfriend, Sophie finds herself unemployed and pregnant with Neil’s baby. This could have been a setup for a book all about Sophie being pregnant and how she and Neil come together to raise the baby. But it’s not. Sophie does not want to be pregnant. Neil doesn’t want more children, and she aborts the pregnancy. Readers should be forewarned: the surgical aspect of the abortion is depicted and could definitely be a trigger for readers sensitive to the issue, but I felt like Sophie’s emotions leading up to the procedure, Neil’s support and the way she felt afterwards were respectfully depicted.
While Sophie and Neil are dealing with the reality that she is pregnant, they find that Neil’s leukemia, which has been in remission for years has returned. He must go home to England and begin a course of aggressive chemotherapy. Most of the book is focused on Neil’s illness and recovery and how Sophie copes with it. Neil is very, very sick and the really awful parts of cancer treatments are vividly described. It is not necessarily the easiest book to read. Neil is moody, withdrawn, difficult and emotional. It’s not easy on Sophie, who is in England at loose ends, trying to be Neil’s primary caregiver. I’ve heard that some readers found the book depressing, and it is very sad. But I enjoyed reading it. Certainly Neil’s illness and Sophie’s coping strongly informs their relationship, deepening it and building it. The sex aspect of the book may be the one that some readers will react negatively to. Neil and Sophie participate in a threesome during the course of the book. For me, I found it credible for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I’ve read a number of books where Doms share their subs. I also found Neil’s motivation for wanting to make Sophie happy believable. It didn’t outrage or upset me, but I certainly can understand why it might some readers. The book ends on a happy enough note, and there are at least two more in the series, so I knew the story didn’t end there for Neil and Sophie.
The book is certainly a “tweener” book, bridging their relationship, but I found the struggle to be credible and one that certainly fortified their bond. I enjoyed the unusual aspect of their struggle and appreciated the realism you brought to being in love with someone with cancer. I blew through The Girlfriend and moved immediately on to book 3. Final grade: B-
Overall this series certainly kicked off my 2015 reading well and I very much enjoyed reading it. Not sure it will work for all readers, as the subject matter isn’t always easy, and the sex is vivid and plentiful. But it suited me perfectly and I very much enjoyed reading the series. My final grade for The Boss and The Girlfriend is a B.