Review: Arden St. Ives Series by Alexis Hall

How to Bang a Billionaire (Book 1)

Young billionaire connects with college student (or is it the other way around?), and they develop a relationship that relies more on physical chemistry than romantic gestures. Despite the sexy moments of this story, the main draw for powering through this book is Hall’s elegant writing and the sheer personality of the main character’s internal voice. Arden barely knows what he’s doing with his life, and he definitely has no idea what he’s doing with Caspian, but I couldn’t help but enjoy being along for the ride.

Each encounter between Arden and Caspian is sexy AF, even when Arden demands more than Caspian wants to give, but I also wholeheartedly enjoyed all the moments in between. Hall populates this story with vibrant secondary characters, from Arden’s BFF Nik to Caspian’s overly dramatic little sister Ellery, and even including Arden’s unique, nontraditional parental figures.

As the first book in a trilogy, this book does end on a happy note, but it’s very much a “happily for now.” Part of me wants to imagine this extraordinary pair of characters existing in this bubble where they have finally connected the way they are meant to. Still, I’m also more than excited to dive into the next novel to find out what happens next.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.


How to Blow It With a Billionaire (Book 2)

Am I a terrible person for thinking that maybe Arden and Caspian just don’t belong together?

I mean, obviously, they belong together. They’re perfect for each other. Except perfection doesn’t always account for timing, and I don’t think Arden and Caspian belong together at this point in their lives. Arden still has lots of growing up to do, and Caspian probably does need significantly more therapy than he’s already had.

This story started on the heels of the previous book, during a pretty good note between the characters. And for the most part, they really do try their best. Especially on Arden’s part, when he genuinely doesn’t have all the information he needs to be a good partner to Caspian (and that’s definitely all on Caspian). It’s a lot of two steps forward and one step back, or vice versa. Even when things are “good,” Hall infuses an ominous element of waiting for the other shoe to drop, which has a lot to do with the stunning inequalities built into the semblance of a relationship these two men are attempting.

Ellery is back with her shenanigans, and I love the glimpses into Caspian’s past that her inclusion in this story allows. Her brother doesn’t have baggage so much as an entire luggage set, and the details dropped through the mysterious prologue and toward the end of the book paint a picture of trauma and abuse that, frankly, Arden didn’t sign up for.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, but I have trouble reading it as a standard romance. I certainly believe that Arden loves Caspian and that Caspian feels something real for Arden. But Arden deserves so much more, to the point that the ending of this installment felt inevitable even as my heart broke for him. I look forward to diving into the next book because I do have faith that Hall will give these two men who have such amazing potential together their happily ever after.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.


How to Belong With a Billionaire (Book 3)

Arden and Caspian finally get their happily ever after in this book, but it’s hard-fought. And honestly, for the first half of the book, I would have been totally fine if that happy ending never happened because I was significantly more interested in the story of Arden recovering from his first heartbreak and experiencing all that life has to offer in a world post-Oxford. Except, for various reasons, his and Caspian’s lives are still intertwined. For this reader, their encounters were variously heart-wrenching and hilarious, and I appreciated how each instance allowed Arden to grow and develop as a character.

So many romance heroes exist in a void with possibly a few secondary characters made up of a few one-dimensional tropes. This is not the case for Hall’s trilogy, and in various ways, we also get to appreciate the character development from those around Arden and Caspian. I loved this especially in Ellery and Ilya/Bellerose (and I desperately want a separate novel about Ilya’s full story). Hall also crafts an elegant and terrifying villain who barely appears until the third act of this final book while setting up the “obvious” villain (Caspian’s ex) as a sympathetic character in his own right.

Is it possible to adore a series for its characters and writing but not necessarily agree with how everything worked out? This book might have been equally satisfying had I not necessarily gotten the immediate, neatly tied bow expected of a romance novel. At the same time, I understand the necessity of adhering to genre standards and still very much appreciated this book (and the full trilogy) for what it is. I look forward to reading more of Hall’s work in the future.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Published by J.L. Gribble

Author, Editor, Worldbuilder

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