Take-no-prisoners deal-maker Sean O’Banyon ate Wall Street financiers for lunch. So why was he losing sleep over a fresh-scrubbed nurse in old jeans and a too-big T-shirt? Maybe it was those warm green eyes. Or the way she blushed when he got personal. There was no denying the serious chemistry between them. But sooner or later Lizzie would learn his deep, dark secrets: First, he had trust issues. And second–he’d rather not go into the whole family thing. He didn’t do relationships…but amazingly, Lizzie made him want one anyway.
When Lime approached me about reviewing a book for the TBR Challenge, I jumped on the chance. Then spent a million years looking at my ever growing TBR for the perfect book to review for the Kicking it Old School theme. And there it was, the book I have been putting off reading for ten years.
I first started reading Jessica Bird under her more famous pseudonym J.R. Ward. I love her contemporary romances and in 2007 when a new trilogy was announced by Harlequin, I was ecstatic. I put off reading the first book in that trilogy because I wanted to be able to read all three books back-to-back. Unfortunately it appears those other two books in this trilogy may never arrive.
The Billionaire Next Door, recently rebranded The Billionaire by Harlequin, was a solid read. Sean is a poor boy who reinvented himself and is at the wise old age of thirty-something, is a mover and shaker in the Manhattan financial scene. He is to all outward appearances and ice cold money making machine. Lizzie is a born caretaker and has propelled that into a career as a registered nurse. She takes care of her mother, an artist with some developmental disabilities. She takes care of her patients. And she took care of her upstairs neighbor and landlord.
It is the relationship she had with her landlord that brings Sean and Lizzie together because, plot twist, her gruff but caring landlord is the Sean’s abusive alcoholic father. A man Sean hasn’t seen in over a decade. And the reason Sean took himself to Harvard and became a financial wizard who could take care of his brothers if he needed to, but would never need to rely on anyone again.
Much of the story takes place in Boston in and around Sean’s childhood home. Staying in this home, even if the purpose started with cleaning the place out so he could put the house on the market, triggers emotional and psychological pain Sean has stuffed way down and never truly dealt with. He’s skeptical of Lizzie’s relationship with his dad, figuring she must have been after him for what little money he had, and is surely turning her sights toward him. But she doesn’t act like a woman with dollar signs in her eyes. The kindness she shows him feels genuine, and whether he knows it or not, he’s hungry for kindness.
Lizzie tries to see the best in people, tries to find the positive in life. When she hears Sean having a nightmare, her goal is to soothe. When Sean turns conversation from himself, she’s not fooled but allows the conversation to shift to safer topics. She is more worried about the community health center she works for losing funding than she is about losing her job working there. When she learns about Sean’s childhood abuse, she doesn’t pity him or judge, she listens, she urges him to get into therapy, and she lets him know he’s still a strong man in her eyes. Lizzie is the person we all want as a friend, someone who can see the best in us and cheer us on. She’s no pushover, however. When Sean crosses the line with her, she pushes him back on his sorry ass.
Aside from the sparks that fly off the page whenever there’s a scene between Lizzie and Sean, I appreciated that the author didn’t try to smooth over the scars of childhood abuse. She didn’t dwell on the issues, but she also didn’t have Sean be magically healed by the love of a good woman. Sure, having unconditional support makes healing easier, but it takes years if not a lifetime of therapy to heal from those scars. Kudos to Jessica for getting this mostly right. I say mostly because a man who is slow to trust wouldn’t lose his heart in a weekend to a woman he just met. But this is Harlequin and when you only have 240 pages to tell a story, you rush things along.
While I love the prose and the characters’ journeys, I had a few roll my eyes moments over the misunderstandings that ensued. Sean doesn’t trust Lizzie because he thinks she’s a gold digger. When he figures out that she isn’t, he then doesn’t tell her about who he is because reasons. Instead, he lets her believe for the first half of the book that he is a blue collar worker. When she forgives him for that (far too quickly, in my opinion) and resumes their relationship, the other shoe drops when Sean finds his dad’s check book and sees a large number of checks made out to Lizzie, written in her own hand writing. He’s livid, and she’s back to being a gold digger, even though her explanation for said checks makes complete and logical sense. Did I mention the man has trust issues?
The plot would have been stronger if the trust issues in the book weren’t based on assumptions and misunderstandings. I get where the author was going, and can get on board for the first few assumptions gone wrong. But that last one, I was yelling at the paperback when Lizzie took him back. Again. Something my fellow patrons at Starbucks were not too happy about. I blame it on Sean for being such a lovable broken hero.
The Billionaire Next Door is a fun, sexy,and cute read. And a solid book. Sean is the character who does most of the growing throughout the plot, though Lizzie does find some deeper wells of strength inside her as she deals with Sean, her mother, losing her job, and almost losing her apartment, and Sean’s harsh accusations in quick succession. And she made Sean grovel a bit before taking him back the final time. Which I applaud.
I recommend this book to fans of J.R. Ward who also love contemporary romance.
This book has been re-released as The Billionaire.
This billionaire’s got it bad, and that’s not good… The first O’Banyon Brothers novel from New York Times bestselling author J.R. Ward writing as Jessica Bird.
Take-no-prisoners deal-maker Sean O’Banyon (aka SOB) eats Wall Street financiers for lunch. So why is he losing sleep over a sweet-faced nurse in old jeans and a too-big T-shirt? Maybe it’s those warm green eyes. Or the way she blushes when he gets personal. Maybe it’s the way she challenges everything he’s believed about himself for so long.
There’s no denying they have serious chemistry. But sooner or later Lizzie will learn his deep, dark secrets. First, he has trust issues. Second, the whole family thing is not for him. And, last, he doesn’t do relationships—even if there’s something about Lizzie that makes him want everything he can’t have…