>> Wednesday, August 15, 2007
TITLE: The Billionaire Next Door
AUTHOR: Jessica Bird (aka J.R. Ward)
PUBLISHER: Silhouette Special Edition
SETTING: Contemporary Boston
TYPE: Series romance
SERIES: Starts the O'Banyon Brothers trilogy
REASON FOR READING: I love Ward's books, so I've been meaning to try her Jessica Bird titles.
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.THE PLOT: The O'Banyon Brothers trilogy will tell the story of three brothers (duh!) from a working class neighbourhood of Boston. Mac, Sean and Billy grew up with a drunk, abusive father. They all left home as soon as they could, but their father's treatment of them has left deep psychological sequels on the three of them.
He didn't do relationships... but amazingly, Lizzie made him want one anyway.
This first book is about Sean, the middle brother. Sean's escape was through a scholarship to Harvard. With hard work and a ruthless attitude, he's become a billionaire and one of the most powerful deal-makers in New York. His nickname is well-earned: SOB is not just his initials. He's a tough bastard, both in his professional and personal dealings, and most especially when it comes to women. One of his first upper-class girlfriends used him for his money, and he's determined to make that the first and last time. While he's not a miser (he tips very generously, for instance), any woman dating him must understand that being with Sean O'Banyon isn't a ticket to a life of luxury and be ready to go dutch whenever they go out to dinner.
In the middle of one of the biggest deals of his career, Sean receives a very unexpected phone call. His father is dead, and since he can't immediately get in touch with his brothers (Billy is a professional football player and is in the middle of the season, while Mac is some kind of secret agent thingie and is currently unreachable), Sean heads to his old home on his own, not-quite-ready to face the memories but determined to pack everything up and sell the place.
Lizzie Bond is the nurse who called Sean to give him the news of his father's death. Eddie O'Banyon wasn't just another patient to her. She'd been renting his downstairs duplex from him for a few years, and after a while Lizzie and the grumpy old man had become good friends. Lizzie was the one who took care of him in his last days, becoming almost a daughter to him.
When Sean meets Lizzie, his first suspicion is that she was his father's lover. I know, I know, but he realizes he's wrong soon enough and develops feelings for her that are much deeper than he's used to. Before long, he finds himself making exceptions to his usual rules about relationships.
MY THOUGHTS: Why on Earth did I wait so long to try Jessica Bird? This is what category romance is all about. TBND was an intense, completely character-driven, touching story and I loved every minute of it.
At first sight, this is a storyline that has been done a thousand times. Hard-bitten guy who thinks all women are mercenary whores meets innocent girl and falls in love. Blergh. But this book goes beyond the stereotype and delivers characters who feel real, with understandable issues.
I suppose Sean is the big character here (this is the author of the BDB, after all), but it was actually Lizzie who was the most interesting to me. I just loved her. She's sensible and kind, and with a healthy sense of her own self-worth. No "I'm not worthy" silliness from Lizzie, and when Sean behaved like an idiot, she called him on it refused to take any shit from him. I did fear the worst at first with her mother, because I thought initially that Lizzie might turn out to be yet another martyr heroine here, unable to say no to mom, but the reality of the situation was quite different. I don't want to spoil it, but it practically brought tears to my eyes. This is a tremendously strong woman.
Also, at the end of the book, Lizzie's behaviour during the reconciliation scene with Sean made me want to stand up and clap. His trust issues are recognized and dealt with. Lizzie is very aware of just how bad what he did was, but she also sees the reasons quite clearly, and puts conditions on her forgiveness that will make sure it won't happen again. Good for her!
As for Sean, he was a very appealing character as well. He's very much an alpha, yes, but he's also totally vulnerable. He's never really dealt with his horrific childhood, and so it's still affecting him all these years later, turning him into an emotional cripple, and he knows it. His past makes his more bone-headed actions, if not excusable, at least understandable. Anyway, it was just lovely to see him falling for Lizzie completely against his every intention. She's exactly what he needs.
TBND does introduce the heroes of the next two books, Sean's brothers, Billy and Mac, but it wasn't at all obtrusive. Billy's appearance and Sean's recollections about Mac actually felt natural in the story, and they made me very anxious to read their books. I wonder if we've already met their heroines? I thought I saw something between Billy and Denisha, Lizzie's former boss at the clinic. That could be good: the man convinced he's stupid and this highly intelligent woman. As for Mac... maybe Elena, Sean's socialite friend? She did seem a bit overdeveloped for the role she ended up playing in this story. I guess we'll see.
MY GRADE: A B+.