Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Book Review: Beautiful Bastard [2013]

Another title that came up as a potential 50 Shades readalike was Beautiful Bastard, a Twilight  fanfic-turned-book that was co-written by two women under the name Christina Lauren. Reviews online range from glowing to vituperative, depending on where the writer stands on the idea of publishing fan fiction. I am not going to dive in to that particular can of worms here, but instead try to give an idea of the book’s merit as a work of fiction (whether some ideas or characters are “borrowed” or not) and as a 50 shades readalike.

Chloe Mills is very close to finishing her MBA, but first she’s got to complete her internship as an assistant under the most demanding, arrogant, and rude boss ever known: advertising whiz kid Bennett Ryan. He may look like a god (her nickname for him is “Beautiful Bastard”), but he acts like a devil, offering Chloe constant criticism and pushing her to her limits. She rises to the challenge and isn’t afraid to give as well as she gets--even during an encounter in the conference room, in which their constant antagonism takes an abrupt turn into panty-ripping sex.

Despite their continued professed dislike for one another, each subsequent encounter leads to the same frenzied coupling, resulting in a stack of shredded lingerie in Bennett’s drawer and serious questions for Chloe about what exposure of their non-relationship would do for her reputation and future job prospects. Bennett has all the power and has already established himself in the man’s world of advertising, while Chloe is merely his assistant. From these inauspicious beginnings, will they be able to find their way to a meaningful relationship?

Grade: B+

Perhaps surprisingly, I really enjoyed this book. The structure is a little bit unconventional, as it alternates between Chloe and Bennett’s first-person perspectives--perhaps because of the tandem authorship? Despite the power imbalance, it’s clear from the outset that Chloe and Bennett are equally smart and driven; they are each other’s match and would be bored by someone who didn’t challenge them. Their gradually increasing intimacy and realization that their encounters are doing the opposite of “getting it out of their system” is actually quite sweet.

Things that make this a good 50 Shades readalike: the obsession with fancy underwear; their  power dynamic; the sheer number of times they have sex; the fact that it also began as Twilight fan fiction. Unlike the E.L. James books, however, there isn’t a great deal of working through emotional traumas from the past. For me, this was a welcome relief, as was the fact that Bennett expressed his emotions first. Also, aside from their predilection for having sex in public places, Bennett and Chloe aren’t particularly kinky.

ETA: My review of the next book in the series, Beautiful Stranger, is here.

The audio version of this book review is now live.

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