How to Belong with a Billionaire is the third book in Alexis Hall’s Arden St. Ives series of queer romance novels. I tore through the first two books in a matter of days last December, so I was extremely grateful that I was able to read this book a little early.
Quite a few of the books I read/review are part of a series, and I will blithely say that the book functions well enough as a standalone, etc.
That is NOT the case with this book. Readers really ought to read the first two books in this series before tackling this one. I would imagine it would be very difficult for a reader to appreciate the narrative as a whole if they jump in at the last third.
So, if you haven’t read this series, but your interest is piqued by a queer response to Fifty Shades of Grey that is loads better than the original, AND manages to be both cheeky and introspective, then I suggest you start with How to Bang a Billionaire.
Moving forward, Belong picks up immediately after the events of the second book in the series. There was a brief excerpt at the end of the second book, in which a devastating bombshell was revealed. I won’t mention it here, in the event that there are readers with a modicum of self-control who have managed not to read said excerpt.
Needless to say, our intrepid Arden is not with reclusive billionaire Caspian Hart at the beginning of the book. But rest assured, he’s not sad or pining. Okay, that’s a lie, he’s pining a little, but this does not stop him from going out and living his best life.
Arden receives the opportunity to explore the submissive side of himself that he wasn’t fully able to with Caspian. And boy, does he ever. Arden takes that opportunity, and he runs with it.
And it’s not cheating, because THEY WERE ON A BREAK.
There are certain conventions in romance that are intended to be cornerstones of the genre. Alexis Hall has taken these unassailable “rules”, and thrown them out the window- and the result is an absolutely amazing third act.
I couldn’t possibly reveal any more of the plot without venturing into spoiler territory, so I’ll focus more on broader picture. Arden St. Ives is one of most delightful protagonists I have ever encountered. He is equal parts snarky and tender, and given his uncanny ability to make literary allusions, it’s a shock that he ended up with a 2:2 from Oxford.
As an English major, the constant flow of allusions warmed my cold little heart, and made an already delightful book even better. I made an embarrassing number of highlights in the book because there were so many things that I wanted to save because they made me laugh, or hinted at something, or simply because I found Hall’s prose to be exquisite, and I wanted to save it.
On that note, after tearing through this book like the dreadful goblin that I am, I went back and listened to Belong, and I just want to say that I loved the foreshadowing in regards to the climactic scene. Well played!
There’s so much character development. Character development for days. There’s growth, and reckoning, new levels of depth as character confront their truths. Best redemption arc EVER!
I also appreciated the development of some of the more elusive secondary characters, like Ilya (Bellerose) and Finesilver. They both need their own (separate) stories because the breadcrumbs we received were sufficient, but there’s so much untapped potential there.
I would absolutely recommend How to Belong with a Billionaire, but as I’ve said, the first two books are a prerequisite. This has been one of my favorite books of the year, and I have so much more to say about it, but I’ve already been nattering away for almost 650 words. Ardy and Caspian may have received their long-awaited HEA, but I do hope this isn’t the end of the Arden St. Ives universe.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.