How to Bang a Billionaire (Arden St. Ives Book 1) by Alexis Hall #LGBT #Audiobook #DuoReview #MMRomance #Contemporary #Spotlight

Erryn and Melissa review ‘How to Bang A Billionaire (Arden St. Ives Book 1)’ by Alexis Hall. This book was released by Forever Yours by the Hachette Book Group on April 16, 2017 and is 386 pgs long. The audiobook version of this story was narrated by Joel Leslie and released on January 16, 2018 by Hachette Audio. The audiobook is 11 hrs.  Melissa was provided a copy of the audiobook in exchange for an honest review.  Erryn purchased hers.

Why I read this book:

Melissa: I love Alexis Hall and haven’t read nearly enough so when the opportunity to read Alexis’ latest book, I jumped a the chance.

Erryn: Mr. Hall’s ‘For Real’ was one of the first m/m BDSM audiobooks I listened to and is still one of my favourites.  I had to get this one.

Rules are made to be broken….

If England had yearbooks, I’d probably be “Arden St. Ives: Man Least Likely to Set the World on Fire.” So far, I haven’t. I’ve no idea what I’m doing at Oxford, no idea what I’m going to do next and, until a week ago, I had no idea who Caspian Hart was. Turns out, he’s brilliant, beautiful…oh yeah, and a billionaire.

It’s impossible not to be captivated by someone like that. But Caspian Hart makes his own rules. And he has a lot of them. About when I can be with him. What I can do with him. And when he’ll be through with me.

I’m good at doing what I’m told in the bedroom. The rest of the time, not so much. And now that Caspian’s shown me glimpses of the man behind the billionaire I know it’s him I want. Not his wealth, not his status. Him. Except that might be the one thing he doesn’t have the power to give me.

Arden and Caspian’s love story continues in How to Blow It with a Billionaire, coming fall 2017.

Buy Links: Audible  | Amazon  | Add to Goodreads 


Melissa’s Review: 

I love Alexis Hall and when I saw How to Bang a Billionaire was going to be the latest title by this author, I immediately added it to my list of “want to read.” First the cover, yes it’s not a flashy in your face cover, but it spoke volumes for me. I like to see a man who can put himself together nicely and this cover shows me who Caspian Hart is. Or at least one side of him. The blurb; do I really need to read a blurb for an Alexis Hall book? Nope, but I did anyway because I like to torture myself by reading blurbs to books I don’t own yet and dreaming of the day they become mine. 😉 I was sold on the line: “Man Least Likely to Set the World on Fire.”

Let me start with the narration because I am a BIG Joel Leslie fan, and have listened to so many books narrated by him. At first I was a little puzzled because the book is based in England, and Joel Leslie is not English. But then I started to listen to the narration and was like, duh!!! He is one of the most talented narrators I have found who can do so many accents! I never questioned it after that and in fact forgot who was narrating because I was just lost in the voice. Joel did an incredible job of bringing these characters to life and I can’t wait for the chance to listen to the rest of this series. I can’t picture anyone else doing the narration now.

As for the story, I will admit it had heavy vibes of Fifty Shades of Grey, but there were a few differences as well. I didn’t mind so much the parallel to Fifty, and in fact had been hoping an MM version would come out ever since I read the Fifty trilogy. At times it was a little off putting how similar the books were, but for the most part I was able to distance myself from it. Overall this was a very enjoyable story, and funny!! I did NOT expect to laugh so much reading this book. Arden St. Ives is a college student who doesn’t know what he is going to do when he graduates, and he can panic with the best of them, over anything and everything. His antics kept me going and the talks he had with himself about killed me because he would go round and round in circles over a possible scenario and drive himself crazy.

His relationship with Caspian Hart is…complicated. I was entertained by how they “met” but their continued interactions were a little weird. I didn’t see what Caspian saw in Arden, what drew them together. Caspian is a reserved man who is “HOT”, but distant. Arden is immature and suffers from crying jags at the littlest things. I can definitely see where Alexis was going with these characters, but I wish Arden was a little more self assured and little less drama queen. There were so may times I wish Arden had been more assertive in what he wanted from Caspian, most specifically in bed. Arden is completely open to some kinky sex, but is afraid to come right out and say or demand this or Caspian. True, Caspian isn’t even open to discussing being kinky and I can see how this would make Arden a little hesitant to broach this subject, yet at the same time, Arden isn’t 100% happy with the situation as it is so… I felt he should have at least tried harder to make Caspian understand. There were a few other situations I felt Arden was too submissive about his own wants and desires, but they were minor things.

I can’t wait to read the next book in this series because as a whole, I was totally and completely infatuated with this story. This ended on a higher relationship note between the two MCs and they actually talked about their feelings and wants and needs. It felt like a true beginning now between them, whereas the rest of the story felt like a hesitant prologue. I felt like they were more connected and in tune with each other and I was left with so much hope for them to finally find what they want and need.

Mel’s Rating:

8/10 Points of Gold ( 80% Recommended) – Compares to 4/5 Stars


Erryn’s Review:

This is one of the most difficult reviews I have written.  There are *many* spoilers, so if you want to go in blind, you may not wish to read this.  Many of the reviews of this book contain them, but I don’t want to influence your enjoyment of the book if you wish to be surprised.  Near the bottom I have put a note that the spoilers are over and I explain my rating.  You may wish to skip to that section to get my take.

All that being said, let’s start with the prologue.  It was haunting and I did something I almost never do – I went back and listened to it again.  I have since listened to Book 2 and would consider listening to this prologue again.  What seemed so straightforward when I first listened to it, is truly complex and has not yet been explained.  Maybe it will be in Book 3, I guess.  I am waiting for that one, which is coming later this summer.   And I will probably listen to the first two books again to reorient myself.  These are complex books, despite the simple premise.

I have all five Fifty Shades of Grey (FSOG) books on audio and have listened more times than I care to admit to. That said, there are MANY comparisons between this story and FSOG. So many that it almost seemed like the same book, but switched to M/M instead of M/F.

If you haven’t read them, I think that’s cool.  I have listened to them on audio more times than I wish to admit.

I felt the FSOG books were not particularly well-written and that there are far better BDSM books out there.  Mr. Hall’s “For Real,” is a prime example as well as  Joey W. Hill’s Nature of Desire Series (especially Book 5, “Rough Canvas”, which was the first BDSM m/m book I ever read).  Mr. Hall’s “For Real” characters were engaging and they still resonate with me.  Ms. Hill’s language is luscious, delicious, and evocative.

Back to this audiobook.  I listened to it, frustrated beyond words for the first four hours.  I was about to give up, when a friend sent me the following article:

Make of it what you will, if you choose to read it.  If you listen to audiobooks for pure enjoyment, this article probably won’t mean anything.  As someone from an academic background, it helped me understand the approach Mr. Hall appeared to be taking with this book.  There are no direct quotes from Mr. Hall, so I don’t know if it is all just the blog writer’s supposition or if she has primary sources.  I’m going to work off the premise that her article is accurate.

Okay, putting all that aside, once I understood the social statement Mr. Hall was trying to make (I think), I was better able to sit back and listen to the book on its own merits. I even ventured to listen to it a second time, pushing all ‘literary’ comparisons aside.  I did enjoy it more, for sure, but given “Fifty Shades Freed” is now out in the movie theatres, the comparisons crept in.  I write notes when I listen to audiobooks because I write reviews.  When I write the review, I scan my notes to remind me of the salient points, but for this book – through both listens – I took copious notes.  I did attempt to write a review after the first listen, but abandoned that and listened to it again.

E.L. James’ FSOG has captured the attention of so many (mostly women).  Interestingly, m/m’s biggest legion of readers is actually women.  I could write a whole essay on the theories of why, but suffice it to say, many of them do not cross over into m/f, so they may not have read Ms. James’ book.  But for those who have, the following will resonate (major spoilers):

Anastasia Steele – Arden St. Ives
Christian Grey – Caspian Hart
Grace Trevellion Grey – Gertrude Hart
Elliott Grey – Ellery Hart
Ray Steele – Rabbie

Maybe I’m stretching the last two, but you can see where I’m going with this.

The comparisons are many and mirror FSOG in everything from the low self-esteem of Ana/Arden to what they studied as well as how the Doms Christian/Caspian represented themselves and their backgrounds, their personal assistants, and even their mannerisms.   Anastasia is clumsy, falling into Christian’s office at his feet.  Arden is even worse, landing at Caspian’s feet multiple times.  Caspian lifts Arden’s hands over his head so the younger man can’t touch him.  Sound familiar?

Caspian at least has the decency to realize a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) would pretty much be unenforceable and he allows Arden to speak to his best friend Nick. So here, Caspian is better than Christian but there are many other examples of the two stories mirroring each other.

There are a couple of critical differences.

Ana in FSOG is a naïve virgin.  Yes some women (and men) make it to 21 and are still a virgin.  (Raises hand).  But to be completely ignorant about sexuality?  Okay.  Arden, in contrast, has had numerous sexual encounters, including giving his straight roommate a hand job.

Ana has Kate as a best friend and Arden has Nick.  The best friends are rich, and by their very existence, make Ana and Arden feel lesser.

Arden also knows what he wants: he likes it rough, likes to be restrained, and has no problems dropping to his knees the first time he meets Caspian in person and giving the older man a blow job.  But Caspian is reticent: “you will feel frightened and degraded.”  He hates the feeling of hurting someone.  Finally he says, “Pain is pain, whoever inflicts it.”  Arden conquers by saying, “context is important.”  He later says he’s okay with just about everything as long as Caspian doesn’t eat him with some fava beans and Chianti.  Caspian doesn’t get the reference.

And can we talk about looks? Arden waxes poetic about Caspian’s beauty and is not surprised that the older man is one of England’s 100 Most Eligible People. Now, in J.D. Robb’s In Death books, Roarke is described in such over-the-top language and I roll my eyes at those descriptions as well.  I realize this is fiction – fantasy – but the physical perfection is over-the-top.  Or as Arden says, Caspian has “a cock that Rodin would have dreamed up…”

Arden, although not naïve like Ana, is a quirky 21. He has engaged in light BDSM and believes he has some concept.  But does he really?

So why all the comparisons?  According to the article noted above, Mr. Hall has replaced Arden with Ana in an attempt to (retell? compare? contrast?) provide a different take on the FSOG story.  Billionaire books have been all the rage for over 10 years now (although millionaire books had their place well before that) in the m/f market and FSOG was fan fic of Twilight, so Mr. Hall is in good company.  I often wonder if the m/f market will saturate, but it never quite seems to.  These days it’s an Alpha Billionaire Dom Motorcycle Club MMA fighter Tattooed Mafioso who sleeps with his stepsister.  Yes, to me, it has gone too far.  When we glorify the mafia and hitmen, it’s too much.  And this is one of the reasons I love m/m.

Sure, there are a few authors who venture into some (or all) of those tropes, but those are the exception.  I find (for the most part) that the best romances – of all kind, focus on the relationship between the two (or three) main characters.

This is where Mr. Hall’s book falls short, for me.  As with FSOG, the book is in the first person, told entirely through the submissive’s point-of-view.  Mr. Hall does use past tense instead of present, for which I am grateful.  But other than that, Ana and Arden’s voices are often interchangeable.  In fact, some lines were so similar that, out of context, I would be hard-pressed to say which character said them.

There is some differentiation and Caspian seems like he is less controlling than his M/F counterpart. It should theoretically put the men on similar footing.

Except it doesn’t.  Arden’s quirky wardrobe doesn’t fit in Caspian’s world and although Caspian doesn’t say anything, it is clear.

Arden being a man doesn’t make him Caspian’s equal.

But there is a difference between being a submissive, a bottom, and a masochist.  The terms are not interchangeable.  As the billionaire dominant gets into a relationship with a complex bottom, the submission doesn’t always follow.  I’ll address this more in my review of the second book.

‘How To Bang a Billionaire’ begins with the following quote:  “Sweet are the uses of adversity”.  The quote is from Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It.’  But, interestingly, the full quote is:

Sweet are the uses of adversity
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel  in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.

As You Like It, Act II, Scene 1, 12-17

As with much in this book, there is more than meets the eye.  The layered meanings are sometimes a challenge to unwrap, but worth the effort.  Along with many literary references, there are pop culture ones as well. I’m also learning that things are different for Caspian.  Much darker.

As I’m sure you can tell, I am very conflicted about this book.  All the things that were wrong about FSOG have not been fixed.  Some, in fact, have been amplified.




So why am I giving it 8 out of 10?  Because on its own, when not being compared to FSOG or as a social statement, it is a good book.  It’s funny, engaging, and the language is delicious.  The literary allusions and mentions are subtle and substantive.  Mr. Hall doesn’t make you feel bad if you don’t get all the references, but if you do, well, congratulations.  I have a graduate degree and I didn’t get all of them.

Unlike FSOG, this book has a Happy-For-Now ending.  Nor does it end on a cliff-hanger.  Book 2 does.  (This spoiler comes from the book description, although I can verify it).  Of course there will be another book, so OBVIOUSLY Arden and Caspian will get back together.  But there is so much baggage and so many secrets in this relationship, I am beginning to wonder if it can all be resolved.

Finally, I want to address the narration.

At one point, Joel Leslie was the only reason I kept listening.  So thank you, Joel, for bringing the characters alive for me and bringing Mr. Hall’s words to life.  The interpretation of Arden is brilliant.  Arden could have come off as a whiny brat at times, but Joel’s interior monologues were, I believe, even funnier than Mr. Hall had intended.

This is possibly one of his best performances and I’ve listened to all three Red Dirt Heart books by N.R. Walker and am dying while waiting for the fourth book.  His interpretation of Henry Beckett in N.R.’s book ‘The Weight of it All’ was amazing – bringing the neurotic and loveable overweight character to life.  Arden reminded me of Henry with the low self-esteem and meeting someone who seems way out of his league.

Joel does humour, he does angst, he does emotion, and he will make you feel.

If you’ve watched Joel’s videos, he is an odd contradiction.  I’ll leave it up to you to make what you want of that.  What I will say is he has a wide range, a deep voice, and an awesome British accent.  His Caspian is perfection.  Joel hits just the right note of disdain and disinterest except when he’s not.  That is part of the contradiction with Caspian.  Most of the time, the reader has no idea what is going on with him.  Joel’s interpretation helps, but I think until all three books have been completed, I won’t know for sure.

Joel’s Arden is brilliant.  Mr. Hall, like several of my favourite authors, writes funny, witty, and fantastically humorous inner monologues.  Joel nails those inner thoughts so I almost never have to wonder if Arden has blurted out something inappropriate, as he is wont to do.  I love that about him.  Joel could make the Encyclopedia Britannica interesting and yes, Audible has done that.  Joel should have been included in that recording.  His Arden is just…well, the proper words escape me.  You need to listen to his performance to fully enjoy the book.

As I’ve said, I have listened to Book 2 and am very interested in listening to Book 3 to see where this story goes.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this to whet your appetite:

My Beloved.

My Monster.

My Broken Prince.

He’ll come back to me.

I’ll save him from himself.


Erryn’s Rating:

8/10 Points of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 4/5 Stars


Website | Twitter: @quicunquevult | Goodreads

Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the 21st century is the future. To this day, he feels cheated that he lived through a fin de siècle but inexplicably failed to drink a single glass of absinthe, dance with a single courtesan, or stay in a single garret. He did the Oxbridge thing sometime in the 2000s and failed to learn anything of substance. He has had many jobs, including ice cream maker, fortune teller, lab technician, and professional gambler. He was fired from most of them.

He can neither cook nor sing, but he can handle a 17th century smallsword, punts from the proper end, and knows how to hotwire a car.

He lives in southeast England, with no cats and no children, and fully intends to keep it that way.

2 thoughts on “How to Bang a Billionaire (Arden St. Ives Book 1) by Alexis Hall #LGBT #Audiobook #DuoReview #MMRomance #Contemporary #Spotlight

  1. Thanks for the thoughtful and thought-provoking reviews. I’m not a FSOG fan (gasp), so I am on the fence about whether I want to read this one but I appreciate learning your opinions.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: How to Blow It with a Billionaire (Arden St. Ives #2) by Alexis Hall, narrated by Joel Leslie #Audiobook #Review #LGBT #Series | Rainbow Gold Reviews

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.