Black Tie Billionaire
Harlequin novels are a trope-y subgenre, and this book hits a lot of them. While Black Tie Billionaire avoids a lot of the worst pitfalls of archetype, there are too many contrivances. Shay ‘Camille’ Neal, heiress, is doing a favor for her friend and moonlighting in disguise as catering staff at a Chicago fundraiser attended by billionaire Gideon Knight. Gideon is compellingly attracted to her, and when the power goes out, they share a hot hookup. Afterwards, Gideon approaches Shay, not realizing she’s also Camille, to blackmail her into fake-dating him so he can get revenge on her brother Trevor. What happens the fake becomes real?
The highlight of this book is clearly Shay. I loved it when, as Camille, she told Gideon that
“the waitstaff aren’t toys to alleviate your boredom. This is a livelihood for workers who depend on a paycheck and not getting fired for fraternizing with the guests.”
Shay wasn’t a willfully trusting ‘My brother could never!’ heroine, so that’s a good change, and I enjoyed her quest for active, engaging finance work.
Revenge courtships usually bother me because the reveal is a formulaic plot point. Here, Gideon subverts that by telling Shay directly that he’s dating her for revenge and that he hates her brother. I liked the fact that Trevor was complex enough that I didn’t know which way his character would fall by the end of the story. I was, however, unconvinced that Shay could have missed so much of what Trevor was up to while living in the same house. In addition to his business malfeasance, Shay apparently had no idea that Trevor’s fiancée was Gideon’s former girlfriend, which in small, wealthy circles should have been common knowledge.
Speaking of things people missed… Shay’s ‘Camille’ persona has a wig and contact lenses. That’s it. I had trouble suspending disbelief that nobody at the party would recognize Camille as Shay, and also that Gideon wouldn’t recognize Shay as Camille for so long after their hookup. I know that Harlequin does its string-things-together book series (this is Blackout Billionaires #2), but Black Tie Billionaire would have been stronger if the party scene hadn’t happened at all and that word count had been reallocated to other parts of the novel. Also, romance has its share of goofy endearments, but I can’t even read Gideon calling Shay “Moonbeam” with a straight face.
I like Naima Simone. She writes good heroines, hot love scenes, and compelling heroes. This book is unfortunately a shallower, more rushed version of what she does better in other books.