Breaking the Billionaire's Rules
I’m just going to be honest with you folks. If you’re looking for a story that puts you through the wringer emotionally, this isn’t it. Breaking the Billionaire’s Rules is a lighthearted, mostly average romantic comedy with a few laugh-out-loud moments, some hot and sexy scenes (not nearly enough though), a predictable plot and a sugary sweet happily ever after. The heroine is a bit too good to be true, the hero is your standard cold as ice/heart of gold/misunderstood billionaire, and their friends are THE BEST AND MOST SUPPORTIVE people on earth. Looking for a way to spend a few enjoyable hours with a book that won’t give you a hangover? This might be the one for you.
Mia is a struggling actress looking to make her big break on Broadway. After a happy, lower-middle class childhood, she secured a coveted position at a prestigious performing arts high school and she’s slowly but surely achieving her dream as a successful theatre actress. But until then she has to pay the bills. For Mia, that means dressing up in a Meow Squad cat suit every day and and delivering food truck meals to office buildings around the city, it’s a part-time job with insurance, the holy grail for up-and-coming actresses.
Life as a Meow Squad cat hasn’t been awful, just mildly embarrassing. But when the story opens, she’s venting to her best friend Kelsey about the catastrophic event that ended her day. She’d just finished her shift and was reviewing her delivery route for the following afternoon.
And then the next moment, I see Maximillion Plaza on the roster.
And the sun goes behind the clouds.
And shadows move across the land at terrifying speeds.
Giant birds with dinosaur faces screech across the sky.
Max Hilton (“Maximillion”) is the boy who broke her heart back at The Soho High School for the Performing Arts (aka SHSPA, aka the Shiz) and also the jerk who wrote one of the biggest selling self-help books in history: The Max Hilton Playbook: Ten Golden Rules for Landing the Hottest Girl in the Room, and leveraged that success into a billion dollar design and clothing empire. Mia is convinced he’s discovered her part-time job and requested her specifically to deliver his sandwiches in order to humiliate her. Kelsey and close friend Lizzie (The Billionaire’s Wake-Up Call Girl) listen and try to be supportive – even supplying a copy of the book so that they can rip his photo off the back cover and throw darts at it. Plot twist alert! Instead of throwing darts, Kelsea reads the book and recognizes how his advice has been used against her! And so the night digresses into a complicated plan for Mia to use his own advice to bring Max to his knees and crush his steely heart! Omahgawd!
That’s the set-up folks. Mia’s deliveries to Max are just as mortifying and painful as she anticipated, but Mia is committed to vengeance for her friends, and once she commits she’s all in. I loved the delivery vignettes, and they provide some of the funniest scenes in the book (I wished there were more of them). I particularly liked her version of Do Something Outrageous – and I dare you not to giggle as she’s executing it. Max is just as smug and dismissive as she expected, but he’s also super hot (don’t forget this!) and after the first few days, it’s clear they have lusty feelings for each other. And that maybe his panty melting stare is enough to make her forget what a jerk he was to Mia in high school and for writing a book that includes tips on dehumanizing women. And sure, touching and kissing a cat suited delivery girl who earns tips bringing you food is slightly creepy. But his smoldering stare, sexy body and powerful presence melts Mia. He’s hot. He’s intense. And maybe he can’t resist her? Likes her? Isn’t a jerk? You knew that was coming right?
Yes, my ‘check your feminist card at the door’ friends, you must 100% suspend reality to go along with this, and fortunately, Ms. Martin does a great job ratcheting up the sexual tension and adding a heaping dose of humor to the whole thing. It works. Sort of. I do think it’s kinda yuck that Max is hitting on a sandwich delivery girl. I can’t underestimate how cringe-inducing the whole Meow Squad costume and parting “Meow” made me feel every time it’s mentioned… but Ms. Martin sells it. Hard. And readers are expected to simply go with it. So I did.
There is a twist. Of course there is. And there was a past misunderstanding. Of course there was. And a current misunderstanding. Yep, there had to be! It’s all predictable and slightly silly, but Max and Mia genuinely like one another (and you like them too), and underneath it all, they’ve never forgotten the summer they spent together. Unfortunately, because they were both bozos, they missed out on time they could have spent together happily singing show tunes and conquering the world. Meow Squad and a mean-spirited revenge plan helpfully provide the means to make-up for past misunderstandings.
Ms. Martin is great at light and flirty, sexy and sweet, and those things are all here in abundance. Mia and Max are likeable characters, and although I had a hard time identifying with Max or buying into his sad backstory (it’s not that sad Annika), Mia doesn’t – and she’s all forgiveness once she knows the trials he’s been through. The transition from enemies to friends is a bit blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, but their abrupt truce enables them to have some hot sex, sing show tunes in Max’s fancy apartment, eat at upscale restaurants, confess their relationship to Mia’s VERY CONCERNED friends, screw things up, and then live happily ever after. The pacing in this last quarter of the book is frantic, and unfortunately, Ms. Martin tries to cram too much into too few pages. They hate each other and then they don’t. Thought-provoking it isn’t. Entertaining? Yes. Formulaic? Yes. Silly? Also yes.
Breaking the Billionaire’s Rules is the third book in Ms. Martin’s Billionaire series, and despite some genuinely hilarious moments and its clever set-up, it’s the least successful of the three. If you’re looking for something easy and breezy, light hearted, funny and mostly ridiculous, this might be the book for you. But if you’re on the fence about reading the series, I’d recommend you read the second book, The Billionaire’s Wake-Up Call Girl, it’s terrific fun.