Playing By The Greek's Rules
Have you ever read a book with a billionaire hero? Then you’ve already read this book. Generic billionaire meets generic heroine, takes her to generic posh event and posh dinner, then is manipulated into taking her to a family wedding. She swears not to fall in love with him but OOPS SHE DOES, and so she has to leave before she gets hurt more. Gosh, I wonder if he’s coming back! The complete predictability of the plot, plus the Suzy Sunshine heroine, made for a book I really just wanted to end.
Generic billionaire checklist (this book’s model is called Nik Zervakis)
- Company named after him (Nik Zervakis runs ZervaCo). No idea what company actually does, but it is a Big Deal.
- Mommy issues, plus bonus stepmommy issues
- “All women are gold-diggers” mentality
- Just dates/beds fake skinny models, not Real Women like the heroine
- Knows the heroine is Totally Wrong for Him but Can’t Stop Thinking About Her.
- Whiplash conversion to Family Man.
Generic heroine for billionaire checklist (this one is Lily Rose)
- Adorable incompetence (“cute meet” occurs after Lily, working as a maid, accidentally activates his shower and drenches herself, clearly leaving her with no option but to take all of her clothes off to finish cleaning).
- Refreshingly unpolished, by which I mean verbal diarrhea.
- Immediate bonding with hero’s estranged family, especially the two-year-old plot moppet
- All she wants is a home of her own and a family to love her, guys. Because she was totally abandoned in a basket in Kew Gardens, which is completely not something that only happens in Dickens.
- Needs hot rebound sex with a hot billionaire, and this time, she is totally not going to fall in love, because he doesn’t have ANY of the characteristics on her perfect man list, GUYS ARE YOU LISTENING, FOR SERIOUS.
- Conveniently has a hobby which can replace her career, so she can pick up and go with said jet setting billionaire if she falls in love with him despite the list.
So you have Nik, your stone-cold billionaire cliche, and Lily, your free-spirited optimism fairy who morphs into a totally different person for dull monologues on ancient Minoan ceramics. Yes, every now and then Lily acknowledges that her worldview is stubbornly cheerful in the face of some hardships, but that doesn’t overcome the utter weirdness of some of her behavior.
She cries at the drop of a hat, such as when she hears that Nik’s father, whom she hasn’t even met, has a bad relationship with an ex-wife, or when she sees Nik’s pretty house. She describes herself as a “panther” and then “claw[s] the air and growl[s].” She calls milk “cow juice.” Nik worries that his father’s fiancee, the housekeeper/cook, is a gold-digger, and Lily, who again has not met either of them, calls Nik “a judgemental cynic” and “a raging snob.” Then she starts to unfasten her seatbelt and get out of the car. Which is moving. On a mountain road, on a privately owned island. Where in God’s name did she think she was going to besides over the cliff? (Hang on….)
I can’t begin to understand her appeal to a competent, sane man. I didn’t even like having her on my Kindle, where I could shut her up with the push of a button. And of course, to complete the plot formula, she has to flounce off, freaking out over a partially-overheard phone conversation that isn’t even mostly in English, thus creating the obligatory Temporary Separation followed by Joyous Reunion and Reassurances of Worthiness by Nik.
I had an e-advance copy, and I sure hope they clean up the formatting before people pay money for this on the Kindle. The beginnings of chapters were especially gunked up, with names appearing as “n i k” or drop capitals missing. I have less hope for revisions to some awkward writing: “The wind had picked up… and he saw her shiver. ‘Are you cold? Crete often experiences high winds.’” In case I missed the wind in the first sentence, I guess? At another point, the author had Lily explain that an artist’s collection called Ocean Blue was sea-themed, which was helpful if you assumed “ocean” referred to the lunar surface.
At the same time, I could see glimmers here of the Sarah Morgan who’s been so well reviewed. Along with the goofy writing, there are some nice turns of phrase: “I can’t promise you a fairy tale, but I can promise you the best version of reality I can give you.” There were flashes of self-awareness, as when Lily confidently asserted that Nik’s father’s fiancee was a lovely woman, and Nik pointed out that Lily missed the fact that her boyfriend was married, so maybe she isn’t the world’s greatest judge of character. Lily also acknowledges that her chipper attitude is a choice, made in the face of a strongly depressing life history. Unfortunately, these moments were underdeveloped and contradicted when Lily refused to stop trusting her snap judgments or get her emotions under control.
This isn’t the worst billionaire book I’ve read, especially as it steers clear of some of the worst racial and ethnic stereotyping often associated with “Greek,” “Italian,” and “Sheikh” titles. If you don’t mind cliches and heroines who see the rainbow in every puddle of leaking gasoline, you may even enjoy it. Unfortunately, I didn’t.