Return Billionaire to Sender
Annika Martin’s Return Billionaire to Sender is an affable little romance, a story of a good person trying to bring out the best in a – well, not quite so good (at first) – person. The heroine may be a bit much and rub readers the wrong way, and the hero a little too alpha-pushy, but I liked them – and really needed this simple and optimistic story about the importance of others.
Mailperson Noelle (Elle) is preparing to ambush ruthless Malcolm Blackberg, the elusive billionaire CEO of Blackberg Inc., with a videotape. As part of his latest gentrification project, Malcolm is planning on putting a wrecking ball through the building in which Elle, her roommate and best friend, Francine – along with a number of other colorful characters, including four previous leads in this series – live. To accomplish the building’s salvation, Elle sneaks into his office to deliver a videotape made by the apartment’s residents that will surely warm his icy heart. Unfortunately, Malcolm is the first person she bumps into (literally) and by the time she reaches his second-floor office, he’s less than amenable to her mission..
Fortunately, fate intervenes. Malcolm is instantly intrigued by Noelle (she’s wearing one of her signature butterfly ties when they first meet, which becomes a symbol for her flair for style), but he’s not willing to really listen to the trouble she’s known. That is, until she arrives a second time, announcing she’s his new court-ordered “emotional IQ coach” (in reality, Stella, Malcolm’s actual coach, and Noelle traded identities while stuck together in an elevator and the real Stella – sick of her job –fled the scene).
Now Malcolm’s co-worker, Noelle – using her nickname Elle – finds herself swept away to San Francisco as Malcolm wheels and deals his way through the latest acquisition attempt, all the while trying to dodge the requirements of his classes. They begin to fall for one another, but Malcolm is resistant to watching the video, and no matter what he bribes Noelle with – from money to sex – she refuses to back down about the building or let him off the hook for his therapy. When the truth comes out, can a ‘country mouse and a billionaire really find true love?
Return Billionaire to Sender moves rapidly between character-driven romance and surprisingly dark backstories for both of our leads. Elle’s father abandoned her when she was a child, and her mother died a long, suffering death from cancer, and Elle’s drawn out wrangling with the insurance company over every single treatment left her wishing it could be all over, which now manifests itself in a sort of survivor’s guilt.
You’re going to like this story if you like Noelle. If you don’t like Noelle – and she can be a bit of a challenge, what with her flightiness and quickness to crush on Malcolm – then you won’t like the book. I liked her enough to recommend the story, which is lighthearted and sprightly, a good escape and a daffy joy, but sometimes wears out around the edges.
Though I liked Elle’s refusal to bend for Malcolm, and I liked the heat and spice between them, Elle has a tendency to come across as very young, and Malcolm’s sternness with her as parental. This fades out with time but is worth noting, for instance, when Elle goes off to get drunk for the first time in response to some bad news and he treats her like a child who doesn’t know how to hydrate.
As for Malcolm, he’s an alphahole for a chunk of the book, but Elle wears him down steadily. He does start out as the kind of man who has to take court-ordered empathy classes due to his coldness, so enter with caution, all ye who pause here.
I really liked the friends Elle has in the building. I liked Francine, and I had fun with the underlings of Malcolm she manages to connect with. The general plot is a little creaky – Malcolm never manages to look deeper into Elle’s background check to realize he’s opening up to the wrong woman – but it’s one of those plots you have to put aside to enjoy the fluff.
I do, however, have to detract some points for a blackmail subplot (of all things), that arrives mid-book and doesn’t do much for the plot at all. It only really seems to exist to foster Elle’s dependence on Malcolm, which, okay, but it would help if the resolution were more interesting.
Overall, Return Billionaire to Sender is a fun little breeze of a novel. Your mileage, however, may definitely vary from mine if you aren’t weak for grumpy men and sunshiney women falling in love.