Jessica Lemmon’s The Bastard Billionaire is the third book in her Billionaire Bad Boys series, and just in case you couldn’t guess – the heroes are billionaires. But don’t worry because there is a lot more to these guys than just big bank accounts. They are three very different and fascinating brothers who, with their widowed father, form the tightknit, loving and wealthy Crane family, and each brother has his own stand-alone book. The Bastard Billionaire features middle brother, Elijah Crane, and while it appears to be a lighthearted, fun romance, it deftly and compassionately delves into complicated subject matter making it much more than your typical ‘rich playboy’ romance.
Elijah (Eli) isn’t literally a bastard, but he’s been acting like one since he returned from war and ended his military career. His brothers and father don’t take offense to his foul temper and gruff demeanor though, because he’s had an extremely difficult time transitioning to civilian life after experiencing profound tragedy during his final tour of duty. Eli’s two closest friends were killed and he lost his leg below the knee during an enemy attack in Afghanistan. He’s made progress adjusting both physically and emotionally to losing his leg, but he’s suffering with survivor’s guilt and grappling with his identity as an amputee. He’s shut down emotionally, refuses to accept help and is holed up in his apartment essentially distancing himself from his brothers, father and, basically, everyone.
Everyone assumed Eli would join the very successful family business – Crane Hotels – when he left the military, but he isn’t ready to be a businessman and has not yet taken his place in the company. Oldest brother Reese believes working is exactly what Eli needs and hires him a personal assistant to hopefully give him a gentle push to start working. Eli doesn’t want an assistant and resents Reese’s high-handedness, so he decides to act like a complete and total jerk to force his new assistant to quit. He succeeds quite handily and quickly goes through eight assistants.
Isabella Sawyer owns the temp agency attempting to find Eli a PA and needs this job to succeed in order to impress Crane Hotels and gain their seal of approval, which will boost her fledgling company’s reputation. She decides to take on the assignment herself rather than sending another one of her employees, and she is confident she will be able to handle this man – no matter how much of an ass he may be.
She blows into Eli’s life and home like a tornado and immediately proves she isn’t scared by his surly attitude and behavior. She’s an accomplished and feisty businesswoman, and she does want no one else has done – stands up to him. He’s stunned by this tenacious woman, and the two are a fiery clash of wills as Isabella continually attempts to assist Eli and he constantly refuses. She compromises, stops trying to force her help down his throat and begins assisting him with small tasks working independently and quietly in the background, showing him that it’s not weak to accept help. He finally starts to appreciate her help and to trust her enough to begin to open up to her.
As Eli and Isabella find a rhythm working together, they also discover they are both very attracted to each other and contemplate making this something more than just a working relationship. The sexual tension builds and both want to take the next step, but Eli is hesitant to get romantically involved because he hasn’t been physical with a woman or even dated since he lost his friends and his leg. It’s scary. It’s scary to wonder how Isabella will react to seeing his stump. It’s scary to believe he has something to offer this amazing woman when he feels like less of a man. It’s downright frightening to imagine falling in love with her and risking is heart, because he’s not sure he could survive another devastating loss.
Isabella’s empathy and stalwartness become Eli’s safety net, giving him the confidence and strength to hope and to start living again. I will admit however, that by this point in the story I had become impatient for them to resolve all their issues; but I can’t decide if this is because the pacing was too slow or if I was just anxious for Eli to get his happily ever after.
Eli is truly the heart of The Bastard Billionaire, and readers will ache for his loss, rejoice in his recovery and find hope in his story. Ms. Lemmon writes a complicated tale of a veteran returning home as an amputee, and she does so with grace, eloquence and a sensitive touch while never glossing over the painful realities. She not only delves into the emotional struggles of an amputee but also the physical ones such as taking stairs in a prosthetic, adapting to showering with a stump and discovering which sexual positions work and don’t work. It is obvious she thoroughly researched for the book, and she opens the doors to a situation that few will ever experience. When an author makes this extra effort, she not only respects the subject matter but also shows high regard for her readers, creating something more than just entertainment. After reading The Bastard Billionaire and getting to know Eli Crane you’ll be reminded that no soldier returns from war unchanged, and you’ll be more compassionate and empathetic to the difficulties faced by amputees. Ms. Lemmon gives us a gift and this is what makes this book far more than just a love story.
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