the billionaire beast continues jackie ashenden's fairy tale-themed billionaire stories. this one pretty closely mirroring the story of beauty & the beast. you would think that modernizing this story would prove to be challenging, but ashenden creates a realistic and believable backstory for her beast.
nero de santis is a known recluse who has so much money at his disposal that he has forgotten what it is to need something and not have that need immediately fulfilled. he compensates his assistants handsomely, but all the money in the world isn't worth the humiliations that he puts them through. it is impossible to meet his exacting standards. he is too smart, too imposing, too everything. until he meets his match in phoebe taylor.
she is desperate. the cost of her comatose fiancé's care facility has decimated her savings. she refuses to compromise on his care and despite all the horror stories she's heard about working for nero, she knows that if he offers her the job, she can't refuse it. but from the moment she starts working for him, he intrigues her even as she tries to maintain her composure around him. and the more she maintains her composure the more she intrigues him. he's not used to people resisting his wants. and even though phoebe takes his orders, he can sense that she's keeping him at a distance.
but distance proves impossible for these two. from their first meeting there is tension. and it's not surprising when it boils over. the really great thing ashenden has done with this series is take some real social issues and explored them within the framework of a fairy tale. nero's reclusiveness isn't actually a matter of choice, he has some severe agoraphobia, a condition that stems from the fact that he was held captive in a tiny cell for much of his formative years. being with phoebe pushes him outside of his self-imposed boundaries. and in order to go farther afield he has to confront the past he's forgotten because what happened to him was so traumatic.
as awful as nero is when we first meet him, the way he grows and sheds his rough exterior throughout the novel is totally swoonworthy. i love romance novels that can tackle hard subjects in a redemptive way, so this worked for me.
**the billionaire beast will publish on march 7, 2017. i received an advance reader copy coiurtesy of netgalley/st. martin's press (swerve) in exchange for my honest review.