Book Review

Beauty and the Billionaire by Jessica Clare


Title: Beauty and the Billionaire
Author: Jessica Clare
Publication Info: Penguin July 16th, 2013
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book Beauty and the Billionaire

I realized that I was working my way through the various Beauty and the Beast inspired books anyway, so I decided to stop doing it accidently and just review Every.  One.  I.  Could.  Find.  (Suggestions welcome!)

Please, god, let me not find any more pairs with names that are some variation on Christine and Erik, because REALLY.

This is a contemporary, which is not my favorite genre, but it had elements I liked.

Our hero is Hunter, who was horribly scarred physically and emotionally during his childhood, and is, as all good beasts should be, ridonkulously rich and lives all by himself in a mansion with three kitchens.  As you do.  The heroine, Gretchen, is a writer who makes her living (such as it is) as a ghostwriter for a pulpy series of “astronaut fucks his way across the universe.”  Hunter sees her with her BFF (who is engaged to his BFF) and becomes obsessed with this hot redhead who said that she was more interested in a guy’s brain than his looks.

So he creates a publishing house and has his people hire Gretchen to transcribe a trunk of old letters (that he basically got off of eBay) and create a novel around them.  With the plan that the letters cannot leave his house, nor can she take pictures or scans of them, and she must live in his giant mansion for the duration.

Cuz that’s not creepy. 

To be fair, the book knows this is creepy and inappropriate, so this is not treated as some grand declaration of love or a super romantic thing. 

So the money is CRAZY good and super sketchy (like, her moneygrubbing agent is going ”This is super weird, yo, I suggest against this horror movie plot”) but she needs to pay her rent, so she takes it and brings along her hairless cat, Igor.  Because of course. 

They meet when she’s exploring the house, and finds him getting out of the shower, nekkid as the day he was born.  The scars are scary and unexpected, and she doesn’t react well (not horribly, but not well) and he rages, like a good beast should (which leads to a hilarious conversation that starts with her going “I’M SORRY I SAW YOUR PENIS”). 

Things progress, they get it on, he’s a virgin, because of the scarring and being afraid of people, there’s a series of misunderstandings about his motives, her motives, and the nature of their relationship, and a lot of baking.  And roses. 

One of the challenges of writing based on this story is that there’s so much cultural shorthand with it, and it’s tempting, I think, to cram in as many easter eggs as possible.  Clare resists that urge, and there were only two references to the Disney movie that jumped out at me: the mansion has a west wing, and roses are a recurring motif.  Hunter grows them and hybridizes them, and it’s a nice character note that lightly references the movie without being overt, and leaves plenty of room for her own story.  Deftly done! 

I also really liked how she handled Hunter’s nerves regarding his virginity.  He is highly sexual, but so scared of people that the first couple of encounters are….over rather sooner than he would like.  They’re deliciously awkward, and Gretchen is aware of exactly what’s going on (she put two and two together and got virgin pretty early on) and is the right amount of handwave-y and supportive, and is able to teach him how to please her and himself and that it’s not perfect the first time and THAT’S OKAY AND ALSO NORMAL- it takes learning.  I really liked that dynamic.

The book still sort of slips into the trope of “the right set of genitals and the banging thereof will fix all your woes” but it is still a process, not a magical moment.  Hunter is willing to learn how to be a reasonable adult and figure out how to have interpersonal relationships and not worry that everyone who is nice to him is doing that because of his money.  Gretchen just needs to figure out what she wants out of life. 

Would I have liked a less stalkery hero?  You know, at first I was going to say yes, but given the beauty and the beast frame, as long as he learns his lesson, and the fact that the book didn’t think this was okay, it works. 

As the first contemporary iteration of beauty and the beast I’ve read, solid effort.

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Kobo | All Romance eBooks

Elyse reviewed this book and gave it a B+.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Angstriddengoddes says:

    Interesting to read such a different view of a book. This is a story that I would not have cast aside lightly, but with great force—if I hadn’t been reading it on a kindle. I’ve never seen a category known as Coy Porn, but this would fall into that category. I don’t recall her saying ’ I saw your penis’, I think her response was, ‘I saw your wang’. That might not be accurate, but in my mind that’s the tone of the book. It came across as an adolescent’s view of a relationship.

  2. 2
    Faellie says:

    Every Beauty and the Beast book?  Wow.

    A couple of suggestions just to start you off: Anne Stuart, Night of the Phantom (an old Harlequin category), and Mary Jo Putney The Black Beast of Belleterre (novella, was in a collection, I think).

  3. 3
    Vasha says:

    “Truth in the Dark” by Amy Lane is on a lot of favorites lists.  But yeah, you just annonced a project that would set you up for the rest of the decade, if not the century, especially if you include versions marketed as fairy tales or fantasy rather than romance per se.

  4. 4
    Vasha says:

    There’s also “Beau and the Beast” by Rick R. Reed (m/m) and “Roses & Thorns” by Chris Anne Wolfe (f/f)

  5. 5
    Dianna Lang says:

    In the fantasy section:
    There’s an erotic short novel called ‘The Beast’s Bride’ by Jill Myles, who may actually be the same person as Jessica Clare, and ‘Entreat Me’ by Grace Draven (not erotic).

    In the older, better but for younger readers category are Robin McKinley’s ‘Beauty’ and ‘Rose Daughter.’ McKinley took two stabs at the fairy tale, and they are both lovely.

    I go through these types of reading binges too :)

  6. 6
    Noelie says:

    I was less thrilled by this book. I didn’t like Gretchen’s incessant chattering, even during sex, and I didn’t like that they don’t communicate. Talk to each other instead of jumping to conclusion!! But I liked the characters’ evolution, the tenderness, and the groveling.

  7. 7
    JLM says:

    Another vote for Anne Stuart’s Night of the Phantom which is definitely more BatB than PotO despite the title.  It’s also hilariously bad. I’ve got two words for you:  Erotic. Tapestries.

  8. 8
    kkw says:

    To be fair, the roses predate the Disney version.

    I think there’s an Amanda Ashley one that’s just come out/is about to come out.  There’s the Eloisa James House fan fiction.  There’s…I wish my brain weren’t Swiss cheese. I know I’ve read a zillion of these.

  9. 9
    LauraL says:

    The Vixen and The Vet by Katy Regnery is also a variation of Beauty and the Beast. One of the best books I’ve read this summer and I find myself thinking back to parts of the story from time to time. It starts with a journalist in a borrowed dress taking brownies to a badly scarred Southern gentleman of a war vet. The hero, Asher, does live in a mansion and has a big library. He also has interesting taste in reading. The eBook is currently 99 cents on Amazon.

  10. 10
    Shaheen says:

    I have two very different ones for you. A fantasy from the mid-90s, The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey, and and a contemporary set in India, Bollywood and the Beast, by Suleikha Snyder (2014).

  11. 11
    Katie says:

    Though I have since stopped reading her books, I did like Eloisa James’ When Beauty Tamed the Beast (which is also a historical take on House…because, reasons). And Laura Florand’s The Chocolate Rose is a B&B retelling and maybe my favorite book in that series; it also comes with Provence. Jessica Grey’s Atone is a good YA/contemporary Beauty and the Beast retelling (though it would be hard to read without the first book, Awake, which is a Sleeping Beauty retelling).

  12. 12
    Barb in Maryland says:

    Then there’s the Amanda Quick goodie “Ravished”—historical from the late ‘80s, early ‘90s—one of my favorites.
    I second (third?) mentions for the Anne Stuart.  It is, indeed, deliciously bad.  The Robin McKinley versions (both of them) are great.  I think, though, that I prefer the first a bit more.  Likewise, I am very fond of Lackey’s Fire Rose—it is just lovely.

    I, like many others, have a fondness for this theme.  It seems to work better in the historica/fantasy spectrum than in modern light, though.

  13. 13
    Bamaclm says:

    “To Beguile a Beast” by Elizabeth Hoyt. I loved all of “The Legend of Four Soldiers” series.

    I don’t understand why book covers don’t label what number the book is in the series. These aren’t labeled but I *think* it’s the second one.

  14. 14
    Vasha says:

    And if, for comparison, anyone wants to look at folktale versions and the classic 1757 French telling (by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont)—which already has the rose motif—they’re collected at

  15. 15
    Vasha says:

    Can any of you identify something that’s tickling my memory—I’m pretty sure it was a short story, and in it the merchant doesn’t want his daughter to pay a penalty in his place, and goes back aline, so on from there?

  16. 16
    Redheadedgirl says:

    I’m planning on doing the de Beaumont last.  Because I’m like that.  :)

  17. 17
    Twice The Heart says:

    I read this book after the other review, and found another Disney reference you didn’t mention. Hunter’s telling his friend that he wants to do something nice for Gretchen, that shows that he really knows her. His friend goes, “she likes books, right?” and then he gets an idea from there.

  18. 18

    If you want to read my erotic BDSM version, Petals and Thorns, I’m happy to supply a copy! I have never seen the Disney version, however, but have read tons of them, the older, the better – love Robin McKinley’s interpretations. *sigh*

  19. 19
    Jazzlet says:

    Love Lackey’s Firerose and it’s been reprinted recently as well (I think) as being available as an ebook.

    If you can find it an unusal take is A Point of Honor by DorothyJ Heydt published by DAW in 1998. Beauty is a knight in a VR role playing game, she makes her living this way and in one tournament wins a manor, Someone is not pleased. The Beast is a wheel chair bound computer programmer (and no True Love does not enable him to leap up and walk) who helps her overcome the problems caused by Someone.

  20. 20
    P. J. Dean says:

    My vote is for “Beauty” by Susan Wilson from @1997. Similar in tone as “Beauty and the Billioniare” as it deals with a very wealthy man who has a genetic disease that has progressed and disfigured him as he has gotten older. Any way, he’s tucked himself away in his New England mansion and is the last of his line. His family had always sat for portraits by a certain family of painters. So even though he doesn’t want one done for obvious reasons, he doesn’t want to break tradition either. He commissions one anyway from the painter family. The latest painter is Alex Miller, child of the painter who’d painted his father. The rich guy thinks that’s who’ll be coming to stay at the manse until the portrait is done. EXCEPT…The Alex who arrives on the doorstep is the daughter of the portrait painter. Alex is short for Alexis.

    They go through all the angst-y romance stuff: self esteem issues, misunderstandings, self-deprecation, all the way to true love. It’s bittersweet reading (took my breath away and I cried) but I re-read that book whenever my TBR pile is boring.

  21. 21

    The name is escaping me, and I’m too upstairs to go to Scary Basement and book boxes – but there’s a B&B on a ship crossing the Atlantic, set possibly in turn of the century or early 1900s.

    I think it had a rose and/or a necklace on the cover – from the era when items like a strand of pearls or a miniature carriage graced covers, and then there was a lush stepback.

    I think the hero even called himself “Beast”. Possibly she was American heiress and he was the “Beast” she was engaged/arranged marriage too, but she didn’t know it and fell in love with him thinking she had to marry someone else? He was checking her out before the marriage under an assumed identity, they fell in love, and of course he didn’t know how to tell her the Beast she was supposed to marry was actually the man she was in love with?

    Ringing any bells?

  22. 22
    Meljean says:

    Anna Richland—I’m pretty sure that’s Judith Ivory’s BEAST.

  23. 23

    Bless you, Meljean – I totally want to read that from the description! ~races off to buy~

  24. 24
    EGS says:

    I’ve enjoyed Clare’s billionaire series, including this one. Are they campy and kind of silly sometimes? Sure. But they’re good, fun fluff, which sometimes all you need.

  25. 25
    Camella says:

    Entreat Me by Grace Draven is a beautiful read and I strongly recommend it! It’s an extremely rich fantasy novel with a strong heroine and a unique take on the tale of Beauty and the Beast.

  26. 26
    Hannah says:

    Mercedes Lackey has written a book titled “Beauty and the Werewolf” that has element of Little Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast. I love her as an author, and if you ever want to give her Valdemar series a try, I’d recommend starting with Brightly Burning or Magic’s Pawn!

  27. 27
    Annis says:

    Beastly, by Alex Flinn. This one’s a YA and honestly – okay? But just sort of fairish-okay? Your mileage may vary; I read it after seeing and kinda liking the movie (yeah, yeah, I know), and I think the dreamy quality of the film might have carried the book for me. But it’s a very fairy-tale contemporary – almost a re-imagining of New York’s atmosphere into something, again, dreamlike – and it’s told from the male point of view. Which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. It’s a quick read, at any rate, and, if you elect to skip it, then rent the flick and check out Mary-Kate Olsen’s wardrobe as The Witch.

    The hero’s alias is, interestingly, Hunter. Is there a limited pool of Beast names available or something? Come on, guys.

  28. 28
    Raven Loc says:

    Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier is a lovely Scottish retelling with a grumpy chieftan for a Beast. Caitrin, the Beauty, was so distraught over losing her father that she didn’t put up a fuss when her creepy uncle took over her house and forced her to marry her even creepier cousin. Eventually she pulls herself together and escapes to find work as a scribe. And of course the only job she can get is at the scary haunted castle with the burly scarred owner and all these ghosts that keep cropping up. It’s been awhile, but I remember loving this one and being really impressed at how surprising the ending was.

  29. 29

    Yes MELJEAN! Judith Ivory … I was thinking all night “who is the author, it’s not Judith McNaught, it’s not Amanda Quick, who the heck is it.” Yes, Judith Ivory’s BEAST.

    And the cover is a single rose, exactly as I remembered!


  30. 30
    Storyphile says:

    I have two suggestions off the top of my head…  Robin McKinley (perhaps best known for The Blue Sword) did this TWICE…  Beauty: A Retelling was one of her earliest books, and then she did another version called Rose Daughter.  The twenty years between the two books really demonstrates changes in her style.  YA fantasy.  I’m sure I can think of more…

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