Book Review

Review: Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren


Title: Beautiful Bastard
Author: Christina Lauren
Publication Info: Gallery Books 2013
ISBN: 978-1476730097
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book Beautiful Bastard I didn’t really like Beautiful Bastard  by Christina Lauren, but honestly, I don’t think it was ever the right book for me.

The Beautiful Bastard in question is Bennett Ryan, a young executive poised to take over his family’s media empire. Bennett is young, ridiculously attractive, and a giant dickbag. He’s a hardass who has a reputation for treating his employees badly. Not like North Korean prison camp badly, but he expects everyone to devote their entire lives to work and to not make any mistakes ever and to have no personal lives or interests.  

His intern is MBA student Chloe Mills, quite the badass herself. Chloe is a classic over-achiever. She’s working on a marketing proposal to present to her scholarship committee in order to graduate with honors. Chloe has been working at Ryan Media for a long time, and Bennett’s dad and brother look at her like family. They trust her with a million dollar account for her project. Bennett is the only one who doesn’t like her.

That’s because he’s too busy slamming doors and being caustic and criticizing her handwriting to appreciate the fact that he has an incredibly competent and motivated assistant.

This would have been an F book had Chloe not been able to hold her own with Bennett. She’s downright rude to him occasionally, calling him on his bullshit, and not tolerating any of his unfair criticism. Chloe is tough as nails and not impressed by Bennett’s intimidation tactics. She also finds him super hot, which is why she dubs him “the beautiful bastard” to her friends.

Now, I’m of the belief that Hot + Asshole still equals Asshole. So one night when Bennett and Chloe are alone in a conference room and he starts to fondle her?

This is when my sexual harassment alarm went off full volume. BEE DOO BEE DOO BEE DOO

Minion Alarm - Despicable Me minion with lights on his head

Instead of punching him in the balls and calling HR, Chloe and Bennett diffuse some of their pent up sexual attraction by fucking against the floor-to-ceiling window. As you do (I immediately thought of the poor facilities maintenance staff member who would be squeegeeing butt cheek smudges off the glass on Monday).

Anyway, the “I-hate-you-but-I-need-to-put-my-penis-in-you” theme continues. They spar at work, cutting each other apart verbally, glaring at each other, and then against their better judgment, start ripping each other’s clothes off. This is definitely a Fight ‘em and Fuck ‘em book or Slap-Slap Kiss-Kiss, whatever you prefer.

As the smexing continues, Bennett starts to see Chloe as—get this—a real person with real feelings. And he gets jealous at the thought of her with someone else, and we all know jealousy is the number one sign a romantic hero is about to fall in love. “I don’t even like your stupid face, but you can’t date nobody but me!” Right.

I really didn’t like the first half of the book. I would have stopped reading it except I used a precious, golden Audible credit on it and I wasn’t squandering that. Also I started getting more into the book in the second half.

Eventually Chloe and Bennett go to a conference together, and away from everyone else they start to open up and like each other more. They each realize they are falling in love, but are terrified the other person won’t reciprocate. By this time Chloe clearly has the upper hand over Bennett emotionally, and his yearning to have her love him back was great. But the last third of the book didn’t make up for all the other things that bothered me.

So why is this a bad book for me? I work in a male-dominated industry, and I am often the only woman in the room. When Bennett touched Chloe’s ass in the conference room I wasn’t thinking “Oh yum, sexy boss forbidden affair time!” I was thinking “PUNCH HIM IN THE NUTS, CHLOE!” I’ve been alone with too many dudes in too many conference rooms to read that scene and not think of how horrifically bad it could have gone.

Bennett has the power in their relationship. If things fall apart with Chloe, even though their relationship was consensual, she’s always going to be the intern who screwed her boss, and he will get by largely unscathed. Even if Chloe were the boss, and Bennett the intern, she’s going to be boss who screwed her intern, and the other interns will be buying him shots later.

EVEN IF THEY FALL IN LOVE AND GET MARRIED the specter of “fucking the boss” is going to cloud her entire career.

Here’s the sad, ranty truth. Women aren’t allowed to have vaginas at work.

If we date our coworkers even our peers, we bear the sexual stigma.

If we’re pissed off or crabby people joke about us being on our periods.

If we have kids, it’s expected we can’t still commit to the same level of work we did before. No vaginas in the office please.

I am usually the youngest person in the room too which makes it worse. I’ll go into conference rooms and it will be assumed I am there to refill the coffee and/or get lunch orders. Over the years I’ve had to learn to put on a “do-not-fuck-with-me-I-am-all-bidnez” front and dress more professionally than my peers so people get it.

Dude on MadMen: I'm tired. Peggy can you get me some coffee? Peggy: No.

Recently I had a male executive—and one of my customers—lecture me on my decision not to have kids. He asked if I had any, I said no. He asked why not and while I wanted to say “because none of your fucking business that’s why not,” I said “We don’t plan on having children.” That’s the appropriate end of the discussion there, but instead I heard about why I’d regret that decision for the rest of my life because kids were the bestest thing ever. I stood their smiling and imagined laser beams shooting out of my eyes and melting his face. He might have had that same conversation with a man, I have no idea. Maybe he really believes children are our future. Who the fuck knows. The point is, I am just too aware of the sexual politics of work to enjoy this book.

Lauren does bring this up occasionally. Chloe knows she’s putting herself at risk by sleeping with Bennett, but she just needs his peen so bad she can’t help herself. Bennett kind of gets it. As he falls for Chloe he starts to realize how much of an impact this could have on her life—but the fact that he had to love her to really intellectually understand that pissed me off.

Also Bennett never really reforms and we’re never given a good reason for him being an asshole. He’s just an asshole. He learns how to be nice to Chloe, but I was pretty sure he’d terrorize the next intern he got. I kept thinking, even if they wind up HEA and he’s nice to her, Chloe will still be making apologies for Bennett being a dick to other people. I’d be embarrassed by him socially, quite frankly.

And that’s the other thing, this book, to an extent, perpetuates the myth that you have to be an assbag to be a great executive/leader/boss. Nothing is farther from the truth. Unfortunately that myth is still so prevalent, people who really need to go back to fucking kindergarten and learn sharing and saying thanking you and not using mean words often get promoted because they’re “tough.” I’ve had amazing bosses who were also just genuinely nice people. They cared about their employees as people, and as a result those employees would bust ass for them.

I don’t know if the authors (it’s two people writing as Christina Laurens) had a lot of experience in the corporate world. Certain details about Chloe’s MBA program or their marketing strategies were detailed and felt very authentic. Unfortunately Bennett was a big, glowing, red stereotype, a throw-back to the early Harlequin Presents boss heroes who were douchebags that later reformed because of the transformative powers of their secretary’s hymen.

I’d be willing to try the author again, especially because the writing is well done (the characters have their own distinct voices), but not an office romance. Beautiful Bastard just wasn’t for me. 

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

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Sandy James says:

    Wow. A really rough day for reviews, but I thank you for letting me know two books I can avoid to keep from eventually hurling them at a wall. Cannot tolerate a**hole heroes, and this book and Claim Me definitely have a**hole heroes. Thanks for taking one (um…two) for the team.

  2. 2
    Dora says:

    My biggest issue with this book is that if it happened in real life, you wouldn’t find it romantic… it would be one of those things that would end with a true crime special on A&E as a double homicide. If a friend came to you and told you about the hateful, spiteful, angry, manipulative sexual relationship like this she was in with her boss, it would be the most toxic thing imaginable and the world’s biggest red flag. It’s like the book is saying, “Sure, you might be in a relationship with someone in a position of authority over you who manipulates you, insults you, demeans you, and doesn’t respect you, but if you keep at it, eventually he’ll fall in love with you and you’ll get your fairytale!”

    That said, I do like the other two books in this series a lot more, since there’s a greater emphasis on people who like and respect each other having fun, consensual sex that grows into something more. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the double standard in Beautiful Player, which revolves around the heroine and her best friend repeatedly calling the hero a “slut” and a “man whore” and talking about how she basically has to “teach him how to behave”. It gets sad and frustrating, because when he DOES come to have feelings for her, he feels like he can’t show them because she keeps showing him how she doesn’t believe he can have a “real” relationship. If the genders were swapped, people would have burnt the main character at the stake for that. It’s disappointing, since I LIKED the hero… he was fun, smart, sensitive, cared about his friends and family, and it felt like the book was demonizing him for enjoying sex with different women, even when that sex was consensual no-strings-attached, everyone-is-happy… he didn’t get his happily ever after until he realized how “wrong and empty” that life was according to the moral of the story. I would have preferred a simple, “Wow, turns out I like THIS particular woman enough that I’m not interested in anyone else” rather than “You’re a slut nobody will respect if you sleep around”.

  3. 3
    Julia Gabriel says:

    I wasn’t crazy about Beautiful Bastard either, and I read it last in the series because the premise wasn’t that appealing to me. I liked the other books in the series much more – the male characters were more likable and the relationships more consensual. I just couldn’t root for Chloe getting together with Ryan.

  4. 4
    Christine E says:

    I agree with Julia and Dora- I much preferred the following books (not the novellas) – Beautiful Stranger and Beautiful Player.  Actually Beautiful Player is one of my favourites.  I hope you’ll give them a try.  When friends ask me about them, I tell them to just skip BB in favour of the others first and then go back to it if they want – but I was never really sold on Chloe and Bennett as a couple.

  5. 5
    leftcoaster says:

    I’m with you. I work in a male dominated field and deal with enough jackassery at work, I don’t want to read about an asshole getting some in his workplace by being a dick. Plus the whole hooking up with your male boss as a female underling makes me squicked out as hell. All those HP books with the secretary and her zillionaire boss who humps her and then loves her drive me bonkers.

  6. 6
    Jean says:

    I am a sexual harassment lawyer and this book did not bother me that much.  Although admittedly, it did make the alarm go off in my head.  I liked Chloe and Ryan’s story.  And I liked books 2 and 3 even more.  Maybe you would consider reading on as Chloe has all the power in those stories.  She really comes into her own.

  7. 7

    YEEEESSSSSSSSSS! I agree with everything you said SO MUCH.

  8. 8
    Reve Crayton says:

    I didn’t hate this book, but I agree there were a lot of problems with it.

    I mostly wanted to let you know that you can return Audible books if you don’t like them, and they will refund you via the purchase method.  There is a link in Account section, and you can call them if that doesn’t work.  I think I have returned about a tenth of the books I’ve purchased.

  9. 9
    Heather S says:

    Fist bump, my childfree sister!

    This “hero” sounds rage-inducing. I often wonder who picks the RITA books, since so many of them, when reviewed by the average romance reader, turn out to be D and F grades. I think “RITA” may soon become code for “Avoid Like The Plague” for me.

  10. 10
    L. says:

    I just finished this book not that long ago and I also got really tired really fast of the I hate you/Screw me/I loathe you/Get in me now! There was nothing in the story to make me care about these characters or their dysfunctional relationship.

  11. 11
    Lulu says:

    Not to mention the fact that he also has a penchant for ripping her nice lingerie which also made me cringe. Everything you brought up about the slightly disturbing sexual politics of that book is spot on though.

    I read the entire series during a day of sitting in doctors offices and book 2 and 3 are actually pretty decent and about other people.

  12. 12
    Kelly S says:

    I’m with you and Heather on the no child thing.  And you’re right vaginas are not allowed at work.

  13. 13
    Jen says:

    I wasn’t a fan of this book either. My main gripes were 1-I don’t understand why a woman would sleep with such an asshole. And 2-the sex scenes were repetitive. How many pairs of panties did he ruin by ripping them off? Too damn many. I can’t even bring myself to read the sequel.

  14. 14
    Didi B says:

    Well…I kind of liked it because both of the characters were so flawed. I saw it as interesting play on repression of sex at work. I have worked at several large corporations and people are screwing each other a lot – its hard since you hardly see anyone else when you are working long hours. I met my husband at the office! But really how rich do you have to be to willingly let someone rip $100 underwear.  I think the main problem in the book is that you never understand or like the main characters well enough to forgive their crazy and angry relationship. A mad love is fine – but it should be tempered by the sex and not fed by anger.

    I think the whole dominant boss thing is a sexual fantasy which may not appeal to you and certainly has been over done in the Harlequin world. I just think its a valid trope – you just need good writing and good characters.

    Beautiful Stranger and Beautiful Player are way better in that genre of hot sexy Urban romance – and the key is the main characters are fairly nice and smart – just confused or hung up but not freaking so angry as in Beautiful Bastard.

  15. 15
    Jeannie S. says:

    @Heather S: thank the romance gods, but this isn’t a RITA nominee.

    I HATED this book. And as an MBA, I didn’t buy Chloe as a business school student at all.  For one, she’s presented as a full time MBA student, in which case MBA internships aren’t during the year, but the summer between first and second year.  Two, MBA internships are not assistant positions.  Three, it’s highly doubtful her MBA internship would be the exact same job she’s held for the past several years. (Otherwise, why spend all that money on school?)

    My sexual harassment alarms went off as well.  Even if he could get away with it if she sued him, he is still abusing his workplace power over her.  It’s written as an imbalance, and it’s wrong.  And he’s definitely the one grabbing her and making the moves first. That drove me out of the story and I could never get back in.

    There’s not only the ripped panties – there’s having to walk around at work with no underwear post coitus.  Poor window washers – poor office cleaners!  I hope they wore disposable gloves and used lots of Lysol.  I also pity whoever had to dry clean her skirts as well. 

    And for those who track P2P fanfiction: this was first written as Twilight fanfic, with Bennet playing Edward and Chloe playing Bella.

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