Book Review

All In by Simona Ahrnstedt

I keep saying that I don’t like contemporaries, but that’s just patently not true.  Is it going to stop me from saying it? Probably not, but I need a hook to get me interested at all (unlike with historicals where all I need is a big dress on the cover and I’m in).

The hook here is that the book takes place in Sweden, written by a Swedish author, and was released in Sweden in 2014, and has now been translated into English. My ability to read Swedish is currently limited to menus, signs related to traveling, and genealogical records, so you see what’s important to me.

Natalia de la Grip is the daughter of one of Sweden’s noble families – she a countess and a brilliant financial mind in her own right. Her family runs an old-school financial institution, but she’s not allowed to have any hand in running it because her father is a sexist old fart who doesn’t believe women should be touching money. Or doing things.

David Hammar is an upstart in the financial industry. He started with like, nothing, and used his firm to slash and burn his way to the top. He went to the Rich People School on scholarship, and has a huuuuuuuuuuge chip on his shoulder when it comes to Sweden’s elite, including and especially the de la Grip family. He’s got a plan to completely take over and gut the de la Grip company, including selling off the family castle (which is in the company’s name for tax reasons or whatever).

David and his partner (and best/only friend), Michel, know that it would be easier to take over the de la Grip company if they had someone from the family on their side. So he invites Natalia out to lunch, and they hit it off, but not in the way he was expecting. It’s not too long before they’re in bed. Natalia doesn’t know that he has designs on taking over her family’s business, but she does know they are competitors and that her father and brothers don’t like David at ALL.

Both of them are like, “This can only happen once” (the Swedish title  of the book is En Enda Natt, or “Only one night”) and we have all read enough romance to know how well that works out for anyone.

Now, I am a terrible Swedish-American because the only other Swedish fiction I’ve read is the Millennium Series, by Stieg Larsson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc). (In my defense, there doesn’t seem to be a lot that gets translated into English? I need to get cracking on DuoLingo.) There’s some interesting commonalities, though.

Ahrnstedt describes herself as a feminist on her website (And I quote her here: “Feminist. (duh)”) and there’s quite a bit of discussion about feminism and the place of women in modern Sweden. Natalia is a world-class financial mind, but she is not allowed to participate in her own family’s interests. He father occasionally will hire a woman in executive positions, only to bully and harass them until they quit or he gets tired of playing with his food, and then goes “Well, see, woman are just too damn emotional to do things.”

(Never mind that he’s the one who loses his shit over…like everything? Like some other super-powerful corporate men I could name?)

There’s also bits about immigration and who’s a real Swede, which, given the current discussions and cultural climate about the refugee crisis and how do new immigrants fit into the culture and society in Europe in general, is interesting. It’s only touched upon.

Also, not unlike the Millennium Series, there’s after effects of rape and the ways a society will close ranks to protect its own. It’s an important factor in David’s motivation, and it was refreshing to see the actual victim calling him out for making her assault about him and his desire for revenge. Sure, it’s emotionally satisfying to systematically destroy the agents of abuse, but when the victim is unaware that’s what’s happening, and then is like “Dude, this isn’t ABOUT YOU, stay in your lane,” well, that’s a thing we don’t get a lot of.

I felt like this was full of Shakespearean drama, and scheming families, and hot sex, and gorgeous clothes, but also some important things to say about how the world is functioning. There’s a lot going on, though, and the ending a tad rushed (I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot lately).

I’m excited for the next book to come out in English, and also ALSO, I really really REALLY want Ahrnstedt’s historicals (which I just found out about) to be translated. They’re set in 1685 in Sweden, which is one of those eras that Americans don’t learn about much in Scandinavia – it’s like history jumps from the Viking Era to Ikea. I will personally MAKE a market for these BY MYSELF.

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All In by Simona Ahrnstedt

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  1. 1
    Konst. says:

    And the cover is gorgeous!!! – SOLD!

  2. 2
    Cat G says:

    Sold! *clicks over to Amazon* Daaang, $11.99?! Welp, I think I’ll wait for a sale.

  3. 3
    Kelsey says:

    So excited for this book! I’m at the top of the list for when my library gets it in.

  4. 4
    Malin says:

    Thank you for bringing this to my attention. As I can read both Swedish and Norwegian and reside in Norway, I am going to go to the big bookstore in the centre of Oslo that frequently stocks bestselling Swedish books and see if I can snag myself a copy. I don’t read Swedish nearly enough, and it’s nice to get recommendations for new stuff to read.

  5. 5
    AnnaA says:

    The historicals are really good too! I can vouch… 🙂

  6. 6
    Harper Gray says:

    Most of what I read in Swedish is academic or administrative, so I really appreciate a recommenation for something different! I’m not so xs keen on comtemporaries, but 17th century Sweden is fascinating and I will definitely have a look for her historicals when I’m back. 🙂

  7. 7
    tsukikomew says:

    Clicking the hold button at the library right now. RIGHT NOW!

    Great review!

  8. 8
    Janella says:

    I’ve read a few books by Swedish authors that I’ve really liked: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman and Brit-Marie Was Here, also by Backman. None were romances, but all really enjoyable, especially the audiobook of A Man Called Ove. I’ll have to try All In.

  9. 9
    Kendal says:

    Not romance, but the translations of Jonas Hassan Khemiri are wonderful! I first read some of his stuff in a Scandinavian literature course in college (go badgers).

  10. 10
    Antoinette says:

    LMAO @ “it’s like history jumps from the Viking Era to Ikea.” Will check this one out just because of this review.

  11. 11
    Riikka says:

    The Swedish audiobook reserved – I’ve been looking forward to listening some book again and to read something in Swedish again!

  12. 12
    Bona says:

    Thank you for this review. It made me buy this book in the Spanish translation and I just loved it. I just can’t wait for the next two.

  13. 13
    Gala says:

    Thanks so much for the recommendation! I’d never would’ve read it otherwise. And it was really great! Loved all the feminist agenda. And the description of Sweden’s business world. That was so interesting!
    Although the end with the whole role reversal was over the top, it was still a very good read!

  14. 14
    Lisa Cassesse says:

    I agree the ending is rushed and peices missing. No one mentions about the “epilogue” and what does it have to do with the story . Is it a preview of the next book? Is it because there is no info on why Alexander is the way he is ? Peter and Natalia is explained. Any one can answer.

  15. 15
    Janet says:

    Same here. Thanks for the recommendation. I wouldn’t have found it otherwise and I absolutely loved it. It was one of those books (my favorite kind) that I couldn’t put down. I liked Natalia a lot and I loved David. However, my favorite part (which really surprised me) was the financial drama. I found it riveting and kinda educational. Knowing nothing about the financial market in Sweden and little about it in the US, I enjoyed the way she made it exciting and riveting. My only con is that I thought she needed some more editing. She repeated text that I didn’t think needed repeating. And I thought she needed some more dialogue. The characters were so well developed that I found myself wanting to read them talking to each other more. That aside, I really enjoyed it and recommended it to all my friends. Especially to the ones that don’t read romance.

  16. 16
    Sunny says:

    I really enjoyed this too! So glad that there was a great sale that I learned about from the SBTB weekly email. I did feel like the book should have taken place in the 1980s instead of the present. I’m not sure about how much corporate raiding really goes on these days, and the blatant sexism/racism of Natalia’s parents seemed of another era. (Not to say that it doesn’t exist. I think it’s just more subtle.) The book was so engaging that it was a small issue to me (Swedish royalty! Fabulous locations! Luxury! Women challenging the status quo!). I’m hoping her other books get translated soon.

  17. 17
    Lindsay says:

    Just finished this book and now am annoyed I can’t read Swedish! I read it on kindle but I kind of wish I could see it in person to see how long it was- much longer than typical romances I thought which I liked because it made the progression seem more believable. Also preordered the next one, which I took the epilogue as a “hint” towards.

    Also finally realized that Redheadedgirl is my sympatico reviewer and am systemically going through the books she reviews, ha!

  18. 18
    LineJM says:

    Listended to the podcast where this book was mentioned by the sponsor and then had to look up the review 🙂 which sent me looking for the historicals, and of course I bought one of those. Thanks for making me aware of this! The bookdescription makes it sound like a bowl of my catnip. This blog and the podcast is so bad for my wallet but it keeps my TBR pile(is it still a pile when it is mostly electronic? )very healthy and growing.
    @Redheadedgirl there is lots of swedish authors translated to English. If you like crime and whodonit you should totally try Henning Mankells series about Wallander. His non crime, non series novels are good too.
    I do realise this is an older thread and I might be shouting alone in the forest here. 😉

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