Sunday, 26 January 2014

Beautiful Stranger (Beautiful Bastard #2) by Christina Lauren

Beautiful Stranger (Beautiful Bastard, #2)

A charming British Playboy. A girl determined to finally live. And a secret liaison revealed in all too vivid color. Book two in the NYT Bestselling series.

Escaping a cheating ex, finance whiz Sara Dillon's moved to New York City and is looking for excitement without a lot of strings attached. So meeting the irresistible, sexy Brit at a dance club should have meant nothing more than a night's fun. But the manner--and speed--with which he melts her inhibitions turns him from a one-time hookup and into her Beautiful Stranger.
The whole city knows Max Stella loves women, not that he's ever found one he particularly wants to keep around. Despite pulling in plenty with his Wall Street bad boy charm, it's not until Sara--and the wild photos she lets him take of her--that he starts wondering if there's someone for him outside of the bedroom.
Hooking up in places where anybody could catch them, the only thing scarier for Sara than getting caught in public is having Max get too close in private.

I feel a bit like a fledgling lately, having spread my wings, tested the air a bit and lept from the Y/A & N/A nest I've been swaddled in for many moons.  I guess it's because summer's (almost) here and most of the kids in my reading group are doing their own thing (without me *sniffle*).  For the most part, I find Adult Contemps a bit formulaic for my taste, most of what's out there seems very a la Nicholas Sparks to me.  So I've been testing the waters with the edgier stuff as well as a bunch of Indie books and have had some success.

I was more than a bit surprised by this series.  I've read more than a few bad reviews, most pertaining to the notion that FanFic is somehow abhorrent, though I'm not certain I particularly understand judgement of a book based solely on its genesis.  Nonetheless, I was reluctant to read any of it.  Bad me.  I've actually found some of it really entertaining.  Is it great literature?  No, not really.  But it is fun.  So, on the fun scale this definitely gets a four out of five WooHoo's from me.  And, if we're being real here, I found this particular book even better than the first.

Here's why it got a better rating than its predecessor.  Character development.  No, it's not a homerun but it was way, way better in that arena than Beautiful Bastard.  Still, I did enjoy the first book, but found it lacked a bit in the development department as a whole.  Thankfully, not so much with this novel.  Sara and Max are much more fleshed out and their relationship, though initially founded on sex, was explored more deeply and allowed to flourish more organically.

Sara (Chloe's friend and co-worker from book one), has left Chicago to join Bennett and Chloe in New York where they're opening a new office as the business expands.  If memory serves, this is about a year after book one leaves off.  The reason for Sara's departure from Chicago is twofold.  One, she's just left her cheating boyfriend; and, two, she's looking for a way to explore her new self.  Almost immediately upon her arrival she goes for a girls night out with Chloe and Julia (who's in town for a few days) and meets a charming Brit (Max) who's not only easy on the eyes, but makes Sara feel very sexy after being in a loveless relationship for six years with an absolute asshat.

During her encounters with Max, Sara slowly begins to unveil herself to him.  And, yes, while he is somewhat the alpha male, Max shows a great deal of restraint and tenderness as he begins to share pieces of himself with her.  Their true intimacy is a slow growing thing, and it takes most of the novel to fill in all the pieces of the puzzle, which is exactly how I like these types of reveals to go.  Max is a fairly typical wealthy bachelor, though not in a sleazy way.  The way he's portrayed never made me skittish of him as a true love interest for Sara given her recent heartbreak.  It was clear he's sort of just plodding along in this life that he'd built without really knowing that it was unsatisfying.  I appreciated that he was willing to commit to a monogamous relationship, even if it was simply a sexual one, and that he never batted an eye at Sara's strange rules.  He was open and candid and honest, never brooding or unkind, and always seemed to be looking for more from her.  I loved that Max was given an opportunity to show his softer side, while Bennett's was somewhat limited.  Max's mum works in his office; he speaks affectionately about his family and obviously holds them in high regards; he adores his mates.  There's a great scene toward the middle in which Max asks Sara to meet him at a bar after a rugby match with his mates, and we're able to see him amongst his friends.  It was a nice touch and showed that Max was truly a decent human being.  I would have liked to have seen more of that given to Bennett in the first book.

Sara, too, was well written.  Oftentimes the heroine in these setups is a brooding, angsty bitch but I never thought that of Sara.  She gave as good as she got where the banter was concerned and though she was secretive about her history, she had her reasons and I couldn't fault her trepidation.  I also never felt as though she was intentionally jerking Max around, their relationship evolved naturally without either truly taking control or needing the author's to implement some crazy plot device.  Given that there are relatively little dramaticals until the end of the novel, this story progressed really nicely and I found myself following along and not even worried that there hadn't been any real craziness happening.  Don't worry, though, if you need the craziness, trust me it's there, it just takes a while to happen.

It was also really nice to see Bennett and Chloe again and they each had some pretty funny scenes in the book, especially Bennett who, true to form, always has a way of putting things when he needs to be heard.  George, Sara's assistant, is a new character in the book and was a fave of mine.  I am totally hoping to see him again in the next book because he rocked my socks off and he brought a lot a humor into this at some much needed times.

So, yeah, if you liked the first book, then I think you'll love this one.  And if you didn't, maybe give this one a chance.  The story has a much different feel to it.

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