The Beautiful series is reasonably inept romance and reasonably ept erotica, although I don’t really know where the rumple in the sheet lies between the two. I would have thought that the main difference was in courtship by coitus and the point at which emotions become involved, but there are plenty of romances where sex precedes love, so it really just comes down to the level of detail. The Beautiful series love scenes were not much more explicit than a fairly typical romance other than greater frequency and the use of rougher language than I am used to. Not shocked but surprised, I am unaccustomed to certain words being bandied about, nor do I necessarily like it when they are. In an interesting twist, the books alternate between the hero and heroine as first person narrator which gives a perspective that was new and fun.
Plot Summary (All): Casual but proclivity compatible and intense sex leads to love.
Characters (All): Hardworking and successful, everyone is lithe and gorgeous.
- Beautiful Bastard
- Beautiful Bitch
- Beautiful Stranger
- Beautiful Bombshell
- Beautiful Player
- Beautiful Beginning
- Beautiful Beloved
- Beautiful Secret
- Beautiful Boss
Beautiful Bastard (novel)
Finishing her MBA, Chloe Mills has worked for the Ryan family for several years, but only for six months as an intern to the eponymous bastard Bennett Ryan. They have a politely hostile relationship that breaks down when they start having The Angry Sex then spar and copulate their way to togetherness. The alternating narration gives a good and necessary insight into Bennett and just how crazy he is about Chloe. He may be a bastard, but Chloe is equal to the task and he is besotted. Despite the underwear rending (every single time) role Bennett takes in The Angry Sex, there is never, in any of these books, any suggestion that the women are anything but equal partners and the men find it exhilarating.
A short novella, Beautiful Bitch was simply more of Chloe and Bennett picking up one year later and then flashing back and forth to their reunion and ongoing relationship. More sex. Engagement.
Beautiful Stranger (novel)
Mercifully, the stranger of the title is singular and not plural because that’s not so romantic, but this novel is about an indulgence in anonymous sex that leads to love and a secure, sexually compatible relationship. Sara Dillon has just moved to New York City to start a new life for away from her cheating ex. Celebrating Chloe’s engagement, she meets a very tall, handsome stranger who propositions her. She turns him down, but later notices him watching her dancing and decides she likes it. They have sex against a wall of the club, then Sara walks away. No names were exchanged, but her stranger, Max Stella, is captivated. Through a series of friendship coincidences, Max finds Sara and agrees to a strictly sexual relationship with her. Their specific proclivity is exhibitionism, including photography in media res, so they indulge in a number of increasingly risky scenarios as they expand their indulgences and fall in love. Apparently. I’m not sure exactly where the falling in love part came in, but they do and the relationship moves to the next level which, in this case, means a bed in a private home. It was rather sweet.
Beautiful Bombshell (novella)
Another novella shoehorned into the series and the one in which things veered toward farce. Bennett and Max are in Las Vegas with friends for the former’s bachelor weekend. Chloe and Sara happen to be there as well and the couples find ways to have The Angry Sex and The Public Sex in and around the party events and hoping to evade detection. It was quick, and fun, but also ridiculous.
Beautiful Player (novel)
Don’t let the hep language of the title fool you. This is the story of a rake and a wallflower, a trope I particularly enjoy. Delicious player Will Sumner is bored with hot and cold running sex. When his best friend asks him to help his younger sister get out more, Will accepts. Hanna Bergstrom is straightforward and has no filter. After their first meeting, Will spends several chapters falling in love in slow motion. His friends delight in his smitten state. A PhD student who has long been too distracted to have a social life, Hanna gets a quick makeover [eye roll] and she revels in the company of the man who was the object of her first crush.
So how do you cure a player? You go back to basics. Although not yet in love, Will and Hanna’s relationship builds slowly from reasonably tame foreplay to consummation. This book had the most relatable characters and she was a pip.
Beautiful Beginning (novella)
More “I hate you, do it HARDER!” and promises of post-coital ambulatory issues in this novella about Bennett and Chloe’s destination wedding. The travel element allows all the characters to be in close proximity and, like other final get together novels of this type, the current story is irrelevant. Max, Sara, Hanna, and Will make appearances, although I would have liked more of them. Chloe and Bennett have vowed not to have sex for FOUR WHOLE DAYS and gradually build up a head of steam for some epic The Angry Sex on their wedding night. Sometimes funny, they have skirmishes and make vulgar displays in front of their family and I was both a bit bored by it and a bit put off.
Beautiful Beloved (novella)
The central characters from Beautiful Stranger, Max and Sara, are back as well as the supporting cast. Sara was pregnant in the previous two books and this story picks up when their daughter is four months old. (Aside: Thank goodness, it’s not Chloe and Bennett having children because neither of them are parent material.) Max and Sara are as blissfully happy as ever, but their perfect union is sullied – lightly sprinkled with dust motes, really – by the lack of violently intense (hopefully public) sex in their lives. Not a lack of sex, mind you, but a lack of amazeballs sex. What follows are unsuccessful attempts to rekindle the fire of their pre-baby state with failed nights out. Gay-assistant-stereotype-George spends a night caring for the little one, then the adorable Will and Hanna, and finally Max’s brother Niall whose presence foreshadows his novel coming out in April.
I know that these books are escapist, but speaking as someone with very little money and alone on the prairie in terms of help when we had a newborn, I confess my bitterness interfered with my enjoyment of Beautiful Beloved. Max and Sara are wealthy and surrounded by potential caregivers. The only thing really stopping them from leaving the house alone is the baby quicksand all new parents fall into. There is something in Beautiful Beloved about society not wanting to see mothers as sexual creatures, as well as the conflict between the desire to go back to work and notions of being a good parent, but honestly the series just unravels its gossamer tether to reality a little more with each entry, so thematic discussions seem kind of pointless; moreover, it had a climax that left me cringing and saying, “Ew! Really? How many fetishes do these people have? Ew. WHAT? EW!” regardless of what points the authors might have been trying to make.
Beautiful Secret goes here in the reading order.
Beautiful Boss (novella)
As a quick follow up to Beautiful Player, I do wonder how many of these latter series novellas are just cashing in. I don’t begrudge the authors that, by the way, I just wish it had more of what made Will and Hanna’s full length book fun. Instead her enjoyable cluelessness turned into a stumbling block for the couple.
Beautiful Boss picks up on the eve of Will and Hanna’s wedding, trips lightly through their nuptials, and moves on to the more urgent details of their life together. Hanna has just completed a post-doc year and is crushed under the weight of offers to either teach or run a lab for prestigious universities. When was the last time, do you suppose, even the most gifted graduate had such a plethora of opportunities? She waffles through the book as Will is fantastically accommodating, but grows increasingly frustrated with her unwillingness to discuss where she thinks she’d like to end up. Sometimes, they take a break to get it on. They fight. They make a decision. Life goes on
Sidebar with a detail I LOVED: Will Sumner and Hanna Bergstrom both change their last name to the Sumner-Bergstrom. It’s unwieldly, but who cares?
The two woman writing team of the books, working under the pseudonym Christina Lauren, are pumping out these and more novels with alacrity. Like many genre writers, they have found a successful niche and know what their audience wants: lots of interesting sex which acknowledges that women have the same urges as men and enough of a plot to string things along and keep them interesting. The challenges faced by the couples are all Big Misunderstandings easily remedied, but the same can be said of many romances. The main complaint I have about the series is the constant low hum of dudebro sexism. The male characters interactions focus on insults of feminization and loss of manliness: They are whipped, their “girls” have taken possession of their testes, emotions are female and weak. The otherwise powerful women take it all in stride. It’s the kind of casual sexism that surrounds us every day and which I hope to escape when reading these books.
Sidebar: Chloe has a gay admin who fills the “sassy gay assistant ” stereotype that the books could have done without.
Christina Lauren has a series, Wild Seasons, in the new adult romance genre which I recommend over the Beautiful books. Their writing just keeps getting better. A complete list of Christina Lauren’s catalogue can be found here.