My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Initial reaction: Here’s a thought I’ll leave you with in the time I mull over how I’m going to write my full review on “Anything He Wants”, I get there are a lot of erotic novels that are penned for the sake of engaging the sensual variety. But ladies, gents, those who peruse the erotic genre – if you’re going to have your two characters engage in sexy times in your novel, that’s no reason to totally skimp on character development and interaction, and completely indulge in Mary Sueish fantasies that have no direction or no sense to them. This novel did not know what it wanted to become, and pretty much threw whatever it could at the wall to see what stuck. Only nothing did.
This book was just completely bad on so many levels. Not even mediocre, but just an utter fail.
This is the first full book I’ve ever read from author Sara Fawkes, and it might end up being my last with how vexed this book made me. I don’t get into the measure of telling others how to write or how a work should be written because usually that’s up to the style of the writer in question – and in due respect – you know, everyone’s different. In the same light, I also don’t make judgements on what engages one’s sensuality as far as a work is concerned, particularly with respect to this genre because, again, everyone’s different.
But “Anything He Wants” was just a failure all around – I don’t understand the hype behind it. I guess in the rush to compliment the 50 Shades craze (which to me is a craze I have yet to understand, because erotica’s been around a lot longer than E.L. James’s refurbished fanfiction – and I would argue in better quality), there are many writers trying to emulate that success, even down to writing about a humdrum heroine, and a wealthy billionaire that asks said heroine to submit to his every whim. And said heroine either completely accepts it with or without terms, or accepts it and claims “Why the heck am I doing this?”
If you don’t believe me, the protagonist from “Anything He Wants” pretty much does the same thing as the latter in spurts. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
You might be thinking “All right Rose – tell me in constructive detail and outside of digressive ranting – what’s wrong with this book?”
I can’t give you just one answer for that. There are multiple layers of problems in this work, and it goes beyond the level of editing and simply combining a work from a serial format (which is a major problem, but not the one I’ll focus on just yet). I knew a little bit about Fawkes’s work before this point because I downloaded the very first part of her “Dominated by the Billionaire” series from Amazon when it was offered as a freebie. It was a five part serial published I think for $2.99 a pop, give or take. I didn’t get a chance to read the first part because I had other books positioned before it. Yet, when I saw this as an ARC, offered as the collective series, I thought I’d request it to have the chance to read it in full. For me, my perusal of the erotica genre’s been more curiosity and looking for writers that not only establish their character relationships well and write well, but provide good stories that can be returned to in later spectrums.
I did have some hope that this would be a story I’d enjoy reading and that would engage me. The blurb, while a familiar troupe, seemed interesting on the surface. I gave it a fair shot.
Let me start with a brief summation of things: Lucy Delacorte is your usual office worker who crushes on the mysterious high society guy she passes by. Within the first 13 pages or so of my galley, they start engaging in sexy times in the elevator. There’s no “Hi, how are you?” or introduction of any kind. It’s just a measure where the MC jumps the LI’s bones, pretty much fulfilling Lucy’s initial fantasies without any rhyme or reason, and for some unknown reason he seems to be ready for her. Never mind that we know nothing about this guy or what attracts Lucy to him, never mind that we know nothing about Lucy (in fact, her name was mentioned on page 9, but wasn’t mentioned again until page 40 of my galley – that’s an awful long time to not mention a character name, and I came dangerously close to forgetting her name more than a few times).
Then said mystery man surprises her in another so-called romantic encounter by grabbing her from behind and covering her mouth and sensually engaging her even when initially she tells him to stop (I didn’t find that sexy at all) – never mind we still know nothing about him. I hated that particular scene because while he says he wouldn’t do anything to her she didn’t want him to do, he does it while he’s still all over her. No kind of respect whatsoever. Lo and behold, she’s turned on by it, though on the same level of questioning what she’s doing. (I asked the very same question.)
Lucy complains about her humdrum job, her missed chances at law school (which come with an understandable reason later on, but it’s given very little intimacy, so I didn’t feel much for it when it was revealed). Later on, we learn that Lucy is on the verge of losing her job and the sexy stranger she engaged in the elevator: turns out to be one of her head bosses (who didn’t see that one coming!). Lucy’s (understandably) horrified. The boss, Jeremiah as we learn much later than reasonable, offers her a proposal for a new position.
Doing anything he wants. Hence the title, commence the eyerolling.
I could go into further details about where the story goes (the couple ends up in Paris, Lucy ends up getting drugged unexpectedly, Jeremiah’s family’s embroiled in a lot of drama, etc.), but honestly, there was a point where I just stopped caring. I read the whole story, but the experience was like speaking through one ear and the message coming out of the other with nothing to cling. I had very little connection to it. The events were implausible, ridiculous, unsexy, and not to mention incomplete. There’s no HEA here, not even really an ending to speak of. If I were more invested, I probably would’ve been even further vexed, but for me, the incompletion was just the cherry topping on the melted sundae.
Never mind that the sex scenes are quite poorly written – there’s really no palpable chemistry between these two leading characters because there’s no way of knowing them, and you don’t actually get to know anything about them until it’s far too late to care. There’s more attention paid to Lucy trying to adjust her clothing than actually focusing on the man her affections are turned toward or even towards herself until much later in the work. Writers: if you’re writing ANYTHING – you have to have a fair amount of character intimacy for your story to have a selling point – and if we (meaning the reader) know nothing about who these characters are, you might as well be writing pieces of sandpaper rubbing against each other – because it’s not going to have the impact intended.
Rule of thumb: if a character says he/she’s bored, the reader is likely to be bored. Lucy said she didn’t like her life early on in the work, so it didn’t provide me with any level to care about what her life was like at that point in time – and I wanted to. I had to ask: where the hell are her circle of friends? (This is later answered, but again, it’s way, way late.) Where/What are the things she cares about (which is what I’m more interested in finding out, quite frankly)? And as for Jeremiah – a hot wealthy man is not something by itself that will turn anyone on (at least not by singular definition) – the attraction lends more to what’s behind that image. The man wears the clothes, the clothes don’t wear the man, so to speak. I don’t know about anyone else, but as I mentioned in one of my reviews penned well before this – a hot body or status of power does not impress me when it comes to seeing sensual chemistry. I wanna know who this man is and why the MC is attracted to him, and he to her. Who are these characters, and why should we care? If you can’t answer those questions (which are simple in phrasing, but much more complex to consider) – the story rarely works, not without some other elements to consider.
Then I have to transition to the plot from the characters. Lucy just decides to engage in sexy times with this stranger, finds out she’s about to be fired by said stranger who presides over her, gets interviewed during more sexy times, then she just agrees to do whatever he wants for the money and uproot her life to do so. I have to question the logic in that. Let alone, I don’t think this book knew what it wanted to become – a erotic romance between two people, a family drama, a mystery/conspiracy? There were just too many elements thrown out without rhyme or reason, and for a collected, cohesive work that does not fly. Even considering this was – at one point – a serial work, there still needs to be some consistency and plausibility in the storyline. Do the decisions these characters decide make sense? Are the events consistent with events prior to this? Those kinds of considerations. None of “Anything He Wants” made any kind of sense, nor was it engaging or made me want to care about the plight of the characters within it.
These are some among many reasons why the story did not work for me. It’s bad writing, poorly developed characterizations, unsexy scenes, Mary Sueish plots that make very little sense, and just an overarching sense of disconnect. I was disappointed, and in putting this book down, I do not seek to pick it up again. I would not recommend it – there are far, FAR better erotic novels to peruse than this.
Overall score: 0.5/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher St. Martin’s Griffin.