Mr. North - Callie Hart
My Review - 4 stars
Play chess with a hermit billionaire for $6000 a week? This premise intrigued me from the start. Raphael is a wounded and mysterious man, a tortured soul, even as his philanthropy is changing lives for the better. I wanted to know why Raph wouldn't leave his penthouse, what had happened in his past, and what game he was playing with Beth. Because it was clear from the start this wasn't just about chess.
There was a delicious slow burn between Raph and Beth and then things took a very unexpected turn. Beth is wrapping her head around the fact that Raph is interested her- and the degree to which he's pursued her- but also his interest comes with kink. Raph's behavior throughout this book isn't always the most civilized and this is chalked up to the fact that he hasn't left his penthouse in 5 years. I'm not entirely convinced a privileged rich man would forget his manners in 5 years but I rolled with it. Even in a case like this, which could have used more finesse.
Beth was a compelling character to root for. She's feisty and determined, as well as an amazing chess player. She's worked hard to get through law school and playing chess with Raph is an opportunity to make more money than her assortment of part-time jobs, as well as make a dent in her student loans. Her focus is on graduating and taking the bar exam. When she meets Raph, she is both intrigued and irritated. And when they give in to the chemistry between them, her life is literally never the same again.
Around halfway through, there's a completely implausible plot point but Callie Hart uses it to force a few issues and I can see how it was ultimately useful, even if I struggled with the believability. She managed to redeem it in the end and made a believer out of me, though I must note some heartbreaking things also happen along the way. The whole time I was dying to know whether Raph would leave his penthouse. The only way their relationship can survive is if he deals with his past and steps outside but he had to decide on his own. The angst of this was perfect. I raced to the conclusion and really enjoyed the ride. This made me want to read more from this author.
There were a few continuity issues that probably no one but me will notice. I wish the book had been longer because there were a lot of loose ties at the end, like what Beth decides to do about her horrid brother and what happens with law school. The revelation of Raph's kink was hanging over the entirety of the book because Raph and Beth are too busy dealing with big circumstances to play. The epilogue almost made up for this but perhaps that first scene should have been later in the story or been a more integrated part of the plot.
Sensitive readers will want to know there are some potential triggers (view the particulars in my Goodreads review.)
Law student Beth Dreymon is out of money and struggling hard. If she wants to finish her degree, she’s going to have to earn some money and fast. When she learns of an exciting opportunity—playing chess with New York’s most elusive billionaire—the offer sounds too good to be true. Reassured the offer is legit, Beth gets her game face on and prepares to geek out...
Only, when she steps foot into Raphael North’s luxurious penthouse, the rulebook goes flying out of the floor-to-ceiling windows. North is beautiful and damaged—a terrible temptation—and he has his sights set on winning Beth over. He’s just a job, though. A job Beth needs in order to make ends meet. If she plans on making her life in New York work, she needs to keep her eye on the prize. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, however, and it isn’t long before Beth finds herself entangled in Raphael’s world of dark desire.
Beth should run from the devastatingly attractive blue-eyed devil, but Mr North has other ideas…and he’s about to make his next move.
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Disclosure: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. Affiliate links included in this post.