Charlotte has a precocious daughter, a deadbeat ex, and a dream of working in the fashion industry. Ellis has a reputation for womanising, a high-fashion company, and several enemies.
When Charlotte lands a coveted spot as Ellis’ latest intern, everything seems to be looking up; she has a less dead-end job, and her daughter is in a more stable and suppotive environment. But there are problems, too – her growing attraction to her enigmatic, closed-off boss and the machinations of people who will stop at nothing to destroy Ellis and her career.
Beauty and the Boss is a romance, but it’s not just a romance. It’s also a crime novel, dealing with betrayal and backstabbing in the fashion industry. More that, it’s also a novel about family – Swayer’s relationship with her mother and Ellis is one of the key focuses of the book. To some extent, the complexity and detail is a good thing; romances that focus exclusively on love and the two main characters are often rather limited. Charlotte and Sawyer work as a team, and it’s good to see a romance involving a single mother in which the child is more than a prop. There’s growing friendship and negotiated parenting as well as romance.
However, the divided focus has downsides as well. The plot is complex and slow-moving; it could have done with streamlining, leading to fewer crises but more time spent on each one. There’s a lot of information and exposition thrown at the reader early on, and it takes a while to sort out who all of the characters are and how they related to each other.
I think partly because of the slow start, the primary relationship suffers a little – it heats up later on, definitely, but there’s little sense of passion and longing between the romantic leads until they’re already an item; no lingering looks or skipped heartbeats. To some extent, I think that’s probably realistic, but it does mean that some of the emotional punch a romance normally has is a little diluted.
One thing I really liked about Beauty and the Boss was that lesbian relationships were totally normalised. Coming out/grappling with sexuality stories are important and interesting and should be told, but it is good to see LGBT narratives that don’t solely focus on that; it’s not equitable if lesbian romances are only apparent as oppositional or additional to heterosexual ones. The world of Beauty and the Beast is one in which homophobia is almost entirely absent, even from the characters you would totally expect to express such views.
Overally, Beauty and the Boss is atypical for a romance. The focus is less on the romance than the wider relationships in Ellis and Charlotte’s lives, and there’s a lot of plot going on. It’s a slower, more complex read than a lot of romances, rather than a frothy romantic whirl.
I received a copy of Beauty and the Boss through Netgalley.com.