Elizabeth Brown’s new novella Determined is the first in a trilogy about the relationship between billionaire venture capitalist David Keith and whip smart Samantha Sharp, who works in an art gallery and is just breaking into the art dealing world. On her blog, Brown describes her work as “an Alpha Billionaire series” and, I won’t lie, when I read that, the dreaded four-word phrase popped into my mind: “fifty shades of grey.” BUT (there’s a BUT!) while there are echoes of that work in that David is an alpha billionaire, he’s not an asshole and Samantha is not a computer-illiterate sappy shrinking violet; and, importantly, there’s none of the emotional abuse.
Still, if you are not into alpha billionaires, steer clear. Here’s an example of what might bother you: Shortly after meeting, the two end up having sex in the pantry at a friend’s house during a party (which leads to multiple hilarious moments when Samantha finds herself gleefully but disbelievingly thinking “I had sex in your pantry” while trying to converse with said friend). But beforehand, they have a strange, intimate, and uncomfortably intrusive conversation because David flat-out asks her if she’s on birth control. Samantha, to her credit, reacts with shock (though, of course, she answers the question and they go onto have hot pantry sex). Alpha male weirdness, amirite?
But this story, like all of these he’s-insanely-rich, she’s-really-smart-and-witty stories, is a fantasy. He happens to figure out her dress size and sends her a gown that she wears on their first date to the symphony. They fly in his private jet to have Thanksgiving with her family in Tahoe. I know it’s devastating to hear, but the odds are this will not be happening to you in your lifetime. But what Determined does (like, say, Abigail Barnette’s The Boss series or any of Christina Lauren’s novels) is make this feel possible, like maybe it could happen. Because even as it takes place against this luxurious backdrop, they are well sketched out, fully-rounded characters. This is one of the things to dislike about Fifty Shades of Grey (among the many): it’s hard to believe any of it could happen, that those two people are attracted to one another, that she puts up with him, etc. I didn’t get any of that in Determined. In fact, I found David and Samantha’s chemistry appealing, I liked their banter, their choices basically made sense, and while there was some pathologizing about the emotional baggage he carries around, it wasn’t overwhelming. Also, the sex is hot. Incredibly so.
All in all, I so seriously enjoyed Determined that I immediately looked up how long I’d have to wait to read the second part. It’ll be released in January.