As is often the case with any modern Cinderella tale, when the clock strikes midnight at the ball, the lives of our lead characters will change forever.
What’s it About?
She’s just a girl next door and a pastry chef. Why would a sexy billionaire ever want more than one steamy night with her?
Ryker: Marriage and relationships aren’t for me. I have no desire to revisit my failures. Now I work hard and play hard–period.
Until suddenly there she is. Sexy. Unexpected. Sweet. Unforgettable. One unprecedented night with her only whets my appetite for more.
She’s been burned before, which makes her suspicious of me. Doesn’t think she’s good enough, that I’d prefer someone more…society.
If only she knew how uninterested I am in other women since I first laid eyes on her. And I hope she never knows the things I think about when I look at her now.
Fairy tales endings are meant for children’s books. I know that. But I write my own stories…
This is the final installment of the Fairy Tale Billionaires series, and author Ava Ryan certainly saved the best for last! Of all the brothers we’ve come across so far, Ryker is undoubtedly the most charming and down-to-earth of the bunch. Where his two older brothers often had a surly, or in one case even a “beastly”, nature about them, Ryker has a boy-next-door quality about him that would make the heart of any reader go aflutter. He might be a billionaire, but he’s one that would feel more comfortable lounging around the house with a beer on the weekend to catch a ball game. Sure, that house is a multi-million dollar penthouse in one of the most expensive cities on the planet, but still. Charismatic and approachable is the name of the game here. That’s also the case when it comes to our leading lady, Ella. Where Ryker is the boy next door, Ella is his girl next door counterpart. She’s likable, independent, and hardworking. Unlike the previous installments which presented us with a real-life princess from a royal family, and a billionaire’s assistant turned lawyer, Ella is pastry chef who is still paying off school loans.
I think many of us could envision grabbing a drink at happy hour with this supportive friend who is now the leading lady of her own story. And what a story it is! The fun thing about this series is that each novel is loosely inspired by a classic fairy tale, this one obviously infusing a few elements from the Cinderella story with which we’re all familiar. However, rather than being glaringly obvious in the features being “borrowed” from the original, this series succeeds in bringing a sense of subtlety to those shared moments. For example, while there’s mention of the churlish wife of her late father, this woman was never Ella’s stepmother. And of course, there has to be a fancy ball at some point in the story. While Ella might have a fascination for designer shoes, she never proceeds to lose a glass slipper which her Prince Charming must return to her. All of these brief moments of fairy tale inspiration will bring a smile to your face when you manage to recognize them, but they’ll also make you appreciate the fact that the author could bring some originality to these stories in their own right.
More Money…More Problems
As was the case with every book in this series, we’re dealing with a case of lust at first sight. Ryker is left to his own devices after his brothers wander off in pursuit of their own lady loves for the evening, and just as he’s about to walk out the door of a bougie bar and restaurant he catches sight of a fair beauty who stops him dead in his tracks. Let the flirtations begin! What starts off as a one-time thing quickly progresses into a meaningful relationship. Ryker and Ella always seem to be at ease with each other, where comfortable silences are not unheard of, and you get the sense that these two are meant to be. And yet, throughout their fairy tale romance we see a few rumblings of confrontation which eventually escalate into an argument that threatens the future of their relationship.
This brings us to the other primary reason this final book was my favorite in the trilogy, aside from our lovable lead characters of course, which was that the surface-level concerns Ella had regarding Ryker’s billionaire status actually spoke to a deep-rooted issue from her past. As soon as Ella discovered the extent of Ryker’s wealth, her hackles immediately rose. Ella was always firm with Ryker that she refused to take any handouts or charity from him. Sure, they can go out to a fancy dinner, but she won’t let him buy her an expensive dress from Nordstrom’s on the way. He can be supportive of her ambitions to pay off her student loans and eventually expand her aunt’s pastry shop, but heaven help him if he tries to give her the money to accomplish either goal. For the most part Ryker respects her need for independence and reigns in his desire to spoil her, but every once in a while we see things get tense when his simple offer to help might be blown out of proportion.
We see how all of this tension stems from Ella’s complicated past with her father, who was also extremely wealthy, and provided everything for her and her mother. Even though the love between them all was strong, he was already married to another woman. Her mother had come to rely on him for everything, so when he unexpectedly passed away without leaving them anything in his will, his bitter wife was quick to throw them all out on the street. Ella vowed that she would never rely on a man for financial security ever again, so it’s understandable that she would pull away any time there was a flash of Ryker’s attempts to share his wealth with her. As the depth of their relationship grew, so too did Ella grow ever more fearful of that wealth looming in the background, to a point where their future as a couple is in jeopardy. However, what we eventually come to realize in a moment of pure vulnerability is that Ella’s fear stems from something so much deeper than mere material wealth.
It’s not that she’s afraid to become too reliant on his generosity in case he should eventually leave her…but rather that he might actually leave her. Just like her father left her and her mother. The fact her dad never thought to provide for them should anything happen, the fact he stayed married to his wife, it all demonstrated to Ella that she wasn’t deemed worthy of his love. If her own father could leave her in the dark, why would someone as perfect as Ryker ever stick around to be with her for the long haul? This moment was such a heartbreaking realization for Ella to admit to herself why she’s been holding back from fully opening her heart to Ryker all this time. If she holds herself away by just a few steps, then surely when he inevitably leaves her soul won’t be as crushed as it could have been. But also in that moment, she realizes that that’s no way to go through life, living in fear of what might happen. Better to go in with both arms opened wide rather than hold him off at arm’s length. Now she’ll just have to make a big gesture at an upcoming ball to prove she’s willing to make that leap with him.
Series: Fairy Tale Billionaires, book 3. Every book in this series was better than the last. Personally I think you can skip book one, whose story line was a bit too over-the-top in my opinion, but be sure to pick up books 2 and 3. At the end of this final book we even get a glimpse of a spin-off series involving Ella’s half-brother that I think might just need to be added to my TBR list.
Would I befriend the heroine? She’s a freakin’ pastry chef!! Ella and I will be the best of besties for the rest of time.
Would I date the hero? He’s a billionaire whose idea of the perfect first date is staying at home to watch Jaws, but will happily watch Jurassic Park instead if it’s what his lady desires. Sooo…yeah, I think we’re already soul mates.
Final Impressions: I thought this read was a blast! Ella and Ryker are so fun and flirty together, and you get the sense that their relationship is built to last. They’re also two characters that would be fun to hang out with in real life, whether it was to chill with pizza and a movie, or pop around to Ella’s pastry shop for a culinary delight. They certainly engage in a slew of sexy fun times together, but this is counterbalanced with an unexpectedly emotional deep-dive of how Ella’s complicated familial past is not only impacting her relationship with Ryker, but also how she’s choosing to live her life in general. We’re ultimately presented with the perfect blend of fun, sex and drama that any good romance should have. All in all, a great beach read!
Smut Level: You just know what’s in store when we have a pastry chef in the house. A little ganache here, a little ganache there, a little ganache everyyyyyywhere.
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. 236 Pages.