Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
How often do you read a book and know within the first chapter that you will either love or hate a book? I give books to 80% before I make a judgment. People who write DNF, in my mind, are quitters. And right now, as you read this review, you’re probably thinking that I am prepared to write a negative review about Annika Martin’s newest book, Return Billionaire to Sender, and you, my friend, would be wrong. From its first chapter, I fell HARD for Martin’s story. Why you might ask?
Well, two reasons: Malcolm, her hero, and Noelle “Elle,” her heroine. Yep. These two are romantic comedy gold from the first chapter.
For one, Malcolm is my favorite type of rom-com hero: gruff, people-hating, king of his domain, rich. These are my favorite types of heroes because they require the typical rom-com heroine to bring them to their knees. And Annika Martin writes these types of heroes into her rom-coms. All. The. Dang. Time. It’s why I will claim Tribute to read her ARCs. I love heroes who look staid and proper, kings of the world, but are messy underneath. And that is Malcolm Blackberg from the start. As I read his character, I read it with a male British accent in my mind because that’s him. I read his curt, no-nonsense dialogue with hearts in my eyes. He is everything you can’t help but love about romantic comedy stories.
With Malcolm comes the best of heroines, Noelle. Martin’s heroine looks ill-equipped to take on the solitary Malcolm. However, she is like the age-old fable of the mouse (Malcolm calls her little “country mouse” through much of the story) who removes the thorn from the lion’s paw. She does this with an innate sense of Malcolm. From their messy meet-cute, Noelle sees Malcolm in a way that no one else can (a vice-versa), and it delights him especially as he doesn’t realize it. She does not seem like his match on the surface (true rom-com trope here), but she absolutely knows how to challenge him. Over and over again, their exchanges are romance dynamite. They slow-burn through the story with Martin deftly building it to a crescendo. Honestly, I can read Annika Martin’s romances and require very little in terms of physicality between her characters. It’s their journey that excites me, and Malcolm and Noelle are no different.
Add with their characterizations, the cast of supporting characters from Martin’s other books in her series of standalones about billionaires and their unlikely girlfriends, and you have nostalgia and the community that Martin does so well to craft into her stories. These other characters bring a common thread into this romance that reminds you why Martin’s stories are unique in their construction of staid billionaires and their zany, unique women whose strength isn’t always seen, but is definitely known. I love this group, and I simply want more of their stories.
Lastly, I love Malcolm’s journey. It’s a constant reminder that our pasts can negatively impact our development that we build facades to protect our soft underbellies. If you ever read a romance and think that the seemingly mean-spirited hero is truly mean, then you have missed the idea that past hurts create scars that require protecting. In the world of romanceladia, authors such as Annika Martin remind us in their stories that the right person, someone who can truly see us and love us, will help us heal, become better.
If you want a laugh, if you want to see a testy hero fall for a heroine with a love for hedgehog-patterned butterfly ties, if you love the idea of community, then you’ll definitely want to read Annika Martin’s Return Billionaire to Sender. From Chapter 1, my heart was set in a smile. Even through to the last line, this book was pure unadulterated romance gold.
In love and romance,