Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️
“We trusted each other. We protected each other’s weirdness. It’s one of the things that I have with Francine. We’re inside looking out. Together.”
I adore Annika Martin’s brand of rom-coms. For one, her newest book, Just Not That Into Billionaires, brings another story in her series of standalones focused around other billionaire stories. The thing is…those billionaires who are seemingly attractive, alpha-males are usually riddled with insecurities that they hide behind their genius. Usually, they have a soft underbelly of emotional insecurity, so they hide it behind a gruff, billionaire-esque exterior. What makes these stories heartfelt and warm are the heroines of the story. They are usually quirky, insightful, and brave to take on these alpha-looking billionaires. And what happens is rom-com magic with billionaires becoming vulnerable and heroines becoming loved beyond all measure.
And her newest book is no different.
The story follows Francine, resident ballerina of 341 West 45th Street. She has finally realized her dreams. She’s become a soloist in a new ballet which will tour the world, taking her to Spain where she has envisioned herself dancing at the ruins of Merida’s Roman Theatre. She has lived for this opportunity; however, when everything seems settled, she finds out that she is married, and her visa paperwork is endangering her tour. Told that she must handle it immediately, she investigates her “marriage” as she isn’t aware that she is married. She finds out, with the help of her 45th street friends, that she married Benny, the tech guy from a stint in Vegas ten years earlier. Intent on asking him for a divorce to remedy her visa issue, she finds him, only to realize he has become a tech billionaire in their decade apart. Bashful and unnerved, she finds him and asks him for a divorce, only for Benny to tell her that he will only grant the divorce if she agrees to act as his wife for three weeks, the length of time to complete a deal. This becomes the perfect set-up for two people attracted to each other fighting their feelings. Do they have a future together or will Benny let Francine go at the end of the three weeks?
So the foundation of this story is misunderstandings. Over and over again, Benny believes he knows Francine, that he has read her correctly. For almost 90% of the book, Martin treats us to all the ways that Benny has it all wrong. It takes most of the book for their issues to be resolved, but in the meantime, Martin writes a story where two people want each other deeply but feel as though they can’t have each other.
Benny is such an interesting character. Honestly, Martin never says this in the story, but if I didn’t know any better, Benny feels like a character on the spectrum. He struggles to fully understand people around him even though he trusts his gut with situations. This works for him except with Francine. This, of course, creates all kinds of funny and dramatic situations that pull you deep into their story. He’s interesting because he is probably one of the nerdiest billionaires in Martin’s stable of billionaires, yet he hides it behind a carefully constructed debonair exterior. And it’s that exterior that Francine hates. She loves the old Benny: the one who is singularly focused, awkward, and her attractive frenemy.
This makes Francine such a delightful heroine in this story. When Benny protects himself against her, using his alpha-male persona to hide his vulnerability, Francine hates it. She likes weird Benny. She likes everything that makes him different from everyone else. She has such a heart of gold in this story with him and her young dancers, and you cannot help but fall deeply in love with Francine.
But what I think I love the most about Just Not That Into Billionaires is the way that Francine and Benny are so much alike. Martin makes it clear from the beginning that, while they seem like frenemies, they have a drive and ambition for one focus: her’s is dancing and his is tech. This means that, essentially, they understand and empathize with the other. This is their connection, the tie that binds them together. It’s the reason that they are attracted to each other from the start. It’s their bumbling misreads of the other that keep them apart and lend gravity to this delightful rom-com.
For me, Annika Martin cannot go wrong with her storytelling. I adore this world that she’s created, and Francine and Benny are a perfect addition to it. If you’re looking for a fun, sweet, steamy rom-com, then you should read Just Not That Into Billionaires now.
In love and romance,