A vulnerable young woman. A rich, powerful, supremely handsome (and relatively young) highly placed executive in the bank where she works. You know where this is going, right? I thought I did, and neither of us is exactly wrong, but I made the mistake of ignoring the book’s title and more or less forgetting about a cryptic passage at the beginning that hints of dramatic upheavals beyond anything usually encountered in romance, however erotic.
There’s more to Fix: Sex Lies and Banking than just another twist on the long tail of the 50 Shades phenomenon. It’s not only the setting, although that helps; the upper echelons of a major investment bank in the financial heart of London and its surroundings are shown in convincing and entertaining detail, though at rather more info-dumping length that is really necessary. And it isn’t particularly the sex; there’s plenty of that, but a large percentage of it is in the form of flashbacks in Patrick Harrington’s first-person train of thought, where he gets off on his own awesome appeal to women, and gets more enjoyment from despising the women than from the sex itself. Not much there to empathize with, at least not for women, who are more likely than men to be reading this sort of book.
The “lies” part of the story is what makes the difference. At one point Patrick tells himself that he lies so much because he’s so good at it, as, in his own opinion, he is at everything, including unethical risk-taking with the bank’s assets. For a while I wondered whether the author really thought that readers would admire this narcissistic character, who admits to feeling “smug about the disarming effect I have on women.” I suppose a hero has to have faults so that they can be overcome by true love and mind-blowing sex, but Patrick’s obsession with luxury and power and his own superiority are hard to take.
Alexandra Fisher, on the other hand, is quite likeable, and no fool, except for falling for Patrick, which can be forgiven since he does, after all, lie so well. The author makes some attempts to portray her as naïve and unsophisticated, as seems to be required in such stories, but they’re not all that convincing, although Patrick insists on seeing her that way so that he can maintain his sense of superiority. When he does a Facebook search (yes, he’s a creepy stalker) and finds pictures of Alexandra vacationing with friends or an ex-boyfriend in numerous exotic and expensive locations around the world, he still thinks of her as “unworldly.” The only indication of any real lack of sexual experience is that she doesn’t recognize a butt plug when she finds one while snooping into his bedside drawer.
The unused butt plug (and mutual fetishes for uber-expensive designer shoes) are the closest references to kinky sex in the book, except for the unfortunate plot device of Alexandra’s father having committed suicide because of an addiction to BDSM, giving her an excuse for the occasional traumatic flashback. Patrick doesn’t seem to have any interest in that sort of edge play, although he keeps trying to persuade himself that he only spends so much effort on Alexandra so that he can “break” her and subjugate her, and then presumably despise her the way he does the other women who fawn on him. The only women he has any respect for seem to be his mother back in Ireland, and a mature, elegant prostitute who reminds him of how his mother looked at that age. Hmm.
You’ve probably gathered by now that this book is not particularly to my personal taste. Usually I try to review books in terms of how they will appeal to the readership they’re meant for, but this one has me puzzled. Can many readers put up with such an unlikeable male protagonist, however rich and handsome and in need of a good woman to redeem him? It’s true, though, that in spite of hoping against hope for most of the book that Patrick would get taken down as he so richly deserves, eventually, when it began to seem possible that this would happen, I wanted almost as much for Alexandra to get what she wanted and be happy.
I did admire several aspects of the writing. The text is well-edited, on the whole, with just a few places where past and present tense trip over each other, a danger inherent in long passages of first-person present-tense prose heavily laden with flashbacks. The descriptions of places and atmospheres were sometimes quite striking, and Alexandra’s flashbacks to her student days and friends at Cambridge made me wish that Lily Temperley would write an entire book about those times.
Do you want to know whether Patrick did indeed get taken down? All I’ll say is, “it’s complicated.” And, as so often happens these days with this sort of book, it’s a cliff-hanger. Yes, there is expected to be a second book, and most likely a third. Am I interested enough to see how Lily Temperley handles the dramatic tangle she’s created? Well, maybe.