Honestly, I was a bit nervous to start this book. Not because I don’t love the authors and their writing and the series in general, but because on Goodreads, there were generally high ratings, but tons of mixed reviews. However, as soon as I started the book, I knew that I had nothing to worry about. It was phenomenal! Once again, Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings have blown my mind and have shattered my heart in the best ways possible. Beautiful Secret was a beautiful addition to the Beautiful series, and one of the best things about it, to me, was that it was completely unlike any of the other books in the series.
Beautiful Secret revolves around Max Stella’s (from Beautiful Stranger) brother, Niall Stella, and an intern at the company where he is VP, Ruby Miller. Niall is recently divorced and is quite oblivious to the natures and workings of love and romance, while Ruby has been harboring a crush on Niall for months. However, Niall and Ruby get paired together to go to New York City for work, and feelings for Ruby explode beyond measure, and Niall realizes what it’s truly like to be in love.
The novel is much more complicated than that minor summary, but to keep it short and sweet, feelings erupt between the two while they spend a month in New York working, and like any Christina Lauren novel, nothing will ever be the same after these two main characters interact and their relationship blossoms.
Ruby was such an awkward character, but I adored her. She made a complete fool of herself most of the time in front of Niall, but I found this extremely adorable and endearing. As a twenty-two-year-old (only one year younger than her), I know that’s exactly how I’d act around a man who I’m absolutely crazy about. She blurted things without fully thinking them through, acted on gut instinct, and could never control her impulses in front of Niall. However, she was working in the engineering field, and it was obvious that she was extremely intelligent. It just so happened that in front of a man that she had intense feelings for, she couldn’t put her thoughts together well, and I found that so realistic of how we (women) act in real life! I love how realistic the authors made Ruby!
And Niall. Dear Niall. He was so unlike any of the other main male characters from this series (Bennett, Max, or Will). He had only been with one woman (romantically and sexually) his entire life—his ex-wife. For once, the woman in the story was more experienced than the male. I thought this was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the story. It was great to see Niall so conflicted about his feelings and sex. It was great to see Niall overreact about things because he was so unsure of himself, even though he seemingly had everything going for him. It was great to see that there was more to Niall than just a pretty face—he was undoubtedly brilliant, but he second guessed himself about everything when it came to his feelings toward Ruby.
The other main books in this series (Beautiful Bastard, Beautiful Stranger, and Beautiful Player) all contained intense and sexy sex scenes, but this book’s sex scenes were mild in comparison. It took most of the novel to build up to the first sexual intercourse scene, and that was so unlike any of the other books in the series. The entire relationship between Niall and Ruby was played out so differently and unique. Instead of their romance being about sex first then feelings, it was about feelings first then sex. It was a nice change of plot from the rest of the books in the series. The pacing was different, and my expectations were shattered (in a good way).
Another thing I loved about this novel is the fact that Ruby was so in love with Niall that she classified her moments around him as “Niall Stella Moments.” Her Niall Stella Moments were for the smallest things, too, that most people would overlook as soon as they occurred. It truly showed how in love Ruby was with Niall from the very beginning. I genuinely looked forward to all of Ruby’s mentions of the Niall Stella moments.
Also, this novel different from the first three because there was a bigger focus on scenery. In the previous novels, one was set in Chicago while the other two were set in New York, but in none of them were the cities described as much. In this novel, because Niall and Ruby were working in London and temporarily in NYC, there was a bigger focus on the setting. I liked how the authors incorporated the setting into the novel, and also how they incorporated the setting into Niall and Ruby’s budding relationship. There were multiple times that the setting enhanced their relationship, and I was happy that they included this facet into the novel. Like said before, it differentiated the novels from their other books.
Niall learns fast, however, about the art of flirting. There were points in the novel where I’d find my heart racing or my smile growing on my face just because of the delicious or extremely flirty things Niall would say, and they seemed to appear out of nowhere! The character development of Niall from the beginning toward the end was astounding! Even Ruby changed, a bit, and calmed down as she got to know Niall better. But only vaguely did she calm down. Ruby’s exuberance and “freak-outs” are the things that were most likable about her, to me.
Beautiful Secret gripped at my heartstrings crazily. Close toward the end of the novel, I was near tears because of how heartbreaking the scenes were. Christina Lauren books always make me giddy and hot and craving a sexy, adorable man, but not one has brought me almost to tears. This book truly grabbed my heart and squeezed at it! The writing was everything and more!
This was an excellent fourth novel installment to the series. I loved Niall and Ruby, and even though their story is done, I hope that I get to read more about them in the future. Thanks, Christina and Lauren, for allowing the world to read your wonderful stories! I can’t wait to read your other books, as well!
5/5 stars, just like all their other novels, of course!