I should note that this review will be in part based on my reading of the story when it was in its fanfiction form. Let's face it; while the book is in some ways different, it's impossible to entirely separate it from the story as it was originally told, and my reactions aren't those of a new reader, but rather someone who's heard the tale before.
Chloe is smart, driven, successful, and (aside from her relationship with her boss) confident. And all these traits are why Bennett finds her absolutely irresistable. Sure, he tries not to give in to the attraction, and in that effort, he acts like an entitled jerk, but as much as he hates how out of control she makes him, he can't help himself. She's the prettiest girl on the playground, and he's the boy who likes her so much that he pulls her hair and pushes her down. In turn, she calls him a big meanie, and they continue to torment each other.
I normally stay the hell away from erotica, simply because I find so much of it to be repetitive porn loosely wrapped in a contrived plot. Not so with Beautiful Bastard or its fanfiction predecessor, The Office. Sure, it's heavy on the sex, and it's entirely inappropriate for anyone under the age of 18... or maybe 21... possibly 30. But the sex is less a plot device and more an expression of their explosive and consuming relationship. They despise each other, want each other, and even in sex, they try to one-up each other. There are demands and teasing, conflicting emotions, and a heady obsession neither one of them can shake. It's a lust-hate relationship that doesn't rush to resolution.
I was told that the book was very different from the fanfiction story, and for that reason I went into it with more expectations than just an entertaining read. However, without sitting down and comparing it to The Office line by line, I couldn't really spot the changes. Every scene that stood out in The Office was in Beautiful Bastard. The conference room. The stairwell. The elevator. The car. The bathroom. And again. I'm not sure how I feel about this. These scenes absolutely made the fanfic, and I'm guessing for someone who never read The Office, the probably made the book, too. But for someone who practically had the plot and scenes memorized to begin with, Beautiful Bastard isn't exactly fresh material. I was also a little shocked by how quickly Bennett 'fessed up to his father and brother about the affair. Granted, that part might be exactly like it was in the fanfic version, but I don't recall for sure. Still, all they did was tell Bennett that Chloe resigned and asked him what he did to her. He could have said he was an ass. He could have said he belittled her (which he did) to a client. Instead, he gave them the clean, abridged version of their affair. Why? He was so smooth through the rest of the story, quickly trying to cover his tracks when Mina realized what the couple was up to, so why did he spill his guts the second his father asked a question for which he might have spouted plenty of cover stories?
In comparing it to other books that didn't start out as fanfiction, I can also see a few possible holes. The secondary characters are somewhat two-dimensional and largely absent most of the time. I don't think this is the worst thing, since the focus is clearly on the two main characters and what they get up to when they're alone for more than a few seconds. It would be really odd to get a full character study on Elliott while our favorite couple are tearing each other's clothes off. Likewise, the settings and situations they find themselves in are rather bare in detail. In some ways, it reminds me of a play, where all but one or two scenes take place in an office, and players merely enter and exit that stage as necessary. Again, not a bad thing, but certainly a departure from the standard.
Since Beautiful Bastard is in fact so much like The Office, it's impossible for me to rate it solely on my feelings this time around. To do so would be completely unfair to the authors; it's not their fault I suck at re-reads. I still remember exactly how enraptured I was the first time I read through the scenes that the non-fanfiction world is now reading, and because I've read it before, I didn't have the same organic reactions. So with that in mind, I can say that incredibly entertaining read about two strong-willed people who are each other's perfect weakness, who find romance when they aren't looking for it, and who will have you rooting for each of them, even while they seem completely at odds.