Hotel Queens might be my new favourite Lee Winter book, or at least it’s at the top with Breaking Character and Requiem for Immortals.
Amelia Duxton is a genius but she’s also a lesbian, and for that reason keeps being passed over in favour of her nasty brother Oliver. It would be annoying in any family, but in the Duxton family, it means Amelia has been exiled to London (it could be worse and she knows it) while Oliver is the CEO of the family business, one of the most powerful hotel chains in the world. Until Oliver fucks up one too many times and Amelia’s hope of finally being seen as the best choice is back. Kai Fisher has it in for the Duxtons and would like nothing better than to see them ruined, or at least humiliated, not only as revenge for what Oliver did to her but because of the way they treat their employees. As the star negotiator for Hotel Duxton International’s main competition, she has a very real chance of making that happen.
This story is a perfect example of opposites-attract, love/hate, an ice queen and a fire queen, an introvert and an extrovert. Amelia loves order, numbers, honesty. Kai thrives on chaos and charms her way through her deals, adapting her personality on demand – another reviewer very accurately called her a chameleon.
Every interaction between Kai and Amelia is delightful. They’re proof that smart is sexy. Really really really sexy.
The story takes place over a relatively short period of time and focuses on the attraction, the chemistry, the beginning of something that could, in time, become a Happy Ever After. It’s exciting and hot and adventurous, and the enemies-to-lovers aspect adds a measure of danger to spice it all. Obviously the sex, when it happens, is torrid, but what I’ll remember, I think, is the first kiss scene, which feels a lot like a Golden Age Hollywood movie (without the straight protagonists and with a lot more heat), very Cukor. Very much to my taste.
It’s not just all about Amelia and Kai, however. Almost every secondary character is so well-rounded that they could warrant their own novel. Quinn, Amelia’s second-in-command, Milly, Kai’s assistant, Monique Carson, the hotel guest with unexpected and diverse talents, would be my first choices, but even the men around both main characters, especially those in Amelia’s family, would be interesting (if I were into testosterone-filled books).
Hotel Queens is exactly the kind of story I can see Winter having fun writing. And she’s undeniably at her best here. I love ice queen stories when they’re well written but it’s very easy to overdo the ice queen and the melting. In this novel, Winter, who is undeniably the queen of ice queens, strikes the ideal balance. Every time I thought maybe it was going to be too much and end up in clichés, she proved me wrong. Lex wrote in her own review that Hotel Queens reminds her more of Requiem for Immortals than of any other book by Lee Winter and I couldn’t agree more. The story is very different – there’s no assassin here for one – but the writing brought the same feeling of glee as I was reading, an impression of exhilaration. Not only are the characters smart, but the writing is, too. That’s how you get books that make my brain happy, not just my heart.