Chris Valentine has struggled to bring the one thing he loves most to life—his writing. But it’s not always easy, especially as a transplant to New York City. But Chris gets by. At one of his regular meetings, Chris is aware that an agent is attending, although he doesn’t know who it is. So when a handsome man introduces himself and asks Chris if he can get him in touch with some of his contacts, Chris mistakenly assumes the man is the infamous agent. Then his roommate sets him straight.
Jesse Donovan is New York’s most eligible bachelor and billionaire, but he has one problem, and it’s a big one. If he doesn’t get married before the one year mark from when his grandfather died, Jesse will lose the company he loves so much to the step-grandmother whom he dislikes with equal fervor. So when he meets Chris, then becomes friends with him, Jesse hopes Chris will be the answer to his dilemma. Only this brings on more problems—namely that Chris thinks Jesse is straight and Jesse does nothing to change his mind.
Chris agrees to the sham, if only to have time to write his new book and hopefully start his life as a full-time writer. One year is what he signs on for—not an absent husband, nosy step-grandmother-in-law, and feelings Chris didn’t expect. Secrets and lies stand between Chris and Jesse, but every step forward equals two steps back and when the will is contested, it spells either destruction or freedom for the men. But making it work will be the real test for Chris and Jesse.
Many of us began reading romance by sneaking our mother’s/sister’s/cousin’s/grandmother’s bodice ripper romance. Dreamspinner Press has turned the table on harlequin romances to give the m/m world Dreamspun Desires. I am thrilled. I did this backward, reading First Comes Marriage first (since it’s the second book in the Dreamspun line), but it was worth it.
So, I really liked this story. I’ll be honest, arranged/forced/tricky marriages/marriages of convenience are some of my favorites. And this author does a really good job with it. First, bringing two men together who have an obvious attraction, then putting hurdles in their way, including a marriage of convenience. Yes, It’s fabulous and romantic and perfect.
Jesse is secretive and somewhat standoffish, but I loved him. Out of the two of the main characters, Jesse was my favorite. He was real and he made mistakes, and yeah, he tended to think “I’m sorry” should be his only consolation, but he learned from his mistakes. I liked Chris, but that was just it. I liked him. He didn’t really have any flaws that drew me to him. I wanted to like him even more, but he fell a bit flat for me. I felt like his one sort of major “oops” was a last ditch effort.
I love the rags to riches sort of air about Chris and his life though. He was a small town guy who first moved to the Big Apple and then into a mansion of epic proportions, with a staff and nosy, scheming gold digger. He’s thrown into family drama, which is what the story sort of revolves around, and he melds right in. So I liked what the author does with each separate plot point and how she makes them work together.
Like I mentioned earlier, my biggest problem was the lack of personal conflict with Chris. Sure, he wavers about becoming some rich guy’s husband for hire, but in truth, all of the flaws are heaped on Jesse and I found that to be a little irritating, as if Chris was always right and always perfect, and Jesse was the one who consistently was the problem. Even the final conflict felt weak compared to the many they’d already fought through and survived to fall in love.
So, yes, I really liked this story, but I wanted to love it so much and that didn’t quite meet my expectations. Not to say it was bad, but it just wasn’t what I hoped for in the end.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.