Archimedes “Archie” Katsaros has been floundering to keep the architectural firm he inherited from his recently deceased father afloat. Ondrej Kovac has been struggling to find a way to prevent having to return to his native Czech Republic. With Ondrej’s inherited wealth and Archie’s citizenship, it seems like a no-brainer for these two to tie the knot—that way, each man gets what he wants. And, at first anyway, it’s no more awkward than getting a new roommate…but things quickly devolve from there.
Given the high-society life into which Archie has been born, the two men are expected to make public appearance—and as newlyweds no less. Though they’re both gay, Archie and Ondrej are both too sincere in temperament to feel wholly comfortable with the grand deception they’re trying to pull off. What’s more, despite the desperate nature of their nuptials, each finds the other physically attractive. That tiny seed of interest somehow snowballs into feelings of genuine attraction. It doesn’t take long for the attraction to manifest into a weekend of sex, sex, and more sex. Unfortunately, despite this physical connection, neither Archie or Ondrej is fully prepared to believe the other could truly develop feelings.
Things take a turn for the worse when Archie is convinced that Ondrej will simply quit the marriage as soon as he secures a green card—or worse, even before if Ondrej finds another way to obtain a visa. Archie ends up trying to shut himself off and prevent any more of his heart from falling for the Czech…but how long can he deny the true feelings that have been growing within all along? Somehow, Archie and Ondrej must find a way to share their feelings before everything falls to pieces.
Here is a set-up that would normally be a totally switch flipper for me because I like me a good cart-before-horse type story (I consider this one step removed from the “woke up married” trope).
On the plus side, there was a lot of angsting going on between the two principles. Archie is desperate for cash to save his recently deceased father’s failing company; Ondrej is desperate to secure a legal place in America. Obviously, the whole marriage arrangement starts off as one of convenience and, technically speaking, fraud. Of course, given the high profiles and big bucks between the grooms, they are prime targets for immigration services—not to mention the society pages reporters looking for a scandalous scoop fit to print. That leaves our principles in a state of more or less coerced cohabitation and habitual public outings.
Naturally, spending more time together and being forced into interacting in myriad social situations, each man starts to have a change of feelings for the other. This, to me, is what is supposed to be the meat and potatoes of the story. On the one hand, I must totally give props because so much ANGST ensues. Archie grows less and less confident Ondrej will stay with him even for just however long it takes for Ondrej to get a green card—this is juicy because the more Archie fears this situation grows in direct correlation to his feelings for Ondrej. Ondrej, on the other hand, doesn’t have such a neat one-to-one ratio comparing how much he feels for Archie versus how much he fears losing him. For Ondrej, it’s more a more “organic” change in that he just comes to realize Archie is a genuinely good guy, not just a rich playboy.
What turned me off a bit was how this particular theme repeated time and again. It didn’t feel even so much like two steps forward and one step back, but one step forward, one step back. Maybe part of it was supposed to be chalked up to Ondrej and his English-as-a-second-language thing and being not Americanized culturally—but these feel like empty explanations because the prose on-page doesn’t bear out. There are few, if indeed any, linguistic tells in Ondrej’s speech patterns (the ones that I might call out could conceivably be credited to the author’s voice itself…speech patterns are different between English-speaking countries and even within the same English-speaking country). Although McMurray does a passable job at including cultural elements in Ondrej’s backstory, I didn’t feel like any of that translated into explaining any of his actions with regards to his relationship with Archie.
Long story short…the long haul to go from strangers to lovers came off feeling like a one-trick pony. Most especially after Archie straight up tells Ondrej that he (Archie) is falling for him (Ondrej) and he (Archie) is afraid of getting hurt. For some reason, this does not compute with Ondrej and we go through a few more cycles of “he loves me, he loves me not” when all I’m thinking is “Cripes, Ondrej…do you need an engraved plaque stating what Archie’s already told you before you understand?”
I think this book would be a good fit if you need a break from some heavier reading or need something sort of mindless for the beach. Just be wary that the plot gets stuck on a sort of feedback loop when it comes to Archie and Ondrej making progress in their relationship
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.