Virtual strangers writer/waiter Cody Hayes and Senator Julian Canales wake up married in Vegas after a drunken night of Truth or Dare. It looks pretty bleak, on the surface, but when we get down to the heart of this sordid affair, it’s actually quite sweet. Cody is a lively man, known for charming all in his orbit, and Julian’s an uptight mess buttoned into an Armani suit. What begins as a dare from Cody’s friends to pick up the sexy man, becomes so much more as they spend the night together.
Cody’s been hurt before, and Julian’s afraid to be hurt, so each man has the goal of a companionable marriage that doesn’t rest on that elusive and painful notion of love. When they do tie the knot, it’s a big problem for Julian’s re-election campaign. He’s been out all along, but his conservative opponent wants to smear Julian as a flighty, fornicating gay—not the upstanding, moral man he’s always been. The original plan to get Cody to pretend he’d been put up to the task of seducing Julian by his political rival is wholly unacceptable to Julian—even if Cody’s willing to sacrifice himself.
No, Julian recognizes that Cody is a moral man, and his match in ways he’d only begun to glimpse on their wild night together. So, Julian convinces Cody to give their marriage a real chance, and Cody agrees—so long as they guard their hearts. Cody’s plan involves a lot of cold showers and chaste kisses.
This is a sweet, odd couple romance that has a swoony slow burn. The more time Cody and Julian spend together, the more their attraction grows. It’s torture for Cody, because he knows he’s falling for Julian, and he knows that Julian doesn’t want a partner who loves him that way. He’d rather one with whom he can share a mutual esteem, and a pragmatic approach to couplehood. It’s inconvenient when Julian recognizes how much he depends on Cody being with him at home, or on his trips to DC or around California. I kinda wish we’d seen more of that, because there’s a big jump from their rocky first week to this mutual dependence a few months down the road. I wanted to revel in their courtship more. Naturally, there’s a bit of angst on Cody’s part, especially when he meets Julian’s ex-fiancé. It’s starkly clear, at that moment, that Julian wants to keep Cody at arm’s length so they don’t develop an affection that could become too strong and complicate his carefully ordered life.
Thing is, Julian’s been falling just as hard for Cody, and hiding his feelings—pulling back to protect himself. His family history has trained him to keep his feelings well-hidden, and that makes being with heart-on-his-sleeve Cody all the more difficult.
The writing in this story is easy and accessible. Cody and Julian are both really nice guys, even if Julian’s a bit prickly at times. I loved how Cody smoothed out all his rough edges and got him to step outside of his comfort zone. I also really liked the back-and-forth with Truth or Dare, which became a running theme in their relationship. There’s a good balance with the humor, but not so many sexytimes. Bit of flashback lovin’ and a hiatus that leads to an incendiary connection down the road. Still, sex is not the main part of the book. More’s the pity. I liked the secondary characters, and how they provided context for both Cody and Julian’s actions and decisions. When the big conflict comes, it’s Julian who steps into the breech, and makes everything in Cody’s world right again. An HEA is guaranteed.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.