Tad Roarke is an out-and-proud, Pro Bowl-caliber tight end on the Dallas Cowboys, with major sponsorship deals. Business suffered when his last boyfriend accused him of being a cheater. Matters weren’t helped when Tad went a little crazy on vacation. Oh, and he’s been threatened by serial killers who’ve recently killed two popular, out, movie stars.
Special Agent Bryce Finnegan has been working undercover gigs for the FBI for a long time. His last assignment went really bad, killing his partner (and lover) in the process. Bryce has been tapped to serve as a bodyguard for Tad—and Tad’s not happy about it.
Tad’s not super enamored with his fame. He’s always felt boxed in, and let down by his parents. His father is a blustering man who wanted Tad to hide his sexuality. And his mother? Who knows. She’s been gone for more than 15 years. Plus, Tad has few close friends, and he’s a total prima donna, terrorizing his staff.
At first, Tad wants to pin something nasty on Bryce to get rid of him, but he’s unfortunately attracted to Bryce, too. Tad goads Bryce into a physical relationship, knowing that Bryce was truly attracted to Tad’s personal assistant, Darren. When Tad and Bryce get outed as a “thing,” it’s decided by Tad’s PR team that they should turn Bryce into his undercover lover so Tad’s promiscuous rep doesn’t lose him any more sponsors. Bryce’s FBI superiors agree, as having him play the role of Tad’s boyfriend puts him in nearly constant proximity. Thing is, now that Bryce has to pretend to be Tad’s lover, he doesn’t want to be his lover. He’s certain the heightened scrutiny will result in them getting caught and him being fired. That said, both Tad and Bryce liked their sexytimes. And Tad’s hurt that Bryce won’t continue their shenanigans.
Honestly, the story held my interest. There are many subplots in play, with the serial killers and the bodyguard-lover, and Bryce’s absolute mortification when a nudie pic gets leaked. Over the course of the book—several months—Tad develops a rare affection for Bryce. Bryce doesn’t think he can handle being the real boyfriend of a celeb, however. People never leave Tad alone and his life is under a constant microscope. That said, the more time he spends with Tad, the more Bryce learns Tad’s not the self-centered, egotistical guy he projects. I wanted to see the melting of both Tad and Bryce’s hearts, and wanted them to have an HEA. That does happen, but it takes a LOOOONG time, with lots of angst in the mix. That’s a shame, because there was a nice cultivation of vulnerability for these guys—they’ve both lost people close to them, and been betrayed by lovers, family, and friends, so it seems like they’d make perfect hurt/comfort partners. Unfortunately, they’re too afraid to try for the longest time. Instead their interactions are mostly antagonistic, even during sex.
A few drawbacks, for me. First, there’s hardly any football in the book, and what’s there is…wrong. Tad’s a tight end, or so he claims, and that would mean he plays offense, except he describes how he’s tackling running backs, wide receivers, etc., which, yeah, not possible unless he’s tackling his own teammates. O.O For me, a fan of football, this was unacceptable. Also, much of the sexytimes are hate sex. It’s not romantic, and I was often put off by the painful descriptions. I didn’t sense these guys building a bond for a long time, compared to how physical they are with each other. Bryce is a lousy FBI agent and bodyguard. He’s virtually incapable of keeping a cool head, he drinks on the job, and he’s never on the lookout for danger. Not once did he clear a room, walk point, or anything else I’d expect if he’s supposed to be guarding Tad from murderous psychos. Oh, and the bad guys nearly kill Tad. Twice. Pacing seemed okay for the romance aspects, but not for the plot. I’m usually a fan of dual point-of-view, but I wanted to move faster on the major plot points. The conflict with Tad and his parents was odd and awkward for so long. Why couldn’t we have those reveals a little sooner? Like Tad, his dad’s a blow hard with a heart of gold, but it’s virtually the end before we recognize this, and that was too late to overcome the negative feelings that were solidly developed.
Ultimately, the premise was strong, and while I’m usually a sucker for fake-boyfriend tales, I didn’t bond well with the characters. After that, their struggles didn’t touch me. There’s lots of sex, but it was such a power trip I didn’t find it as appealing as I’d expected.