Terry O’Dell is still reeling from the disastrous end to his relationship when he decides to go on a web reality series, playing for charity. For every challenge the first grade teacher wins, his charity of choice gets money. Terry just never expected that he’d meet Frank Vacca there. He and Frank have a history of sorts, since his ex and Frank’s ex cheated on them with each other. For both Terry and Frank, seeing the other man brings up memories they’d both rather forget.
But they are gold on screen together and the audience just eats them up. With silly challenge after silly challenge, their ratings go higher. But when the exes show up on the site, Frank blurts out that he and Terry are engaged. Now the two men have to try to play it up for the audience. But as they spend more time together, emotions get involved. But just as things seem to be going well between them, Terry’s ex does something that sends him reeling. And now Frank has to go to extremes to convince Terry he’s serious, and that what they have is real.
The premise of this story caught my interest, and though I don’t usually go for comedies, I was eager to give this one a try. What we have here are two guys who are just trying to move on from heartbreak, and finding something lasting in the process. This is the third book in the California Comedy series, but the books appear to be fairly unrelated, even if there are cameos of characters from other books. I didn’t read the first two, and I didn’t feel like anything was missing. So it works as a standalone just fine. With a screwball comedy feel because of the silly and ridiculous challenges of the reality show, the story had its moments, but it also had a few issues.
I liked the two MCs. Terry is sweet and dedicated, and though still not over his breakup, he wants to try and distract himself while raising money for a charity to prevent illiteracy. Frank is a little crasser, but he has a huge heart, and he’s worked at getting over his ex. Both characters were fairly well developed. Having alternating third person POV let us see both of their thoughts and reactions, and the way they dealt with both their newfound fame and their burgeoning relationship. I liked the way they fit together, at first at odds, and then their feelings and understand of one another growing as they spent more time together. The slapstick nature of the reality show challenges wasn’t exactly my brand of humor, but it was executed well for what it was.
So a much as I like the MCs, there were a few things that didn’t sit as well for me. First, the romance was sweet and felt natural, but I couldn’t quite understand the jump to being in love. I think, for me, it would have been a little more realistic if it had ended with an HFN with these guys moving toward love.
And then we have the exes. Guys, I’m sure this is partly a personal preference, but I had serious issues with them both. They show up out of nowhere and wreak havoc at every turn. They are, to put it bluntly, total jerks. And I never understood exactly why. There was a couple of passing mentions of what was supposed to be the motive, but it wasn’t strong enough to be believable for me. Honestly, this brought things down for me quite a bit. I get there needs to be conflict in order to move the story forward, but this seemed excessive and just mean-spirited. So it didn’t work for me at all.
I liked Terry and Frank and watching them navigate the roadblocks in their way. I liked watching them grow closer as they leaned on each other, and then as their feelings deepened. The whole catalyst with the exes didn’t work for me, but in the end, Terry and Frank were at a good place. I cautiously recommend this book to anyone who likes a little slapstick humor, and watching two guys find happiness after being hurt.