For Hayden Somerset, poverty is relative. His car works. Kinda. He has a roof over his head. He shares it with his two best friends, but he’s not on the streets. Still, Hayden’s Masters degree in theatre isn’t exactly paying off in dividends and there are days where Hayden wonders if he’ll ever get out of debt. And then he sees the most ridiculous ad. Someone wants to pay more than a million dollars for a pretend marriage. It has a to be a joke, but Hayden finds himself applying anyway.
For Jesse Ambrose, his fictionalized marriage is no joke. It’s his one chance to take down his racist, homophobic father, a man who is poised to enter politics in a big way. He and Hayden agree to marry in the hopes of baiting Jesse’s father. Love isn’t part of the plan, and yet as their marriage evolves, Jesse and Hayden realize there is so much more on the line than either of them expected.
The Husband Gambit is a well-written, but relatively ordinary romance that relies heavily on the fake marriage trope. Jesse and Hayden are fully dimensional and the author has done an excellent job of giving them solid backstories and enough detail to make them relatable. Hayden has something of a chip on this shoulder regarding money, which is more than understandable, but it doesn’t always make his character likable. But I understood where he was coming from more often than not, so he was still engaging. The antagonist, Jesse’s father, is suitably evil and feels like someone we all know and thoroughly detest. With regards to the romance, it’s sweet for sure, but rather abrupt in its development. There’s a brief moment where Jesse appears to feel he is in love, but on the whole, their romantic relationship develops in a rushed frenzy in the last couple chapters. As a result, it doesn’t have quite the impact I would have preferred.
My biggest frustration with The Husband Gambit concerns its pacing and originality. Nothing feels fresh about this story. It’s a trope that’s been used well in other situations, but here it just feels a bit flat and uninspired. The events in the book read as commonplace and almost boring. It’s rather slow and plodding and there isn’t much by way of rising action until the end. There are moments of tension, which are well done, but on the whole, The Husband Gambit just feels more than a little run of the mill.
The Husband Gambit is by no means a bad book. It has good, strong characters who work well together and have a warm and fuzzy, if predictable, romance. But the lack of originality and weak pacing left me waiting for the end rather than racing to reach it. I think if you like the fake marriage plot device, you’ll enjoy The Husband Gambit, but it didn’t really work for me.