Rating: 2.5 stars
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Length: Novel

Wyatt remembers making the pact—a marriage pact between he and his best friend, Diego, when they were only six years old. Now, many years later, Wyatt has to deal with the fact that he chose to keep his inheritance over the man he loved. When he and Diego were found kissing by Wyatt’s grandfather, all hell broke loose and Wyatt was forced to decide if he wanted to lose the ranch he was set to inherit or his boyfriend. He chose his legacy, only to discover that the choice meant never seeing or hearing from Diego again.

Oh, how Wyatt had hoped Diego would understand that he was trying to buy them time and wasn’t ready to force his grandfather to acknowledge he was gay, but sadly that wasn’t to be. Diego felt so betrayed he left that same day, cutting off all ties with Wyatt and the ranch they both loved. Now with the death of his grandfather, Wyatt is set to mend some fences and get back the man he still loves. However, it is up to Diego; will he be able to forgive Wyatt and learn to love him again or is it too late?

While Wrangling a Groom by D.J. Jamison is the second installment in the Marital Bliss series, it can absolutely be read as a standalone. If you are familiar with the first novel, Surprise Groom, you will recall Caleb and Julian’s story and delight in their brief appearance in this book. However, this story really hinges on a brand new setting—the Triple J Ranch in Texas—and a new character, Wyatt Jones. I don’t recall Diego being mentioned in the first novel, but I am fairly sure he must have been given his connection to Julian and Caleb. It’s these two cowboys that this story centers on and they are in quite a mess when the novel opens.

Despite being childhood friends and later teenage lovers, the incident that blew the men apart was no small thing. Diego is hurt, angry, and obstinate about giving up that anger. Wyatt, on the other hand, comes off as almost desperate to rekindle their relationship and essentially pick up where they left off six years before. I will admit this felt like a very lopsided relationship to me and the sex these two engage in, while steamy, felt all kinds of wrong, particularly since Diego initially made it very clear he was basically using Wyatt for sex. I wish I could tell you that this was one of those second chance romances that featured a hurt/comfort trope and I am hazarding a guess that perhaps this was what the author intended for this story to be. Instead, there seemed to be a lot of misfiring while Diego grappled endlessly, right up to the final chapters, to come to terms with how he really felt about Wyatt. When you couple that with Wyatt alternately blaming himself for everything past and present and essentially begging Diego for the crumbs of affection Diego was grudgingly offering, it was hard for me to find much in the way of caring about Diego at all and not much more than pity for Wyatt.

I did enjoy the side cast of characters very much and they often leveled the field, so to speak, especially Diego’s father who was pretty honest about his son’s share of blame over the way he left years before. I do wish there had been a bit more background on the other ranch hands, but maybe they will be featured in future stories. Unfortunately, they played a minor role compared to the page time given to Wyatt and Diego wrestling with their arrangement as “sort of” friends with benefits.

In the end, Wrangling a Groom felt forced, a bit long-winded, and lacked the emotional impact one might expect in this type of story. There were lovely moments between Roberto, Diego’s father, and Wyatt, as well as between him and his sister, but overall the story felt unbalanced to me.

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