Cris is a stripper at a club called Forbidden Nightz where he’s know as the Lionman, thanks to his long and flowing hair. He enjoys the work, and he makes good money. When his shifts are over, Chris likes to go to a neighborhood bar, Cowboys and Angels, to toss back a few beers and hang out with the bar’s manager and bartender. One night, as he is trying to relax, a very drunk young man named Mikey approaches Cris and tries to kiss him. Cris definitely doesn’t want that, and as he’s trying to push Mikey away, Mikey gets sick. Even though Cris isn’t interested in any sort of relationship with Mikey, he’s good enough to escort him home. Waiting there is Mikey’s older brother, Bennett, and (to Cris’s shock) Mikey’s girlfriend, Julianne.
Bennett is not pleased to see Cris bringing Mikey home. He’s been trying to help his younger brother settle down and marry Julianne. Bennett keeps up with the mantra “Mikey’s not gay.” On that note, he’s not sure about Cris’ intentions. He seems to think Cris wants Mikey, and that makes him angry, especially because Bennett himself is gay and feeling a pull toward Cris. Bennett is so far in the closet, he may as well be in Narnia because he’s afraid to come out to his extremely conservative parents.
Cris and Bennett wind up spending some time together and acknowledging the spark between them. They want each other, but Bennett wants to keep everything on the down low so his family doesn’t find out. Cris isn’t exactly thrilled with that idea, but he really does like Bennett, so he’s willing to be in a secret relationship with him…for a little while.
Soon, there is drama and Bennett’s family issues come to the surface in a big way. Can the men rely on each other for comfort as they try to get past everything? Or is their budding love doomed to fail?
I chose Secretly Dating the Lionman because I read the original story in the Cowboys and Angels series, Speed Dating the Boss, and really enjoyed it. Cris was a background character in that one, and I was interested to see what kind of man he really was. I’m pleased with my choice, and this book did not disappoint me.
Cris was a good secondary character, but as a lead, he really shined. He’s a good man. Yes, he’s not exactly rolling in cash, but he has aspirations beyond stripping for horny women. He’s a painter, and he wants to exhibit his work. Another thing about Cris that I really liked is the fact he could have taken advantage of Mikey, but instead, he cleans him up and gets him home. To me, that’s noble, and a noble MC is perfect for a romance.
Bennett’s a good man as well, but he’s got a bit of a martyr syndrome going on. He’s trying to hold his family together all on his own. He wants to protect Mikey from his parents’ wrath by convincing him to settle down and set a date with Julianne. Bennett dreams of being an architect, but his father wants his sons to take over their construction business, so he’s giving up that dream. Finally, Bennett’s determined to keep his sexuality a secret from his parents because they’re so conservative. Bennett is burning his candle at both ends, and sooner or later something will have to give.
The author wrote Cris and Bennett well, and they sort of counter each other. What started out as something contentious turned into a loving and supportive relationship. I rooted for them from the very beginning…and they are worth rooting for. They’ve got a fantastic chemistry. They feel an attraction right away, even though they didn’t necessarily want to…and boy are these guys sexy! The sex scenes are off the charts hot, but they’re just as romantic when they aren’t burning up the sheets. They’re sweet and easy to love.
The flow of the story was outstanding. The transitions from chapter to chapter were smooth. I never felt jarred or overwhelmed. Secretly Dating the Lionman is told in the third person, and that’s the best choice Brown could have made. I was able to relax and enjoy what was happening rather than moving back and forth between Cris and Bennett’s heads. All the details were great, from the Forbidden Nights, to Cowboys and Angels, to Cris’ apartment and studio, and more. I was able to form pictures in my head that ran almost like a movie.
Eventually, Bennett’s carefully erected walls begin to crash and burn and things get really exciting. It was a roller coaster ride with so many emotions from so many people, but I was always aware of what was going on. I never felt overwhelmed by it. The absolute best part (at least to me) is how strong Cris is for Bennett. He really came through for the man he loved, and I fell even harder for him.
The ending was fantastic! On the surface, it feels like a typical HEA in a romance novel, but it was much deeper than that. In fact, I’m going to say I was a little surprised at the events from the final chapter and through the epilogue. It’s nice to be surprised every now and then, and this was almost as good as opening the one gift you absolutely wanted to get for your birthday.
Now, this is the second book in the Cowboys and Angels series. While I suppose it can be read as a stand alone, I don’t really recommend it. Read the first book, Speed Dating the Boss, because it will give you an idea of who the other characters in this book are. Also, it’s a good book on its own merit. I definitely recommend Secretly Dating the Lionman. It’s a great story with awesome characters and a hopeful vibe that makes it difficult to put down.