Nick is in his late 20s and mostly estranged from his family due to longstanding issues with his father, for whom Nick never seemed to measure up. He left home young, and worked his way through art college to become a graphic designer. It was a career choice Nick’s father didn’t support, and he refused to pay, thinking Nick would conform to his ideas of practical career choices if he had to pay his own way. Nick is a stubborn man and refused to submit. Nick’s dad drank a lot as Nick was growing up and he has a lot of resentment at both of his parents for the struggles he faced as a teen and in his early adulthood.
Nick’s been in therapy for the past couple of years, working through his family issues and how they have affected his choices in partners—which has been terrible. So, while Nick has been working on his self-esteem and confidence, he’s also been celibate. He lives with Jackson, his dearest friend, who happens to be a sexy PE teacher, and whose family adores Nick. Nick is startled by an unexpected call from his mum, begging him to come home for a family Christmas this year. He’d taken to going to Jackson’s home the past several years, and had fully planned on that this coming holiday. Nick’s mum assures him that his father has been sober for over a year and really would like to make amends.
Nick isn’t sure this is a good idea, but he knows he needs to try and reconnect, or else get some closure in order to move forward with his life. He’s a bit petrified of going though, and it’s only when Jackson agrees to go with him, as Nick’s fake boyfriend no less, that Nick can even consider relaxing about this change in plan. Jackson has had a steady crush on Nick for going on years now, and the prospect of acting the part of doting boyfriend would be hard; it’ll be hard to shut down his attraction before he does something to affect their friendship.
Operation Fake Boyfriend is a friends to lovers Christmas romance, so there are lots of engaging moments, like getting caught under the mistletoe, and Nick reliving/rehashing childhood traumas with his younger brother. The family moments are very strained at first, as Nick is snappish and his dad is trying to make amends. Jackson actually makes a good referee for all the verbal sparring, urging Nick and his father to open up, and apologize, by turns.
Meanwhile, all the forced closeness is challenging Nick’s thoughts about Jackson, who is such a rock steady mate, and so sexy, too. Their little kisses for the family have nothing on the lusty infernos raging behind closed doors, once Nick convinces Jackson a holiday fling would be fully acceptable. The reconciliation goes so well, Nick asks to stay a couple of extra nights, thus extending their idyllic romance. But, the way home leaves both men confused as to what next, and if their friendship is in jeopardy.
I really enjoyed experiencing both Nick and Jackson’s POV in the story. That gave me a solid connection with each character, and was necessary to me, because Nick’s petulant act would have turned me off if Jackson’s thoughts hadn’t tempered some of the cattiness. Plus, I SO wanted Nick to wake up and realize how much Jackson adored him. It took them being out of their elements and having some difficult, but necessary, conversations to get everything patched up. It’s an amazing and sweet happy ending, with Nick’s family drama well managed and Jackson’s deep love fully replacing the bitterness of many failed relationships. Their fake relationship ended up being the best mistake they each could have made.