Ted MacTaggart’s father has died and Ted is in line to inherit control of the family company, MAC Superior. Ted’s father was unpleasant and overbearing and despite Ted’s best efforts, he never felt his father’s love or approval. Now, his father is taking one last step to control Ted by leaving him the company… under the condition that Ted must marry by age 25 and stay married for 10 years. If he fails, the company will go to Ted’s frivolous and irresponsible brother, Wally. The will was drafted before same-sex marriage was legalized and Ted knows it is his father’s final attempt to punish Ted for being gay.
Part of Ted doesn’t want to play his father’s games, but he also has worked hard for the company and cares deeply about their employees. He doesn’t want to leave MAC Superior in the wrong hands, which means he must go along with the terms of the will. Of course, same-sex marriage is now legal, which means Ted can keep the company and stick it to his father after all. He just needs to find someone (other than a woman) who will marry him. Ted is more than willing to sweeten the pot by paying someone to get married and stick it out for ten years. What he doesn’t expect is the offer to come from a old friend, Ryan Costa. When Ryan gets a job at MAC Superior, the men reconnect, and Ryan surprises Ted by offering to help him out and becoming Ted’s groom.
At first things are awkward as the men get used to living together and playing boyfriends. Ted is a reserved guy and used to holding himself back. He spends most of his time working and doesn’t have a big social circle. But Ryan is so warm and kind, he helps Ted open up and the men are getting along great. In fact, Ted is finding himself drawn to Ryan in a very real way, but he also worries about moving the relationship from pretend to something real, not sure whether Ryan will be interested long term. Yet the connection between the men is strong and soon Ted realizes that he and Ryan are really good together. Even more, that he really cares about Ryan and they could have something real together. But when Ted’s brother stirs up some trouble, the men face problems from the board that could threaten Ted’s place at the company he loves.
I love a good marriage of convenience story and Hawthorne does a nice job with this trope in Poor Little Rich Boy. I liked that the story moves beyond the initial set up of the fake marriage to also show how the connection with Ryan really helps Ted grow. He is emotionally reserved and fairly lonely when the story starts, but the combination of Ryan’s sunny presence, his support, and the family they make with Ryan’s mom helps Ted start to find that warmth and love he really needs. It does take a while for the guys to move from fake boyfriends to true lovers, and I think the pacing works well. And when they finally get together sexually, the pair are intense and quite hot together. But the real growth is not just the men falling for each other, but how they support one another and help each other be happier overall.
I think there are some aspects here that could use some more development, however. For example, I found the conflict relating to the marriage to need some tightening. It is never fully clear to me if the board believes Ted’s (frankly absurd) ruse that conveniently he and Ryan have been dating all along secretly and were just about to get married anyway when Ted got this ultimatum, or if they are just sort of closing their eyes and going along with the fake wedding. This is addressed in kind of a vague way and both options seem to be the case at different points. I just felt it needed some clarity since it comes up as an issue often. I also found the conflict with Ted and his brother, Wally, a little underdeveloped. Hawthorne does a good job establishing they have a fraught relationship, but I feel like things tie up too neatly and easily. The men have had lifelong issues and all it takes is for someone to point out why Wally is acting out and it is all resolved and forgiven, despite Wally trying to sabotage Ted, risking him losing the company. For such a big conflict, I wanted to see things resolve with a little more development and less patly. I also wish we had more of a sense of Ted’s dad. He is kind of a vague “bad guy” without really explaining much about his relationship with Ted and what set up so much bad blood between them.
While I think there were some areas that needed more development, I think the fun trope and the great dynamic between Ted and Ryan pulls things together well here. I enjoyed that the story goes bigger than just taking the fake relationship to a real one, but also explores how the marriage helps both men grow and gain more happiness overall. If you are looking for a nice, low-angst, marriage of convenience story, check this one out.