real good lie coverRating: 4.25 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Callahan McMillian grew up wealthy and privileged, but also with his life planned out for him. He went to the college his family choose, majored in marketing like they wanted, and took a job at the family business. While Callahan recognizes he is lucky in many ways, he is also miserable and doesn’t know how to change it. When Callahan’s father died, he endowed a wing at their alma mater and the ceremony is upcoming. Callahan doesn’t really want to go, but he also doesn’t see much of a choice. It’s made even worse when he finds out that his ex, Rhys, will be there with his new fiancé. So Callahan grudgingly agrees to his best friend Sebastian’s offer to set him up with a guy he met who can pose as Callahan’s boyfriend for the weekend.

Jace Dare has always scraped for everything he has. He knows he has no place in Callahan’s world, but a luxurious weekend away seems like too good a deal to pass up. Jace is surprised when he boards the plane only to find out Callahan is the hot guy he hooked up with a couple of weeks ago. While that man was open and warm and sexy, this Callahan is closed off and prickly and uptight. But that doesn’t change the attraction Jace feels, nor the attraction Callahan feels for Jace in return. The guys figure with the heat between them, they can fake being boyfriends pretty easily, and when the weekend is over, they will go their separate ways.

Things get off to a rocky start as the pressure of expectations (and Rhys’ bad behavior) have Callahan showing the worst sides of himself. Jace is struggling with fitting into this world of wealth and privilege, as well as putting up with Callahan’s dual nature. When they are alone together, it is just like that night in the bar. But as soon as they are around others, Jace can’t help but wonder which is the real Callahan.

Despite the tension, the connection between the men is strong enough to want to see where things take them. Jace has never been interested in a relationship, but he begins to imagine what a life with Callahan could truly be like. But Callahan still has to figure out what he wants out of life, and how to break free of the expectations of others and live for himself. And maybe once he does, there will be a way for he and Jace to find something lasting together.

Fake relationship stories have been the popular trope for the last year and, personally, I love them and am all here for that. But the stories also often hit the same tone and the same beats, particularly when combined with the “one-off hook up ends up showing up back in your life” set up. So I was really drawn to this story and the way Kate Hawthorne takes these themes and really builds something different here. Rather than focusing primarily on the tropey plot, Hawthorne instead builds an incredibly character-driven story that delves deeply into these two men. I found myself completely drawn into their journey and loved exploring Jace and Callahan.

The story looks at the duality of Callahan, and to a lesser degree Jace, as they have two sides to themselves. There is the public face and the true selves they keep mostly hidden. Jace comes across as smooth and confident, easily charming Callahan in the bar. But we see his insecurities, his doubts about his background and whether he can fit in Callahan’s world, along with the softer side he shows his roommate, Remington. For Callahan, it’s an even bigger duality, as he shows others the Callahan McMillian of old money, elite social circles, and familial responsibilities that leave him feeling out of control in his own life. We see glimpses of the real man when he and Jace are away for the weekend, but he also can’t control letting the other side of himself out, often with unpleasant results. So I love how this story explores Callahan reclaiming himself and stepping back from that weight of obligation to figure out what he truly wants. Jace has a lot of doubts, not only about the true Callahan, but also about if he fits in that world. It is really a fascinating exploration of these two men and I loved watching their relationship grow. It is sweet and tender, but also intense and not always easy, and overall a really engaging story.

We get a chance here to meet both Jace and Callahan’s best friends, and they are a great window to the men. Both Jace and Callahan are open with their friends in ways they can’t be with others and so it is a nice way to get a better sense of who they are. I enjoyed both Remington and Sebastian and am excited to see that they are getting a story as well.

So I liked this one a lot and found myself really drawn in by Jace and Callahan’s journeys. This is a nice twist on the fake relationship trope and one I definitely recommend.

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