Jedfire Burns is the unwilling heir to a fortune in the cowbell industry. He inherited the company, the main employer of his hometown of Cowbell Creek, shortly after his 19th birthday when his parents died in a crash. Jedfire likes the cowbell factory, but he doesn’t want to manage it. Instead, he wanders the globe looking for the next party to crash and next hook-up to have, living a jet-set life somewhat fueled by an ATM glitch. While escaping the latest debacle—getting married while drunk in Vegas…uh, again—Jedfire heads to the Elysian spa in Florida, a clothing-optional gay men’s retreat.
Conrad is a young man who’s had some of the worst news possible: his medical diagnosis is rare and terminal with only a one-year expected survival. He and his father own a surfboard company, and they’ve scrimped and saved to send Conrad on a 6-month bargain world tour so he can see all the places he dreamed of as a young kid. Conrad’s capping his trip with a free, all-inclusive stay at Elysian, a prize from radio contest, where he meets the irreverent and irrepressible Jedfire.
These two are as ill-matched on paper as two men could be, but they somehow hit it off. Lots of intelligent flirting doesn’t give way to immediate anonymous sexytimes—contrary to Jedfire’s usual. That means something, at least to Jed. Of course, a wrinkle appears when Jed’s grandparents arrive, his surgically-enhanced grandma having some top-less pool time with all the hunky naked gay men. When the grandparents start inquiring about Jedfire’s newest “spouse,” Conrad jumps in to pretend he’s the doting hubby. Because, why not? He likes Jedfire and he doesn’t want him to feel bad about the seemingly aimless pattern of his life. Conrad has first-hand evidence that Jedfire turns over money quickly to help LGBT shelters and other charities.
And, Conrad expects he doesn’t have long to live, so why not enjoy his days with a beautiful sexy man who wants to spoil him and make him feel special? Of course, his conscience is creeping in, and he decides to tell Jedfire all he’s feeling, as well as his medical issues. Which leads to a whole lot of other issues. Still, where life has handed Jedfire lemons, he’s made bucketfuls of lemon champagne.
This is an insta-love, fake spouse romance with low angst and lots of silly shenanigans. Jedfire is the epitome of a disaffected wealthy boy, but with the redeeming qualities of humility and altruism. When he learns of Conrad’s illness, he pulls our every stop, knowing that a rare disease requires incredible resources. Being the subject of Jedfire’s intense focus helps Conrad in unexpected ways, but, most importantly, Conrad’s prognosis is much improved. A happy ending develops, though there are some bits that didn’t necessarily add up, for me.
I liked Conrad a lot, and admired his stalwart sprit and commitment to his father. Jedfire was a decent character, yet his outlandish activity was so out of the realm of reality, I had a hard time connecting, unfortunately. It seemed like he was the kind of guy who faces zero consequences, no matter how much law breaking and poor decision making he does, and I found this harder to set aside, even if it comes from a place of grief. It was especially hard because these choices were made with his full knowledge, and he understood his selfishness would cause problems for others. Other readers might find him just as zany and good-hearted as I believe he’s intended to be, but I struggled to like him.