Rowan McAllister has always done exactly what his parents wanted, letting them choose his school, his major, and his job. And now, Rowan is marrying Harrison, the man his family chose for him. Rowan and Harrison have been long-time friends and they get along well, but neither man has any romantic interest in the other. However, Rowan’s dad is running for office and Harrison’s family has money and influence and Rowan’s parents have decided that Harrison is the perfect choice for a husband. And Rowan wants to please his parents, wants to be the good son, so he is going along with the marriage. Now, he is in Vegas with his brothers for a bachelor party to celebrate his upcoming marriage to a man he doesn’t love.
Sid Wallace is the bastard son of an extremely wealthy man who never wanted anything to do with him, but left Sid a lot of money when he died. Sid’s mother is married to a man who hates him, and his step-siblings don’t like him much better. Sid and his mother used to be close, but now she is focused on keeping up appearances and fitting into her posh life and Sid is nothing but a disappointment. So Sid figures if everyone always expects the worst of him, he might as well lean into it. Sid acts out and rebels and generally pushes his family away before they can push him first. When his mother insists he go to yet another society function to support his step-father, Sid gets frustrated enough to get on a plane and get out of town, heading to Vegas.
Sid and Rowan encounter one another in Vegas after way too much drinking and end up hitting it off… so much so that when they wake up the next morning, they realize they got married. Rowan’s first instinct is to get an annulment, but some tiny, rebellious part of him doesn’t want to drop Sid just because his parents are completely furious. Rowan likes Sid, likes how he feels when they are together, and for the first time in forever, Rowan is actually doing what HE wants with his life rather than what his parents want.
The men take some time away for a quick honeymoon, but it is enough to cement for them that they really want to give this marriage a go. Sid encourages Rowan to live for himself and helps him understand that it is not his job to give his life over to his parents’ plans for him. And Rowan helps Sid feel wanted and loved in a way he rarely does with his own family. As they spend more time together, Sid and Rowan realize that while this marriage may have started off unexpectedly, they are actually falling for one another. Not only that, but they realize that they are good for one another. But dealing with their difficult families isn’t going to be easy, especially when it becomes clear there are some hidden motives making things even more complicated.
Rearranged is the first book in E.M. Denning’s new Do-Over series and it is just super charming. The story sets up Sid and Rowan as almost opposite sides of the same coin. Sid’s family thinks the worst of him and expects nothing good from him. No one seems to want him and Sid hides his hurt by putting on a front, rebelling against everything and acting out. Rowan has parents who expect everything from him. They use him like a possession, maneuvering him the way they want for maximum benefits to themselves. And Rowan responds by giving in, by not ruffling feathers. He knows his parents love him, why would it be so bad to just do what they want? So when these men get together, it is a shock to both of them. Sid gains an ally, a supporter, and someone who believes the best in him. And Sid then lives up to that belief, supporting Rowan, loving him, and being there for him. And Rowan has someone who helps him understand that he is not selfish for wanting a say in his own life, that his parents are manipulating him and it is ok to sometimes say no. So these guys are so good for one another and there is just a great dynamic where they both bring out the best in each other.
The set up here is fun with a “woke up married” trope, which is a favorite of mine. Denning lays the groundwork well, making it very clear right from the start that Harrison has no desire to marry Rowan, just like Rowan doesn’t want to marry him. So there is no jilted ex and no hurt feelings here. In fact, Harrison is seemingly on the way to his own happy ending (which I’m hoping we will get to see in an upcoming book). I like that these two guys support one another and work through the situation as friends. I also really liked that Rowan has the support of his younger brothers, who are quite clear that they side with Rowan and they have witnessed him acquiescing to their parents’ unreasonable demands his whole life. It helps to give Rowan support, but also bring things into the light that he wasn’t really recognizing before.
Things get a little more complex here than just unhappy families, in that there seems to be an ulterior motive for why the parents want Harrison and Rowan to get married. We do get some answers on that, but it felt a little unresolved to me. Partly it’s that it wasn’t fully clear to me what the end goal was in setting up this marriage, and partly it’s that we don’t see Rowan ever really address it on page with his family. So I feel like this ties up a little too fast at the end.
I also found myself confused by the fact that Sid and Rowan’s wedding apparently goes viral and is a huge sensation, and honestly, I am not clear why. They are tangentially famous at best, and the idea that this drunk couple getting married in Vegas is any more exciting than any other drunk couple getting married didn’t make much sense to me. I just never really understood why anyone would care, but it is presented as this huge national scandal with media coverage. I think I could buy this better if we saw any evidence of these guys being famous, of press calling, of the paps following them for pictures, of people stopping them on the street or talking about them as they walked by. But other than being told the wedding all went viral and everyone is talking about it, we see no sign that anyone even knows who they are, let alone are obsessed with their marriage. So I think if this is going to be a sensational piece of news, I needed to see it play out more clearly, but as it was, I was just left a little confused.
Overall, I really enjoyed this one. It is sweet and sexy and these guys are just great together. I loved the way we have two men who are not supported by their families suddenly find that comfort and support from this relative stranger. And that they realize that despite their weird beginning, they are actually quite perfect together and are keeping each other. It is great start to the series and with several intriguing side characters here, I am very much looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.