Liam is only 23, but his mother is desperate to see him “happy.” By which she means hooked up with a partner, madly in love, and well on his way to settling down with his one true love. But, after his last boyfriend cheated on him — in his own bed, in his own apartment, and then tried to convince him it was somehow his fault — Liam isn’t certain he’s ready to be “happy.” At least, not just yet.
After a friend at work hires a very hot actor to pretend to be a bad boyfriend so her parents wouldn’t be so judgmental about her actual boyfriend, Liam has an idea. He’ll hire the man, Ambrose, to be his boyfriend for dinner with his family. Not to be terrible, just to be nice enough that his mother will think Liam’s doing okay and won’t bother him every Sunday about his love life.
However, Liam isn’t the only one falling for Ambrose’s charm. His family loves him, enough to invite him to spend the weekend with them, and Liam sees no way to get out of it. So, together, he and Ambrose come up with an idea. Ambrose will show up and be just unpleasant enough that Liam’s family will understand when they break up, and will give Liam some breathing room to get over his heartbreak.
If only Ambrose were actually awful.
This is a cute, silly, fluffy romance filled with humor and charm and just enough angst to add a bit of flavor without bringing down the mood. Liam is a privileged young man whose parents own a successful winery and whose grandfather has a flat in town where he lets his grandchildren stay while they’re at university. Liam, though, is still determined to pay his own way through school, just as he’s determined to not have to ask his mother to back off just a little bit. As the only son, and the maybe-but-also-not-maybe favorite, he’s aware that his mother only wants him to be happy, like she’s happy with his father. Like his eldest sister is with her husband. But Liam’s still healing from his breakup, still trying to find out who he is without his family, still figuring out his life.
Ambrose, on the other hand, has always known what he wanted to do with his life, which was to be an actor, like his mother told him to be. As a rising soap star in her youth, his mother was always happiest under the attention and admiration of an audience, and that’s what she wanted for her children — or, at least, for her son. What she didn’t want to be was a parent, so it was up to Ambrose and his older sister to raise themselves. For a time, they had each other, until his older sister went to university and never looked back, leaving Ambrose to look after his alcoholic and drug addicted mother alone with no support. And for all that Ambrose goes to auditions and tries to get into an acting school, life hasn’t turned out anything like he wanted, because all he ever hears is no.
The bad boyfriend shtick started as an impulse to help out a random girl who was being harassed by a creep, and now it’s just a job. (The only one it has, and at least it pays.) The only dates he’s been on for a while have been fake dates where he does his best to be as unlikable as possible. With Liam’s family, especially at that first dinner, he had a chance — the first chance in a long time — to be himself. And they liked him! And Liam liked him, and maybe there was a chance to be himself, to be liked for himself. Until Liam asks him to be … well, to be a jerk, again. To piss off and annoy the people who invited him for the weekend, who smiled at him, who treated him like he was a person worth knowing.
The chemistry between Liam and Ambrose was slow to build, because the two of them are both trying to keep each other at arm’s length. But Ambrose’s instant connection to Grampa Will is like lightning, with flashes of humor and a bit of a bite. And Liam’s family — mother, father, and sisters — are all on the sidelines, judging every time Ambrose acts up and acts out, yet still trying to be supportive for their brother who, they can’t help but notice, seems rather caught by Ambrose. It’s layers upon layers of people having opinions, some right and some wrong, and it’s both well written and very easy to read.
This is a fun start to a new series and I can’t wait to see what else these two authors have up their sleeves!