Jonas Durand is the successful and wealthy owner of a well-known modeling agency. He is also incredibly tightly wound, living an extremely controlled life that is mostly focused on work. He barely has a relationship with his 5-year-old daughter from his former marriage, has few friends, and has generally accepted that most people see him as cold and rigid. He also has a helpless crush on Dean Jacobs, one of his world famous supermodels. Jonas knows nothing can happen between them. Not only is Dean gorgeous and effortlessly charming, he is also sunny, laid back, and carefree in a way that Jonas doesn’t think he could ever hope to be. Jonas has no idea how to live that kind of life — not to mention that just the thought of it terrifies him.
Dean is one of the world’s most sought after male models, and he knows he is good at his job. But his childhood was rough and he grew up with a father who constantly made him feel stupid and unworthy. Dean works hard and he is a consummate professional, but he still sees himself as nothing more than a pretty face, and certainly no one worthy of someone like Jonas, who is smart and gorgeous and well respected. That doesn’t stop Dean from wanting Jonas desperately, however.
Neither man expects that anything can happen between them. But as they start working more closely together, they can’t help but give in to the intense attraction they both feel. Even more than that, as Dean and Jonas get to know each other better, they bring out the best in each other. Jonas helps make clear to Dean that his dyslexia doesn’t make him stupid, that he is brilliant in his own way at so many things. And Dean helps Jonas to loosen up, to see the joy in life and stop worrying about so much structure. But Dean and Jonas are such different men, and neither is sure how they could possibly make it work long term. When a crisis comes, the men have to decide if they are willing to take a chance on each other and what they have built, or if they are too different to really make it work.
The Sunny Side is the first book in Lily Morton’s new The Model Agency series. This story takes place in the same universe as most of her other books, and we met Dean in Deal Maker as Asa’s stepbrother and Jude’s former hook up. Both of those men appear briefly in this story, but this stands alone perfectly fine and you can easily jump into things here.
I absolutely loved this opposites attract story. Morton does a great job playing up how very different Dean and Jonas are and how the way they view the world shapes so much of their characters. Both men are caretakers by nature, but Jonas handles it through rigid control. If he can plan and manage and organize, he can protect himself and those he loves by making sure he is prepared for anything. If he is lonely, and if people think him cold and rigid, that is the price he is willing to pay for that sense of order he craves. Dean, on the other hand, is so full of life and vitality. He is happy and open, optimistic and easy going. Dean is the kind of guy who never met a stranger, who can talk to anyone and genuinely cares about what they have to say. I love the way that Dean’s open heart helps to break Jonas out of his shell. It takes some time, and sometimes it terrifies Jonas. But it is such a lovely story to watch Jonas find that happiness through Dean, and how Jonas gives Dean the emotional support and confidence he has long been needing in return.
This is the first book in the new Model Agency series, so we also get some interesting looks into the modeling world. Dean is a highly sought after supermodel, and so we see him on various jobs, as well as some behind-the-scenes moments in the lives of models. I enjoyed that side of the story and think it will be fun to follow along with the series as we met others from the agency. We also learn more about Jonas and his family, how he ended up owning the agency, and his feelings of responsibility for and commitment to his models. I’ll note, FWIW, that the fact that Jonas is sort of Dean’s boss is really a non-issue here. I think it works just fine, as there is no sense of Jonas having power over Dean or anything else. It mostly adds for some fun moments as the office gossip goes full swing (often through Jonas’ assistant, Pip, who I assume/hope will get his own book because he is a riot).
As I said, we met Dean originally in Deal Breaker, and I will say that at times he feels like a very different character here in this book. Now, I haven’t read that one in a while, but I feel like in that story Dean is presented as just ridiculously clueless. And I certainly don’t mean because he is dyslexic, or even that is he is not well read or book smart. But Dean feels like comic relief in that story for being beautiful, but stupid. Now, Morton does explain that Dean spent basically his entire life stoned, for reasons that are revealed in the story, and he is totally drug free now. But I’m still not sure that totally resolves the incongruity between the way Dean is portrayed in the two books. That said, I adored Dean here and found him such an absolute delight. I had to mentally reorient myself every once in a while, but I love what Morton has done with his character and found him so charming and lovable that I really didn’t care too much if his character changed.
If you enjoy opposites attract stories, particularly with a semi-grumpy one falls for the sunshiney one vibe, I really think you will love this story. And of course, fans of Morton’s work are going to want to snatch this one right up, as it fits so well with the world she has created and really starts the new series off well. I am super excited to follow along with another adventure with Morton with this series and can’t wait for more.