James Petika is a Chicago cop, enjoying his anonymity in the big city, half a country away from his intrusive family in Montana. James is out in his personal life, but not to his family, which causes conflict because his mom is always after him to settle down with a nice woman. Now that his younger sister Holly is getting married, James is expected to show up with a plus one–and he doesn’t have anyone to take. His buddy connects James with Daniel Bonafonte, a notable drag queen, who offers to take a job pretending to be his girlfriend while staying with James’ family.
“Daniella” didn’t expect they’d be staying 24/7 with James’ family and need to remain in drag for nearly a week, but James’ mom really wants that closeness. And, well, his mom is meddling with so many of Holly’s wedding plans that James and Daniel have their hands full repairing all the damages she’s wrought. Add in some nasty bridal party members and a crooked preacher, and this visit to the folks may turn into trouble.
One thing I really liked about the story was the family dynamic, where the God-fearing mom has to face the cold truth that she’s alienated her children to the point they don’t want to be around her. James’ internalized homophobia is on full display, and this trip, plus his age and experience, gives him that strength to come to terms with himself, and come clean to his family. He’s so awed by Daniel’s skills, charm, and beautiful soul that he’s captivated by the way Daniel handles all the many crises that interrupt the festivities.
There’s a lot of other stuff happening in the plot, but the love between siblings was a shining beacon, and my favorite part of the story. They have each other’s backs, and that means a lot in this family. Daniel is a great character and I really found myself immersed in his POV chapters, as he’s so pragmatic. His ability to save the day goes beyond the anticipated, so it was surprising how quickly he seemed to give up on himself when things got really contentious. That said, James finally has the chance to be his own hero, and risk his comfortable closet to support Daniel. His choice definitely heralded a happy life for both men, but also made way for reconciliation and further improvement of the familial relationships.
The pacing on the story was great, and this fake relationship romance had all the elements of a wedding disaster rom-com. It’s a fun read with some moments of deeper conflict and an equitable resolution. Definitely recommend.