Reviewed by Kini
Single mom Jenny Castelli has a temper to match her red hair. When the former mean girls of her high school insult her son, Jenny fires off a big lie—that she’s engaged to a rich, handsome guy and is bringing him to their ten-year reunion. Now she needs to find the perfect fake fiancé for one night. And only one man fits the bill.
Geek turned tech entrepreneur Owen Dalton already had his heart broken by Jenny Castelli. Still, he finds himself agreeing to her proposition—even as he struggles to remember that the chemistry sparking between them isn’t real. But when Jenny’s ex makes a play for custody and Owen is forced to deal with the family who always treated him as “second best,” their arrangement suddenly becomes very personal. And that lie they’ve been telling everyone? It isn’t nearly as big as the one they’ve been telling themselves.
I read the blurb and was interested in this book, I was a single parent so I love to see that trope in books, especially when it’s well done. It should be noted that this book is labeled as being part of a series, but there was references to other couples and previous relationships that were covered in a previous book. I know I was in for trouble when at location 52 I made a note that said, info dump.
Jenny is in her mid to late 20’s, it is never specified. She is headed to her high school reunion and has a 12 year old son. She runs into some mean girl classmates and commits herself to going to the reunion along with the fiance that she doesn’t actually have. It’s a silly story, and quite juvenile for a woman in her late 20’s to get involved in. One of the reason she gets in this weird situation is that one of the mean girl women insinuates that Jenny’s son is a mistake and how he needs a father. Ugh, I will be coming back to this.
Jenny and Owen used to date. There is a lot of telling about their previous relationship. Although it was fairly brief. When Jenny asks Owen to be her fake fiance for this reunion, he reluctantly agrees. Jenny has trust issues because her dad left her mom when she was younger.
This whole “daddy issue” thing was way heavy handed. Both Jenny and Owen have daddy issues, of course if affects their relationship. Almost all the men in this book are vilified. Owen’s brother is a jerk, Jenny’s son Conner, his dad is a deadbeat, Jenny’s quasi-friend Dina, her husband is a cheater, Owen’s dad is overly tough on him, and of course Jenny’s dad left her. It was too much.
On top of those daddy issues, there was this underlying theme that Connor not only “needed a father” but that a real family consists of a mom, dad, and a child and that family is the one you are born in to. This is BS and I’m calling it. Families come in all shapes and sizes and variations. Science and studies can say whatever they want, but reality is that there is no correct way to have a family. Kids can grow up in single parent homes and be successful (and I have real life proof of this), they can also come from families of two moms, two dads, raised by grandparents, or any and all combination of the above. Romance is an escape, I get that, but it makes me very unhappy when I read a romance that in a tiny sliver of a way seems to be reinforcing values that I think are old and antiquated.
Jenny even says at one point, “But they were right about a kind needing a dad…” I get it, being a single parent isn’t always ideal and it is HARD. But what a kid needs more is a parent that loves him or her. And why is Jenny lamenting this point when her son is TWELVE! She’s had all this time to find him a dad but only now is she harping on this, that part did not flow for him.
And Connor’s deadbeat dad. He truly is a jerk. He has a new family and has no contact with Connor. Jenny likes to rail on him being a deadbeat and talks about how he abandoned them and isn’t involved and doesn’t pay support. BUT she never took him to court, they have no formal agreement. This gets under my skin like no other. Why does no one in romancelandia think they deserve child support when one of the parents leaves the other with a child? Can we stop with this? Please?
The fake fiance trope is one I enjoy. The single parent trope is also one I enjoy. But this combo was a miss for me. The actual romance had a lot of potential, Owen was a good guy, all the things that make a good hero. Jenny was sort of annoying, but not the worst. It was dual POV with a lot of telling and not enough showing, especially about their previous relationship. I was never fully invested. Then with all the heavy handed daddy issues and what makes a real family, it was just too much for me to enjoy the story at all.