Reviewed by Tracey
Favorite Quote: “Memories were a strange animal. They morphed and changed to suit the story you were telling yourself.”
Blurb: Max Tremblay should be happy. His night club, Frantic, is one of the most popular gay clubs in Toronto, and his childhood refuge, Ringside Gym, is well on the way to reopening. But when he finds yet another drunk in the alley beside the bar, Max isn’t sure this is the life he truly wants.
Grady Barnes has it all. He’s rich, famous, and wants for nothing. Well, nothing but a good relationship with his father. When he discovers that his father is going to force him into an arranged marriage, Grady has had enough. He tracks down Max, the man who got him to safety after a night of overindulgence, and makes him a proposal: pretend to be his fiancé for two weeks and he’ll invest in Ringside Gym.
When the pair travel to Vancouver to attend a family wedding, the flames of their mutual attraction ignite, and they discover that the only difference between pretend and reality is how well they can fake it.
This is a great ‘fake fiance’ trope book. It is the second in the Ringside Romance series, and it works as a stand alone, because that is how I read it. I will be going back and reading the first book…kinda wishing I had read them in order, but it takes nothing away from this book to not have read the first. The characters from the first book make an appearance, but they show up as just a loving couple in this book.
Everyone knows how the fake fiance trope works. There is a desperate need by one of the main characters to appear engaged, the couple is then forced into a closeness that works on their attraction to each other, and then the sexy fun starts. The ability of the writer to get the reader through all that is what makes a good book…or, a not so good book. This trope can easily become cheesy and trite, but that doesn’t happen with this story. This one flows along nicely, and works just like it is supposed to.
Max Tremblay should be happy, well he’s not unhappy, he’s just in a stasis point in his life, stuck in the rut of all ruts. His nightclub is doing great, he’s a silent partner is the Ringside Gym with his best friend, but he is missing something in his life. Taking out the trash from the club one night, he comes across a patron who is puking in the alley. A drunk in the alley is really not how he wants to spend his evening, and it makes him question if this is actually the life he wants. Knowing the safety of his guests is his responsibility as owner of the club, Max collects the drunk, pours him into a taxi, and takes him to the hotel where the guy is staying. The drunk in the alley is Grady Barnes. Grady wakes up absolutely shocked that Max didn’t take advantage of him. His wallet, watch and anything else in his hotel room could have been stolen, but Max didn’t steal anything, and was even nice enough to leave a glass of water at the bedside for Grady. I’ll be honest, as a meet cute, puking in the alley is a new one for me…but, it works for these two guys.
Grady is a man who seems to have everything. He is rich, famous, gorgeous and wants for nothing. Appearances can always be deceiving. Grady has spent his life rebelling against a father who doesn’t seem to love him at all. In fact, his father can’t even hold a basic conversation with Grady, he is controlling, dictatorial, demeaning…just really awful to him. You come to really, really dislike the father the further you read into the book. Due to his father’s disregard and other issues with his mother, Grady has a lack of confidence in himself as a person, as someone who could ever offer anyone anything useful, whether it be in a work situation or in a relationship. Most of Grady’s antic come from his rebelling against his father. Sometimes the people who seems to have everything would trade it all for something as simple as love.
Grady’s brother is getting married, and Grady finds out his Father has handpicked a fiance for him. Of course, his father picked out a fiance that would seal a business deal…not one that might make Grady happy. Showing up with a fiance in hand is the only way Grady can think of to stymie his father. He can’t think of anyone who he would remotely trust to help him in this situation till he remembers Max. Trustworthy Max.
Max of course doesn’t want to do it, but he wants a change and the attraction to Grady is pretty strong. The story is pretty solid if predictable, and that was okay with me…you always know where this type of story is going. Grady grows as a person, losing his spoiled rotten behavior as his relationship with Max develops. Max is a guy who would give you the shirt off his back. Max encourages Grady to be his own man, and helps to build the confidence Grady has always secretly lacked.
“You’re a good man, Grady Barnes. Don’t let your father, Justin, or anyone else try to convince you otherwise.”
Grady returns the favor, giving Max the love and companionship he really hadn’t noticed he’d been missing.
“This is what he’d been missing in his life. A partner. Someone to share struggles and successes. Someone to hold through the night. Someone like Grady.”
There are some pretty heavy emotions around mid-point in the book, which are nicely resolved. I’m not sure I was happy with how Grady and his father resolved their issues. Forgiveness is great, but Grady’s father was absolutely horrid and I had trouble with the quick about face in his personality. I wouldn’t have trusted him as far as I could throw him. Grady’s personality was a little iffy at the start of the book, but I loved how d’Abo didn’t let him fall into the type of character that the reader would dislike.
All in all, this is a good, solid, fun read. The plot is well developed, the secondary characters are fun and interesting, and the main characters are well rounded and compelling. Hopefully d’Abo will continue this series.