Bidding for the Bachelor by Jackie Lau
Fong Brothers #2
August 17, 2021, by Jackie Lau Books
Quintessentially on brand for Jackie Lau with her trademark food and craft cocktail tour of Toronto, Bidding for the Bachelor is also her first foray into m/m romance. If you read the first book in the Fong Brothers series, Pregnant by the Playboy, you would have met both of these characters and there were hints of where the second book in the series was headed. Unfortunately, my brain is very much a sieve these days and I read the first book in May of 2020 which in real-time is 15 months but in pandemic times is like 84 years. So, in short, I only had the vaguest of recollections about this series.
Regardless, I think Jackie Lau did a fine job with her first m/m attempt and I especially appreciate the demisexual representation in the book. I always enjoy the roommates to eventual lovers trope and I liked Cedric and Brian, individually and together. I do question her mention of random characters who add nothing to the overall story or further the plot in any meaningful way. I would have loved to have seen her explore Brian’s overall journey from the commitment phobic, party loving, playboy bachelor to a caretaking nurturer falling in love for the very first time in his life. A lot of it felt like it happened internally and off-page and I wanted to see these two adults talking out their issues. And I would have loved to have seen more in terms of his broken relationship with his family and how that impacted his own life choices. However, it was perfectly fine, a quick, charming read that is the hallmark of most Jackie Lau books.
CW: toxic family relationship, homophobic father, past cheating (off-page);
The Dating Playbook by Farrah Rochon
The Boyfriend Project #2
August 17, 2021, by Forever
I like the premise of this series so much: 3 women, catfished by the same man, go viral when they confront him at a restaurant. The unusual meeting provides the foundation for a great friendship which, to me at least, takes center stage over the romances in either of the first two books of the series.
While the first book in the series focused on a competent STEM heroine being duped by the secret agent hero posing as her coworker, the second book focuses on Taylor, a struggling trainer/nutrition expert secretly working with a football player determined to make it back into the NFL. Given the secretive nature of their working relationship, the two embark on a fake relationship to throw off the media and public and as is the case with this particular romance trope, what starts off as fake soon turns to something very real.
I’m going to be honest – the romance was, well, FINE. It’s the friendship between the 3 women that I find much more interesting and appealing in this series, the way they support and encourage each other and yes, if needed, give each other a kick in the pants. The actual love story, at least to me, seems almost like an afterthought and I found myself less invested in the HEA between Taylor and Jamar and far more interested in seeing how Taylor, with the help of her friends, decided to finally go after her professional dreams.
CW: grief, off-page death of a best friend, learning disability, recovery from a career-ending injury, difficult family relationships, on page hospitalization, and ailment of a close family friend
Secrets of a One Night Stand by Naima Simone
Billionaires of Boston #2
August 24, 2021, by Harlequin Desire
Billionaire tropes are not my particular jam but this one works because MMC Achilles Farrell, dubbed the Feral Farrell by the Boston media, finds himself the recipient of an unexpected inheritance by way of his recently deceased father who abandoned his mother after impregnating her and ignored him his entire life. Born to a struggling single mother, he’s had to work for everything he’s got, and finding himself 2 new brothers along with an entry into the who’s who of Boston society is enough to set him off-kilter. Add in FMC Mycah, the ambitious, career-driven daughter of a wealthy, elite Boston family, and he finds himself struggling to balance his past fears with his present desires.
I really liked both MCs and I liked their backstories though I wish more details had been given about Mycah’s past, especially the betrayal she suffered at the hands of a coworker. But category romances are difficult due to the space constraints and Naima Simone is such a great storyteller, I was drawn into the drama within the pages. Mycah’s parents were horrible and it made sense how their toxic behavior would cause Mycah to pull away from people she found herself getting too close to.
However, beyond the romance, I really liked the bond forming between the 3 brothers, who are practically strangers to each other, forced to run their late father’s company together for an entire year. It’s definitely a very soapy premise but I’m a sucker for male friendships in romance and I loved the byplay between Achilles, Cain, and Kenan. All in all, a good, fast read with plenty of heat and two engaging characters who had me rooting for their HEA.
CW: toxic parental relationships, off-page abuse of secondary character (by secondary character), arrest and imprisonment of MC, classism, unexpected pregnancy