Welcome to #RomBkLove 2021
Day 11: Fake Relationships
Fake Relationship romances are my catnip. There is something about pretending to be together or being stuck in a marriage of convenience that brings two people closer together for all the right reasons. B. and I have put together some of our favorite books where the characters are in some sort of fake relationship that blossoms into a HEA/HFN. We hope you enjoy these books as much as we have. And we’d love for you to join in! Please add your recommendations at the end of the post in the comment section, and join in the discussion on twitter, using the prompt #RomBkLove.
First Comes Like by Alisha Rai (2021, Avon) REVIEW (Jen)
Jia Ahmed is a Southern CA based internet influencer sharing makeup and beauty tips. For the past year, she thinks she’s been DM’ing with Dev Dixit, an Indian film star from an influential Bollywood family. Dev Dixit has long lived in the shadow of his famous grandfather and brother, and now that they’ve both passed, he’s decided to relocate to America with his niece and uncle. He can inherit his grandfather’s fortune if he marries before his next birthday. When the beautiful Jia approaches Dev, he’s shocked to find out she thinks he’s been messaging her. In an effort to discover the truth and make amends to Jia, the pair decides to “fake date.”
Ms. Rai knocks it out of the park with First Comes Like. I simply adored Jia and Dev, finding their quick but genuine romance heartwarming. While their relationship starts under false pretenses, they are honest with one another. Dev and Jia feel an immediate connection, and I appreciate that Jia questions her feelings because of a year spent talking with a fake Dev. I absolutely love that Dev and Jia are respectful of their respective traditions, while trying to find their own way together.
[contemporary; m/f; rep: Main female character is Pakistani American; Main male character is Indian; AOC] CW: This book has mention of deceased parents and sibling, discussion of parental neglect, depression/grief, and catfishing.
Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron (2021, Forever Publishing) REVIEW (Jen)
Reena Manji, the middle child in a successful real estate development Muslim family, hates her job and gets annoyed with her parents’ unending parade of eligible Muslim men for her to marry. When Nadim moves in across the hall, Reena tries to avoid him since he is an employee of her father and yet another man her parents want her to consider marrying. One night after a few drinks, they make a video to enter a FoodTV cooking show contest for couples and make it past the first round. Seeing this as a way to get into her dream school, Reena and Nadim continue the charade while trying to hide their budding friendship from her family.
Accidentally Engaged is a wonderful, touching romance that hits all the right notes. The pressures of family expectations and to succeed are overwhelming, and the ways Reena finds to deal with it aren’t always healthy. She hides the truth from most, yet with Nadim, she finds solace and can be herself. The more time they banter and flirt, the closer they become, and the emotional weight from the intimacy of filming as a couple confuses things. With so much baggage hanging around both characters, there are many bumps on their journey to HEA. Accidentally Engaged explores all of Reena’s dark corners, allowing Reena to face her fears, learn, and grow. I enjoyed her journey of self-discovery and growth as much as watching her budding romance unfurl. Accidentally Engaged is a beautiful story about breaking through expectations and lies to grow and find love.
[contemporary; m/f; rep: MCs are East African Indian Muslims; AOC] CW: This story discusses cheating (off page, prior to story), depression, and mental illness.
Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall (2020, Sourcebooks Casablanca) REVIEW (B.)
Luc’s rockstar father is trying to make a comeback, and Luc needs to clean up his own image by finding a nice, normal relationship. Oliver is perfect boyfriend material. However, apart from being gay, the pair has nothing in common, yet make a deal to fake date until the dust settles.
On its surface, Boyfriend Material is an absolutely hilarious tale about two people falling in love. I can honestly affirm that I haven’t laughed this hard while reading a story in years. I think what makes the comedic elements even better is that, though they own a significant place in the story, they are never used to trivialize the other matters of the heart the main characters are navigating. Luc and Oliver are so different that there are legitimate reasons to assume their relationship can’t possibly work. Except that it very much does—wonderfully so. Though it wasn’t easy in places, I had a genuinely good time reviewing it and maintain that it was worth every pang of my heart.
[contemporary; m/m; rep: gay romance, LGBTQ] CW: this book deals with a potential cancer diagnosis, drug use (past), and homophobic themes.
The Billionaire’s Fake Fiancée by Annika Martin (2020, Self-Published) REVIEW (Jen)
Tabitha owns her own mobile hair styling business, and for the past two years, she’s cut Rex’s hair at his office every Friday evening. She loves pushing his buttons, and while he’s a bit uptight, she’s been crushing on him since the start. Rex O’Rourke is a major financial player; when he talks, every body listens. He’s trying to win over the biggest account of his career, but in order to do so, he must spend two weeks on Gail Driscoll’s private yacht with his fiancée. The only problem? He isn’t engaged. Even though Tabitha is the antithesis of his ideal wife, she’ll make do for a fake fiancée.
The Billionaire’s Fake Fiancée is a delightful and riotous rom-com. I adore Ms. Martin’s quirky, lovable characters. Tabitha loves her soap operas and views life through a lens that is shaded by the drama and treachery of famous characters like Stephano DiMera (Days of Our Lives) and Dorian Lord (One Life to Live). She knows how things always go down with fake relationships, and she tries to fight her feelings. It’s like she sees a train wreck about to happen, she tries to stop it by holding up a stop sign, but can’t prevent it. Rex changes slowly. He knows Tabitha is different, yet he wants to ignore the weird feelings she stirs within him. He can’t help but admire Tabitha, and he loves to push her buttons. They are full of energy and passion. They balance one another and together make an unstoppable team.
Perfect Imperfections by Cardeno C. (2015, The Romance Authors) (B.)
The premise of Perfect Imperfections by Cardeno C. is a simple one: famous rock star who is about to embark on a world tour seeks a true companion for the journey (and for the benefit of the press), rather than a studio-arranged “relationship.” Does true love happen? Of course!
I’d never heard of this title when I first read it, and didn’t have any expectations, but I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. Jeremy’s unbroken streak of failed relationships with other “Hollywood types” has left him feeling isolated and numb about the career he was born into and truly loves. When he meets bartender Reggie Moore at a hole-in-the wall dive while unsuccessfully trying to pretend he’s someone else, he knows he’s found his travel buddy! Who cares if Reggie is a guy and Jeremy has always been straight? Well, a lot of people, actually, and for some very valid reasons. And that’s what I liked the most about this story. It has some good lessons in it as well as being a surprisingly enjoyable slow-burn romance. There are a few explicit scenes, but they aren’t until later in the narrative, and don’t overshadow the rest of the story. Even though there were a few moments where I felt disconnected to the story, I’d gladly revisit this title again.
[contemporary; m/m; rep: gay romance, LGBTQ] CW: this book mentions drug use, casual drinking, homophobia