Bishop Brothers, Book #1
Heat Factor: do do do do do EXPLOSION do do do do do
Character Chemistry: They’re the only two actually talking to each other in this book, so yep
Plot: Unwanted middle billionaire son is ultimatumed into an arranged merger marriage, so it’s a problem when it turns out he has real chemistry with the wedding planner
Overall: This book is deceptively low key
In fact, the hero is not a billionaire. In fact, he is the unwanted, unemployed son of a (pretty mean) billionaire. Billionaire daddy doesn’t think Gabriel can do anything right, so he decides that the one thing he’s going to do for the family is to marry the daughter of the tycoon who owns a business he’s trying to buy.
Aside: This whole dynastic marriage merger is difficult to pull off because… Really? In 2020? But in this case I’ll grant that the dads mostly end up looking like controlling assholes, so obviously nothing is beyond them.
Not having anything better to do, and enjoying his ridiculously affluent lifestyle, Gabriel acquiesces. But he also goes to a bar to wallow that same night, eventually trying to pick up an attractive woman for a final fling. She ruthlessly shoots him down.
So of course she turns out to be the wedding planner. Awkward. Mackenzie, who is trying to save her business with the biggest wedding of her career so far, is thrown.
Twist: Turns out Gabriel’s fiancee thought she was going to marry his older brother! Yikes! Nobody in the room is happy! (Even the dads, who are getting what they want. They’re just grumpy all the time.)
You get the idea. The trajectory of this book is super duper clear from the outset. The tension is serious. Gabriel will lose everything, including his family (is that a loss, though?) if he doesn’t toe the line, and Mackenzie will lose the business she’s worked so hard to build. They cannot be together. Plus, even though Gabriel and his fiancee don’t even talk to each other, he’s cheating, right? Is he? So you see: loads of tension. And yet I’d term the mood of this book “calm.” I don’t know how Winters does it.
The most interesting thing to me while reading this book was the discussion of cheating. Although Gabriel’s father demands a real (“real”?) marriage that outwardly shows that Gabriel’s marriage has tamed his wild ways (he wasn’t wild), Winters is really careful to make it clear that Gabriel and his fiancee have absolutely no relationship. At all. So are Gabriel and Mackenzie cheating or not? And then there’s the whole, “Well if we don’t do this then we’re not really cheating,” when any purist would call, clear as day, “Cheater, cheater pumpkin eater!”
I liked this. I have strong feelings about cheating and romance, and I can summarize them by saying: Romancelandia gets waaaaaaaaaaaaay too bent out of shape about cheating. Cheating is treated as a very simple thing, but it’s super complicated. (This video summarizes my thoughts about this really well.) I’d love to see more authors examine this and think about what constitutes cheating and what it means for relationships. The fact that Gabriel doesn’t even speak to his fiancee clearly indicates that there is no relationship to harm with cheating. But he’s getting married, and marriage means something, so he is cheating and Mackenzie is complicit. The only (very simple) thing that would solve this quandary would be a discussion between Gabriel and his fiancee about what exactly their marriage means to them, but since they don’t talk to each other, how can they do that? And because they don’t, there are plenty of external forces (people) making judgements about what fidelity looks like for a partnership that has nothing to do with them.
Winters is a sneaky writer. She lulls the reader into a calm space and then deals with some big, emotional ideas. And my emotional reaction to that is much different than my reaction to an extremely dramatic portrayal of similar ideas. She also does a sneaky slow(ish) burn. There I was, minding my business, pretty convinced that Ingrid’s definition of hot and my definition of hot are not the same, and BAM. I’m in the middle of a shared masturbation scene and HOLY WOW.
Long story short: good book. Slightly longer: I REALLY want to read Archer’s story. He’s gonna be my catnip, I can tell.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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