Heat Factor: The making out is hot and heavy (plus there’s some sex, too)
Character Chemistry: Their families believe it instantly, but there’s no way this can be anything but fake. Right?
Plot: Kris and D’Vaughn are on a reality show where they have to convince their families that they’re in love—and then plan a wedding together
Overall: Utterly charming
So there’s this reality show where couples are randomly paired together and have to fake being in love so that their families believe that they’re getting married. And with the help of their families, they plan a wedding. If you and your partner make it to the altar, you can choose to get married—or walk home with a huge cash prize. (The premise of this show makes absolutely zero sense to me. Like, how do the logistics even work? But I don’t watch any reality TV that doesn’t involve British people making cakes, so I decided to go with it.)
Anyway, here we are on Season 3, and the show has decided to queer it up! Enter D’Vaughn and Kris. D’Vaughn is 30 years old, a nice Christian lesbian, who is not out to her (very religious) family. She might have mentioned that fact on her audition tape, and you know producers love the possibility of drama. In fact, D’Vaughn is counting on the presence of cameras to ensure that her mother doesn’t respond too negatively to her coming out. Kris is a minor influencer who is looking for love. Say what? Going on a fake-relationship show to find true love? Her sister keeps telling her it’s a back-assward idea, but Kris just has a really good feeling about this plan.
You know they’re going to be paired together because the first time D’Vaughn sees Kris, she chokes on her drink because she finds Kris so unbelievably hot. As she tells the “Jitter Cam”:
Kris is…fine as hell. That’s it. Just sexy as all get-out for no damn reason. Like…good luck to whoever is paired up with her, because you’re going to need the strength of the gods to keep from drooling whenever you look at her.
Speaking of the Jitter Cam, the structure of the book is really fun. We’ve got alternating first-person chapters told in the past tense, with Jitter Cam interstitials where we get their immediate reactions (as told to the camera) to the events just described. This allows the characters’ voices to shine through. Higgins nails giving her characters distinct voices that feel fresh and contemporary without getting too into the weeds of contemporary pop culture which might date the story.
But back to the plot! Obviously, what we’ve got here is a fake relationship story, where D’Vaughn and Kris are faking for everyone—their families, friends, and, by extension, the producers who decide who gets to stay on the show as the contestants jump through the hoops of wedding planning to get to the altar and the cash prize. Luckily for these two, they have instant attraction and combustible chemistry, and are also so caring with each other that their respective families are so so happy that they’ve each found someone to love them. As with any fake relationship, the tension comes from the question of whether the outward affection is real or just for show. Here, that issue is compounded because Kris has been open about going on the show to find true love.
“But if it wasn’t me, you’d still be trying to make someone your future something-serious. I’m not a Lego. You can’t just put me into a slot because I fit.”
Oh. Oh. It hit me then what her argument was. She didn’t want to feel like she was just filling a role. To her, I would have “fallen for” whoever I’d been paired up with, so anything I did was taken with a grain of salt. That also meant that she didn’t believe that I was being authentic with any of the affection I showed her.
This is quite the conundrum, and allows for some meaty angst between the characters, especially as they had toward the home stretch of wedding planning.
While I would call this book, overall, a comedy—it’s pretty light-hearted, has solid banter, and includes some ludicrous wedding-planning scenes—it does deal with the pain and fear of not being loved for who you are. I thought the family dynamics were particularly well done. D’Vaughn has a complicated relationship with her mom and sister that holds both a lot of love and a lot of hurt, and it was handled beautifully; there is pain there, but also hope.
And if that doesn’t sum up why I read romance novels, I don’t know what does.
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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