Dueling Review

Dueling Review: Waking Up Married by Mira Lyn Kelly (2013) vs Waking Up Married by Reese Ryan (2021)

My initial plan for this week was to read Waking Up Married by Reese Ryan, but when I searched the title on Libby, I discovered that my library owned *two different books* by the same name. So I decided to read both of them—especially since they were both published by Harlequin. 

Waking Up Married

Waking Up, Book #1

Heat Factor: Seduction, then sex

Character Chemistry: This is some grade-A playing house

Plot: Megan and Connor both want a family, so they agree to stay married in an emotionless match of convenience. You can guess how well that goes.

Overall: Liked it


Waking Up Married

The Bourbon Brothers, Book #5

Heat Factor: A smidge sexy

Character Chemistry: Best friends realize they’re also good together in the sack

Plot: Zora and Dallas agree to stay married for a year so they can make a baby together

Overall: Liked it, but a bit less than I liked the other one

First some background information, for the nerds out there. The Mira Lyn Kelly was part of the KISS line, which ran from February 2013–December 2014; the Reese Ryan was published under Harlequin Desire, which started back in 2004 and is still going strong. KISS was all about the “twenty-first century alpha-male hero.” Desire features the “luxurious worlds of American tycoons, ranchers and family dynasties” (but let’s be real, you know there’s some alpha-hero action here too). I would say both lines are mid-level heat; there’s some sex, but we’re not getting wild in bed (unlike, say, Harlequin Blaze or Harlequin DARE).

It was fun reading both of these in the broader context of the “Oops, we got married” trope, since we have different approaches, though, interestingly enough, in both books the drunken marriage happened when the heroine was considering IVF so that she could have a baby on her own. So fair warning: both of these books have a lot of “babies are the end-all and be-all of what I want to accomplish with my life.” 

In the Kelly, Megan and Connor are strangers who decide to get married after a wild night of connection. In fact, there’s a similar initial conflict here as there is with Lick: Megan doesn’t remember the special connection that the two shared (or much of anything of what happened last night). However, instead of being all butthurt about it, Connor decides that he needs to remind her of what their connection is, so she’ll agree to stay married. However, their connection is predicated on shared values, a desire for family, and an inability to fall in love—so the marriage Connor is pushing for is about a partnership based on these shared values and goals. But also, Connor goes full-on seduction mode to show Megan that they had a great connection and should stay married…and then, of course, has a mega-freak-out when he realizes that Megan is falling for him. Classic emotionally-constipated alpha hero behavior.

In contrast, Ryan’s book features best friends who end up married after one too many drinks (plus some edibles). (PSA: Weed does not make you black out.) They are initially going to quietly annul the marriage, but, oops, while drunk, Zora posted the wedding video. They agree to stay married for a year for two reasons: Zora is gunning for the CEO position of her family’s business and therefore needs to show that she’s *responsible* now and doesn’t do things like *get married on a drunken whim*, and Zora wants a baby. (I’m not sure why they think it won’t be messy to get divorced and then co-parent, but ok.) Dallas pretty immediately admits to himself that he wants to stay married to Zora permanently, as she’s been the most important person in his life for years, and sets about making his case.

There are some similarities here in how the characters interact. There’s a bit of that push and pull where the characters are trying to figure out how “real” their marriage is. There’s a bit of a seduction dynamic. Honestly, both authors handled the burgeoning relationship between the characters well; I thought the chemistry was the strongest component of both books.

A key difference between the books is the relationship the characters have with others. Zora’s large family (and Dallas’s mother) play a huge role in Ryan’s book; in fact, the characters stay together because of fear of how their families will react, and much of the conflict in the book stems from the relationships Zora and Dallas have with others. In contrast, neither Megan nor Connor has a supportive family (hence their mutual desire to create a stable family life for themselves). Megan doesn’t even have friends—rather, she has frenemies. I didn’t love this portrayal of female friendship (or lack thereof), but the sparsity of additional characters in Kelly’s book meant that this story was much more closely focused on the development of the relationship between the protagonists. This is probably why I liked this book just a smidge better than Ryan’s.

A final side note on class and consumption: everyone in these books is rich. But Ryan is much more explicit about it, going so far as to name-drop brands. We know the exact make and model of cars and sunglasses and powersuits. I’ll be honest, I didn’t love it. I realized, in reading these two books, that I prefer the impression of opulence rather than an explicit recounting of it. 

Buy Waking Up Married by Mira Lyn Kelly: Amazon

Buy Waking Up Married by Reese Ryan: Amazon

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Category Romances

About that accidental marriage I don’t remember…

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