We’re rounding out fake relationship trope week with a super specific sub-category of the trope—you know the one, where at least one protagonist swears that they just can’t do real relationships because they’re so bad at them? Except then they’re really good at being in the fake one because they’re just themselves and it’s completely endearing and wonderful?
Anyway, this is a dynamic that’s pretty specific to contemporary romance, so here are six for your reading pleasure:
Stella might begin her quest by asking Michael for sex lessons, but it only takes one encounter for them to decide to fake something more like relationship intimacy as a solution to Stella’s dating woes. Of course, intimacy is intimacy, and it’s not long before their relationship evolves into meeting the family and thoughtful gifts and crossing all the fake relationship lines.
Ellie’s best friend is getting married, and she ends up sharing a house with her brother’s best friend Wyatt, and his son. Ellie’s ex is also in the wedding, so she arranges for a friend to be her fake boyfriend–but when Wyatt finds out, he flips the script and insists HE is her real boyfriend. There are all kinds of reasons they apparently can’t be together but…none of them end up mattering.
Daniel hasn’t dated in years because he’s been focused on being a good single dad to his daughter while also running a brewery—and what he was doing before he found out he had a kid is not exactly what we would call “dating.” When Daniel panics at a custody hearing and tells the judge he’s engaged to his best friend, Charlie, he thinks it’ll be simply a matter of Charlie showing up at the next hearing and saying, “Yup, we’re getting married.” Too bad they live in a small town where the congratulations start flowing immediately because 1) the court clerk is a huge gossip and 2) everyone is already convinced that Daniel and Charlie have been secretly dating for years.
Dani’s carrying so much hurt from being dumped when she was young that it sabotages her relationships, so she’s decided not to waste her energy on something that’s not working for her and is being awesome at work instead. She’s so fixated on how a relationship won’t work for her that she doesn’t even realize she’s exactly the girlfriend Zaf has been dreaming of the whole time they’ve been fake dating.
Being in a relationship with a partner who’s deployed in a submarine for long stretches is hard. Too hard. So Derrick has decided to give up the misery of dating and be married to work…after he gets back at his cheating ex by having his best friend’s little brother give him the most epic fake welcome home kiss ever. Too bad the rest of the family is there to see it and is over the moon to adopt him into the family.
Look, Dex is a himbo. He doesn’t realize that his best friend has been in love with him for years, and he doesn’t realize his relationship failed not because he’s dragging his feet about getting married but because he doesn’t actually like her much. But, being the problem solver that he is, Dex convinces Tripp to go to a chapel in Vegas and pretend to marry him so he can get over his wedding anxiety. It’ll be fake, he said. We won’t file the paperwork, he said. Boy, are these twits surprised when the team’s PR department calls demanding answers. Bonus points: This one’s a legit rom-com. Erin couldn’t stop laughing while describing its bonkersness and Holly told her to put it on this list.
As always, we’re always taking recommendations (even if our TBRs are threatening to fall on top of us), so let us know if there are any we just shouldn’t miss!
Let’s start with: these two protagonists have ignored each other for years and then decide to have a fake relationship, so the only way for them to go is up. What with court(ish) intrigue and a fake relationship, there’s plenty of room for these protagonists to jump to conclusions and have misunderstandings, but they don’t. They demonstrate trust and kindness all the way through. It’s heartwarming and steamy.
Yes, it’s a best friend’s sibling, small town romance, but Break the Rules digs deep to take us past all the standard romance noise and get the protagonists to ask the question: Is this relationship important enough to me that I stop thinking about what’s good for “me” and start thinking about what’s good for “us”? And I mean that in a healthy, relationships-take-compromise way, not in a subjugation way. Also, the sex scratches on his back are what give it all away to his brothers. Yowza.
Age gap romance is generally an Erin thing, because she likes paternalistic heroes, but Holly really enjoyed this one – mainly because the (much younger) heroine called out the (much older and also more powerful) hero on his paternalistic bullshit all the time. Especially when he thought he was “acting in her best interest.” Watching these two fight their lust for each other, and then build a true partnership among equals despite their different socio-economic and cultural statuses was deeply satisfying. And very very sexy.
These two protagonists have some not great history, but the way they get to know each other again as adults is delicious. Both protagonists have some emotional baggage, but they manage to communicate with each other and not jump to wild conclusions when the going gets tough, which was lovely to read. Also, when they finally hit the bedroom, I was DED.
Eden is extremely sheltered and has had her entire life controlled by her father. So when she trades tutoring for lessons in seduction from the steamiest guy in class, one would THINK Eden would be in for a world of trouble–and a broken heart. But no. Not from sexy, swoon-worthy, thoughtful, supportive Jake. This book is a delicate, slow burn of appreciation for unappreciated skills and open communication. You’re going to think it’s almost TOO relaxing and enjoyable, but don’t get too comfortable–these lessons will get your heart racing.
Here we have a sexy and complicated book featuring a SUPER sexy reality TV show carpenter who is also trying to figure out how to deal with PTSD after a traumatic incident, and a chef who is trying to rebuild her life after getting her hiney handed to her in a break up. Sounds like a hot mess, right? Well, yeah. Kind of. They are a mess, but they’re also human beings who are thoughtful and self-aware and who melt the walls with their chemistry.