Darcy is a part time fake boyfriend to fund other things he is passionate about. It is not an escort service, that still sounds a lot like an escort service with a bit of valet thrown in. Abby is a scientist who spends all her time in a lab. When circumstances seem to force her into bringing a date to a wedding, sparks fly–between Darcy and Abby’s brother Adrian.
The plot is thin, relying on manufactured angst due to a cousin. Abby and Adrian act like the reason Abby hires Darcy is a big secret, until it’s not. Once the set-up is finished and this gets going, about 30% in, it starts to be more fun. They all have to get through a week of wedding activities without getting caught in this web of lies. The conflict, that wasn’t, wraps up abruptly. There are moments of attraction between Darcy and Adrian where I felt a few sparks, but then Adrian has a self pleasuring scene was just didn’t do it for me. When the wedding is over, it’s time for Adrian and Darcy to get to know each other when Darcy is off the job.
Darcy is thoughtful and solid. Adrian is a bit insecure, yet somehow still trusting. Finally together, I thought they would burn up the sheets, and they do. I just didn’t find myself emotionally invested or that hot and bothered. Four months later, they have to come clean to Adrian and Abby’s parents if they are going to be together. Yet, there is never a moment when the parents learn about what Darcy does for a living. That is not dealt with at all. The epilogue has the happily ever after people expect.
I don’t think we need a whole lot of paraphrasing the plot–it’s a wedding! The wedding we have all been waiting for. This is the ninth story, so this not the place to jump in. It is a short novella and for what it is, accomplishes everything it sets out to do. Tennant’s mom, Lisa, and Lisa (his sisters-in-law), are trying to help plan the wedding…but the guys haven’t been helping a whole lot. They decide to hire a professional wedding planner three weeks before the wedding. Snort. Luckily, Trent comes to the rescue! What could possibly go wrong? Thankfully nothing too important because the relationship is the real thing, and the wedding is just a million details that are less important. The way all of their friends rally around them to plan the bachelor weekend and the venue lead to so many touching moments. Right when it might jump into schmaltzy territory, the authors rein it back in. This is all good fun with hot, sexy moments sprinkled throughout.
*The authors move their books in and out of KU to give everyone a chance to buy them. If you read this review at a later date and the links don’t work, check their website and subscribe to their newsletter. They are great at communicating when the books will be sold where and for how long, with link to all the sites and countries, not just US Amazon. I wish all authors did this.
Jason contacts Mark about the death of his brother Andrew. Andrew and Mark had been best friends when they were young, but didn’t keep in touch after Mark left town at 15. Now at 33, all the memories Mark buried away are back. It was Andrew’s last wish that Jason complete his bucket list of things he wanted to do and Mark is made a part of it with his 15th high school reunion. Throughout this book they both face grief of a life lost, lost chances, and regret for bad decisions and might have beens. This is tapered with some of the best memories of their lives. Questions of all the missed years are painful. At first, both have things they are hiding; watching them earn those secrets is an emotional rollercoaster. The flashbacks they both have keep the emotional punches coming.
This was a bit unexpectedly triggering for me. Be advised much of this is about child abuse and bullying. The grief and shared history gives them something to bond over initially, but it is being together daily that makes it mean more, letting their relationship blossom. This book come across as very real to me with enough sweet and sexy parts to make it believable they can make it work and not just as a vacation romance. I liked the honest communication between them, both about the past and what they are feeling for each other as it happens. This is about righting old wrongs and really living because life is short, not revenge or comeuppance, although the reader gets a bit of that too.
This is the third book in the series and would benefit from being read in order, but could be read as a standalone. This is a spin-off series (think second generation) of the Harrisburg Railers series. It focuses on the senior year of Ryker, Scott, and Benoit who play college hockey on a team known as the Eagles at Owatonna University. Ryker and Scott were paired off in the first two books, so this book is about Ben meeting Ethan Girard, the team’s new defensive consultant and famed Boston defenseman.
Ethan is 32 and possibly nearing the end of his career, while Benoit is just getting started, so besides the ten year age gap are their choices, their outlook, and their life experiences. Sure Benoit is a bit jealous of all his friends, but he just wants to focus on hockey and go skate for Edmonton. He is navigating a lot of pressure to help make it big and care for his family, keep his grades high and earn a degree he can use if he gets injured and can’t play anymore. He also needs to decide if coming out publicly is a good decision when he is already battling racism. Ethan can afford, in every sense of the word, to do what he wants. He got drafted right away and never went to college. If he retires, he won’t have to face as much blowback for his sexuality. I feel like I was told all of that instead of being shown.
I have to say this third book is somehow removed from the characters for the first half because it is busy sharing the story with everyone else. A lot of it takes place in Benoit’s (or Ethan’s) head, but weeks go by without anything happening. Although this makes sense because Ben is avoiding Ethan, it makes it difficult to get into the story until about 35% of the way in. Everything seems skimmed over though, without much detail. Thankfully everything snaps back into focus with a detailed description of the hotel dining room for a Railers dinner. The book comes alive, with Stan and Ten, when Ryker convinces Scott and Benoit to go to a Railers game and hangout with his dads after. You do not have to know or have read about these characters to read this book–it was like the authors didn’t have a focus for the writing itself until this scene, when the reader is finally given enough details to actually picture the surroundings.
Benoit’s story really clicks into place when he and Ethan are a couple, spending time together, and stops worrying about what everyone else is doing. This is the writing at its best. There is a plot point that gets shoved in the background and pulled back out later to be used as a source of conflict. All this did for me was really highlight the age differences between Benoit and Ethan, making a HEA less believable. I personally would call this an HFN because they are not on equal footing and Benoit’s lack of maturity shows in how he deals with conflict. Some of the best scenes in the book were the ice hockey games at the end; this also highlighted the other parts of the book that were supposed to be suspenseful, but weren’t. Overall this was a good trilogy featuring college players and this book was a way to tie up any lose ends for Benoit, Ryker, Jacob, Scott, and Haynes. It gave the authors new characters to mention later. The next phase seems to be a new series with Ryker playing for the Arizona Raptors with Aarni, the guy who hurt his father’s fiance, which will pull the reader back into the NHL.
*P.S. These authors are amazing at being non Amazon exclusive. They do a lot of work moving their books in and out of KU to allow their fans to buy from other platforms/formats. If you are reading this post way after it is written, the best way to know what books are on sale where, and for how long, is to subscribe to their newsletters.