Title: Surprise Groom (Marital Bliss #1)
Author: DJ Jamison
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: May 16, 2019
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 322
Reviewed by: Bob-O-Link
Heat Level: 3.5 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Can two men fake their way to marital bliss?
Caleb Taylor is shocked to learn his family could lose Bliss Island Resort — their home and livelihood — unless he makes use of a clause to marry the child of investor Louis Chastain. Sofia Chastain is more like a sister than a love interest, and Caleb isn’t ready to sign over his future. But Sofia has a brother, and Caleb has a plan …
Julien Chastain was disowned at fifteen and has made a life as a go-go dancer in Miami, but he lives paycheck to paycheck. When his childhood friend proposes an outlandish marriage contract, he thinks he’s crazy. But it’s a chance at a future that’s tough to pass up.
Caleb and Julien must present themselves as an authentic couple for the legal loophole to work, but the lines between “fake” and “real” keep shifting as they navigate intimacy, public scrutiny, and sabotage.
Love isn’t part of the plan, but plans change. If they can outsmart Julien’s father and prove their love is worth more than a transaction, they just might find a true happily-ever-after.
As a first for this reviewer, the usual BLURB is to be added after this is written, so I’ll try to tell a little, but not too much, about the plot of this well-written gay soap opera.
Caleb’s father, our archetypical villain, had thrown teenaged Caleb out after finding his son engaged in his first gay sexual act. Julien, a one-time boyhood friend of Caleb, is now under ruinous financial pressure from Caleb’s father. Julien is a wedding planner on his privately owned island, while Caleb is an erotic dancer – with a body likely to generate excessive self-abuse in his viewers. Caleb is turned off by Julien’s apparent class and wealth. Caleb initially responds to Julien’s proposition by angrily asserting that he is a dancer, not a prostitute.
Solution? Marrying Caleb would solve Justin’s problem and let Caleb finally stick it to his old man. And the game is afoot.
The two men meet again after years apart, personalities grating against each other, yet still drawn by a rekindled attraction. Their back and forth grabs the reader, who, for most of the novel, has to be satisfied only with their growing jousting and lots of kissing. As the plot develops, it is clear that this is really a dual coming-out-story. Caleb, in response to parental rejection, has closed himself against deep relationships and now is first discovering his emotional capacity. Julien, after a single disastrous teenage experiment (brought on by discovering Caleb’s homosexuality!), has long denied any of his own same-sex feelings, but their revenge plan stirs a self-doubt.
The story is great fun to read. The HEA is never really in doubt, and although we deal with the usual bumps in the road, the villains are punished and the good folks are rewarded. Even Jamison’s delaying genital sex until 2/3rds into the book suits the story. It is organically appropriate as Surprise Groom is, successfully, an erotic tale and not porn! It takes this much time properly to get Caleb and Julien to this point – and wow, well worth the wait. (While Caleb acts as the “passive” partner in their initial coupling, more experienced, Caleb coyly challenges Julien to let him know, when they are done, “who fucked who.”
ASIDE: I try to avoid being a sexist, but I often attribute “inadequate” or unlikely descriptions of male/male intercourse to the gender inexperience of female authors. Not here. Bless D J Jamison, whatever her research, she gets it and knows how to share it with the reader. Thank you.