Title: Surprise Groom (Marital Bliss #1)
Author: DJ Jamison
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: May 16, 2019
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance, Marriage of Convenience
Page Count: 322 pages
Reviewed by: CrabbyPatty
Heat Level: 3.5 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 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.
One of my secret passions is a good “marriage of convenience” romance. It’s probably from cutting my teeth on Barbara Cartland and all those virginal governesses and strong silent men in tight breeches. DJ Jamison does a stellar job of taking a standard trope and updating it into a tale of two boyhood friends who marry – Caleb to save the family wedding business on Bliss Island, and Julien to settle his debts, end his career as a go-go-dancer, and mostly to stand up to the father who threw him out when he was 15.
Caleb has always missed the shy, quiet boy who dressed in khakis and heavy sweaters. So when he next sees Julien dancing in a Miami bar, glistening with body oil and rocking some sparkly boy shorts, he’s stunned … but behind the chiseled muscular beauty, Caleb can see Julien’s guarded expression, the brittle smile.
As tough as he acted, it wasn’t really who he was inside. Julien had developed a hard outer shell for defense, but Caleb still knew the boy underneath. And more than anything, he wanted to protect that boy from the world, even though he knew it was far too late for that.
When Caleb brings Julien to Bliss Island as his fiance, it’s a delicious blend of confusion on Caleb’s part as he has always identified as straight (except for some disappointing teenage experimentation) and longing on Julien’s part for their charade to become something real. And it’s a slow process but well worth the wait as Caleb realizes he’s bisexual and very much attracted to Julien. This might have started as a marriage of convenience, but it gets very real (and very sexy) and soon neither man wants this to be a faux marriage – they are all in.
However, after a wonderfully delectable build-up, I feel the ending is way too abrupt and the villain of the piece – Julien and Sofia’s father Louis Chastain – for all his supposed business acumen, reads as a vindictive jerk without much of a plan other than intimidation. Although this book is over 300 pages, I would have gladly read another 50-60 pages that more fully developed the ending rather than the race to a finish in the final 10% of the book.
I love this twist on the classic theme of a marriage of convenience and enjoyed the well-fleshed out characters of Caleb and Julien. The setting of Bliss Island – a lovely little gem of an island with the sole purpose of providing the perfect wedding – is lovely, and the way Caleb and Julien find themselves utterly and completely in love is really beautiful. However, for me personally, the ending was just way too abrupt and rushed. 4 stars for “Surprise Groom” and I look forward to reading more in this series.