Title: Surprise Groom (Marital Bliss #1)
Author: DJ Jamison
Release Date: May 16, 2019
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 322
Reviewed by: ParisDude
Heat Level: 3 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.
I read the blurb and thought, “DJ Jamison, do I see you coming!” There might have been some eye-rolling from me as well, if I remember correctly. Then the ARC arrived, I started reading. And was most pleasantly surprised. Not that the friends-to-lovers trope was heavily improved or changed in an innovating way. But “Surprise Groom” was an overall good read. The first main character is Caleb Taylor, a young workaholic who runs a wedding resort with his mother on their privately-owned island off the Maine coast. Unfortunately, after Caleb’s father has died, they discover he has left them literally crippled with debt (a plot-scheme that reminded me of a TV-show I loved, “Brothers and Sisters”). One of the debt-holders is ruthless investor Louis Chastain, an old family friend. He points out the impending repayment of the debt can be avoided if Caleb marries his child, as the contract stipulates for odd reasons. He’s of course thinking of his only daughter Sofia, just out of rehab, but Caleb is quite of a mind to spite him. Because there’s Julien, Louis’s other child and Caleb’s boyhood friend, whom his father has thrown out upon discovering he was gay. Julien has vanished ever since. But if Caleb manages to locate his whereabouts, why not ask him in marriage instead (no matter that Caleb is straight as they come)?
No sooner said than done. Julien, our second main character, is living down in Miami, earning a living as a go go-dancer. At first, he’s stunned by catching sight of his former best friend and even more gobsmacked when he learns why Caleb is there. But in the end, he falls under Caleb’s spell (that one’s quite the sweet dude, I admit, and apparently quite the looker, too). As for Caleb, he feels rather destabilized by Julien’s unreal beauty and amazing dancer’s body. Could it be his being straight is not such a sure-fire 100%-thing after all? He’s tried out hitting the sack with a guy once, but that was a complete disaster. Yet here he discovers the sham wedding with Julien could lead to more…
Even if we get the old dichotomy of truly villain villains and truly sweet sweeties in this book (Louis Chastain is a despicable bitch, and Caleb is pure wedding material) and even if the story-line is not the most original one, DJ Jamison delivers an entertaining book, with some suspense, some very nice character development, interesting individuals, relatable problems, and all in all conflict-free solutions. Some other reviewers have pointed out the straight-to-gay trope is unbelievable, but I can only disagree, having discovered my own inclinations for the first time when falling in love with an openly gay guy (after having dismissed any feelings for other guys as mere “teenage crushes”). I really liked both Caleb and Julien, both their worlds and experiences, I could relate to their feelings and thoughts most of the time. Their sex was cute and hot, and the descriptions of the island made me want to buy a flight ticket for Maine. There were some minor errors (when you wait on someone, you attend to them or serve them; it’s not the same thing as “to wait for” someone…), but the overall impression in terms of editing and proofreading was very good. Apparently, this is the first book of yet another series, so I’ll be looking forward to catching the next instalments as well.