Reese Ryan is slowly becoming one of my new favorite authors. I love her characters, their banter, and their amazing chemistry. And this best-friends-to-lovers and fake-marriage book is no different! While I’ve previously read the second book in this series, I haven’t read most of the others, and found it relatively easy to read this as a standalone.
“How did you two meet?” Brigitta asked, smiling at them the way people often smiled at newlyweds.
Zora felt guilty for evoking such genuine emotions when their marriage had been the result of too-strong drinks and her failure to read the label on a brownie wrapper. Still, she smiled gratefully.
“We’ve known each other forever,” Zora said. Her heart swelled and an involuntary smile curved her mouth, thinking of the day they’d first met. “In fact, we met on the playground in kindergarten, and we’ve been friends ever since.”
Zora’s decided she’s tired of trying to find the perfect guy to start a family with while also gunning for the CEO position of the family bourbon empire, so she’ll just do it on her own. Before she announces it to her close knit and opinionated family, she wants to get her best friend Dallas’s stamp of approval, just so she knows she has someone else in her corner. Luckily, they’re meeting up in Vegas to celebrate both her birthday and him winning a prestigious design award. She never expects for him to volunteer to be the father. While they’ve previously shared a kiss, they both resolved to put it in their past, as they didn’t want to risk their friendship on something as fickle as attraction, and sharing a child together would surely only be a worse idea. But when they wake up the next morning in bed together, it looks like they’ll have one more thing to have to “forget” about – until they realize they tied the knot last night while extremely intoxicated and live-streamed it on the company’s social media. Is this the solution to Zora’s problem, or will their attempts to hide what really happened cause their friendship to crash and burn?
“You called me babe earlier.” She shifted her gaze from his increasingly intense one. “You’ve never called me that before.”
“To be fair, we’ve never been married before. So there are a lot of things we haven’t done.”
I loved Zora. While she was certainly born with a silver spoon in her mouth, it’s her hard work and determination that’s netted her a top position at the family company, not nepotism. She’s a strong, confidant woman who knows what she wants and then goes and gets it. While Zora’s in the running to be the next CEO of King’s Finest Distillery, Dallas owns a furniture making business, one that Zora initially helped fund. She’s fiercely independent, though, and she hates that thought that Dallas might be acting out of obligation for that favor. For his part, Dallas has his own baggage with being a good husband and father – especially since his father was neither. But he’s actually adorably sweet, especially when he does things like special ordering her waffles at the fancy restaurant they go to for a business meeting just because he knows that’s what she really wanted to eat.
“Maybe we’re still a little fuzzy on the details of our decision to get married,” he said. “But we’re staying married because you are a strong, confident woman who knows what you want.” He stroked her cheek and smiled. “Don’t let anyone get inside your head and make you lose sight of that. Not even the people you love.”
While fake relationship is one of my favorite tropes, I was especially pleased by how the friends-to-lovers transition went. Sure, they have great chemistry, but they’re both used to ignoring it so they can focus instead on their close friendship. Zora freely admits that she loves Dallas, but she’s not “in love” with him, and she’s worried about denying both of them the chance to feel lightning-bolt “real love.” While Dallas is more sure of his feelings for her, he’s worried about his place in her life. She’s so busy with her career that he feels like there’s no room for him. But they both care deeply for the other person, to the point of protecting each other even from their own families. The suddenness of the wedding – and the secrecy of it – leave them both in hot water with their families, especially her brothers, and they each have to stand up for the other. They’re also so comfortable together because they know each other so well. Watching them both change their relationship to recognize their attraction was adorable.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this book, and I’ve added the rest of the series to my TBR!
I received an advance review copy of this book from BookSprout. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.