SAPAHM Review: Grumpy Fake Boyfriend by Jackie Lau

Grumpy Fake Boyfriend by Jackie Lau
Contemporary romance released by Jackie Lau Books on May 22, 2018

Grumpy Fake Boyfriend by Jackie Lau Book CoverI’m a pretty simple guy. When I’m not writing a science fiction novel, I’m watching a good movie or reading a book. Alone. I like my reclusive life. That is, until my only friend asks for a favor—pretend to be his baby sister’s boyfriend on a couples’ getaway. Her ex is going to be there and she needs me as a buffer.

I should have said no, but Naomi is bubbly, energetic, and beautiful. She also means everything to her brother. But now, our fake romance is starting to feel all too real, and I find myself stuck between the promise I made to my friend and risking my heart to the one woman who might actually get me…

I read this book very quickly, and found both Will and Naomi to be sympathetic, although after a while some of the themes became repetitive. Will is a science fiction writer with a Ph.D. in physics, who is on the extreme end of introverted, and can be a little obtuse when it comes to social interactions. Naomi is Will’s best friend’s youngest sister. She’s an event planner, and bubbly—but not in an everyone-must-be-bubbly-like-me way. This is a forced proximity kind of romance, with a mini road trip thrown in for good measure. I say mini, because in my part of the world, it might take 3 hours to get across the city, if the traffic is particularly awful. Naomi is sweet, has had a crush on Will before and still finds him attractive, but is still processing her breakup with a prior boyfriend when the book begins; Will has a history of people wanting to change his way of interacting with the world, hence the “grumpy” descriptive. And yes, a fake relationship is orchestrated. Will learns that putting himself out there a little more isn’t all bad, and both Will and Naomi learn the importance of being with someone that likes you for who you are makes you be a better person.

The fake relationship comes about because Naomi wants to prove to her couple friends that she’s gotten over her ex. Her couple friends, and she and her ex got into the tradition of getting together for a long weekend at a swanky lakeside house. Her ex has a new girlfriend, and Naomi still wants to be friends with the other couples (except for her ex and his new girlfriend), but she thinks it would be awkward to show up single. So she asks her older brother if he has a friend who’d be willing to act as her fake boyfriend for the long weekend, knowing that her brother only has one single friend. And voila, her brother hooks her up with his friend Will. This seems a little elaborate to me—if you’re not comfortable enough with your friends to show up single to a get together/house party, then maybe it’s not worth going to this shindig in the first place. Then again, I’m an introvert, so I’m already questioning the wisdom of a house party. Like I said earlier, Naomi had a crush on Will when she was younger, but she’s more or less gotten over it. She still thinks he’s attractive, but she hasn’t been pining for his love. And while there is some insta-lust, being stuck in a car for 3 hours cures them both of their lustful thoughts—for a little while. Being with Will allows Naomi to see that she doesn’t have to change herself to be with someone romantically. She also doesn’t feel the need to change Will to be more like her, which is cool to see. It’s like that thought experiment where you’re being very critical of yourself and then you try and see your situation/actions the way you would see them if it were your close friend, and all of a sudden, you’re a little kinder. There is a little drama around Naomi and Will getting together, but it’s resolved quickly, and it’s a little funny, serving as counterpoint to angst of the two splitting up.

Will is, like I said, introverted. He writes, he reads, he has only two close friends he likes to see in person, including Naomi’s older brother, who is the first person to read his books, even before he sends them off to his editor. So, his friendship with Naomi’s brother is a big deal. He hangs out with his family once or twice a week, but only for a few hours. And even though he’s occasionally exasperated with his sister, they have a good relationship—he babysits for her on occasion and they chant and tease each other. He’s horrified at the idea of going on a cruise with them. He’s had bad experiences with people wanting him to be more outgoing, ever since he was a boy. This contributes to his hesitancy around getting into a serious relationship with Naomi. But he really likes her, and he eventually realizes that she’s never tried to change him. She teases him—there’s an ongoing joke around doughnuts, for instance. But when he says he wants some alone-time, Naomi’s cool with it.

So, all of this sounds great, right? It is! My only problem with this book is that the themes about reaching out and staying true to yourself even while you’re in a relationship became repetitive towards the end of the book. There were several scenes where these themes are underlined by characters. I think maybe one scene for Will and one scene for Naomi and maybe one where they both talk things out would have done it, but it was more than that. But what I like about the story is that there is groveling, and talking, done by both Naomi and Will. So I got over my mild frustration.

This is the first book in a series, and I look forward to the next book. Naomi and Will are both kind people in their own way, and watching them come together was wonderful.

Grade: B

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.

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