Even in the most lighthearted series, you can get a story that manages to maintain the fun while still introducing a pretty dark and/or serious theme. This is one of those. Trigger warning for themes of rape.
A marriage of convenience seems like the perfect solution for two people who need an “other” to help them out, but it gets more difficult when they start to have real feelings for each other. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.
Crazy Families & Messed Up Pasts
It’s not often you find a modern day marriage of convenience story, but this one nails it and does it in a way that’s fairly realistic. Well, in the world of a billionaire anyway. Sebastian’s horrible mother is involved in a reality TV series about their family and being that the woman is completely insane, she wants Sebastian to get back with his ex as part of the season’s storyline. Chelsea is a bad ass roller derby girl, but when the skates come off, she has a hard time dealing with crowds, the dark, and men hitting on her due to PTSD from being raped a few years before.
When they meet at Gretchen and Hunter’s engagement dinner, Chelsea finds Sebastian to be “safe,” and they decide to be party Safety Buddies. After all, if they pretend to be together, men won’t hit on her and people won’t bother Sebastian about this family’s TV show. But then Sebastian decides to take it a step further, because if he marries Chelsea, then his mother and his ex (in theory) can’t bother him about the show’s storyline of getting back together. And since Chelsea’s roommate moved out and it scares her to be alone in an empty apartment, she jumps on the opportunity.
Taking Care of Business
It’s all fun and games and convenience until someone starts getting lusty after the other one, though. And it doesn’t take long for Sebastian to realize that he’s probably not going to be able to avoid all those feelings he said he wanted to avoid in the first place. Yet he doesn’t push Chelsea into anything, especially when he finds out what happened to her. Instead, they become good friends and he just takes care of “things” on his own.
I loved the whole roller derby thing and the fact that Chelsea is of two personalities. In her roller gear, she’s fierce, tough, and confident. Outside of it, she feels broken and scared, which is understandable. Her sex feels are pretty much non-existent, but when she realizes that Sebastian is turned on by her, she starts to feel that she’s ruining his life by not being a wife who can give him what he wants. Because by that time, they’ve started to like each other and the whole convenience/temporary nature of the marriage seems to have been forgotten.
Sebastian never pressures Chelsea into anything. Instead, he lets her take control. He also makes it a point to let her know that no matter how much she’d been drinking the night of her rape, it wasn’t her fault. Chelsea slowly comes out of her shell, but it’s not until Sebastian suggests she integrate her roller derby persona into the bedroom that she starts to find her sexuality again.
Working Through Issues
I think thus far, this one is my favorite in the series, not only because it has some of my fave tropes (friends to lovers, marriage of convenience) but because the characters felt real and I loved that Chelsea was able to regain her identity and empower herself, even after a traumatic event. Of course, the big conflict of the story reopens some of those wounds, but Sebastian is great as the supportive husband who just wants Chelsea to feel safe.
The Romance Factor
Besides the above mentioned tropes, I also get a little mushy over the whole damsel in distress thing, and when Sebastian comforts Chelsea after the lights go out in their hotel in New Orleans, I melted. He’s so sweet and caring and careful of her feelings that I couldn’t help but love him. 4/5
The Steam Factor
Because of the nature of Chelsea’s PTSD, there isn’t a super high volume of sex in this story, but what there is manages to sizzle while still maintaining the respect and caution towards Chelsea’s past and the things that made her scared of it in the first place. And honestly, not everything is resolved by the end, but you’re still left with the feeling that things are going to be okay, both in and out of the bedroom. 4/5
I mentioned in the last B&B review I did that the stories were going to parallel and sure enough, this one seems to be happening right alongside Edie and Magnus’ story. I believe it parallels Asher and Greer’s story as well, which comes out later this year (and has already been preordered by yours truly). I also enjoyed the random reference to one of the reality shows in Clare’s Games series. The whole story left me with warm fuzzies, and I can’t wait for book 4 to come out.