Jackie Lau, $2.99, ISBN 978-1-7753047-0-8
Contemporary Romance, 2018
Will Stafford is a pretty big introvert. Oh don’t worry, he’s still hot and, for someone who doesn’t get much practice in bed, absolutely awesome in sex, so yes, we are still reading a romance novel and not stumbling in real life, so alleluia. Like many introverts, he is constantly badgered by family members who believe that he will open up if they badger him hard enough to join them in those horrifying social activities. Perhaps it is a good thing that he is a successful sci-fi writer – he writes full time – and women want to sleep with him because of that, or else he will probably have to beg people to touch him via Tinder. No, not that I am mocking him for being an introvert – this is one guy who complains about everything and anything when he’s not being a boor in public, so it’s hard to imagine any woman wanting a second round with him once the beer goggles – or whatever goggles – are off.
In Grumpy Fake Boyfriend, he is asked by his best friend to play the fake boyfriend of that friend’s sister Naomi Kwan. It’s the same story – she’s going to a getaway with friends, only her ex is also coming with his new squeeze, and she doesn’t want to feel like the only single loser of the bunch. Also, she has had a crush on Will since she was a teen, and this is as good a chance as any to get him to cozy up with her, even if it’s under false pretenses. When they are alone, and she’s not wearing a bra underneath that shirt… hey, she’s game if he is, and baby, it’s game on.
Now, I am an introvert – a big one. Hence, I’m pleased that author Jackie Lau has succeeded pretty well in creating a pretty realistic extreme introvert in the hero Will Stafford. I’m pleased because hey, the author gets it. However, at the same time, Will’s the annoying kind of introvert – the kind that complains and moans about everything and anything. Even when he’s looking up reviews of his books on Goodreads, he mocks even the good reviews for the imperfect English and the overuse of animated images. I wonder whether it’s wise of a relatively new author to preemptively jab her middle finger at the army of Goodreads people who love to use those animated captioned memes in their reviews, but hey, it’s her war and I’ll let her choose her hill to die on. Those Goodreads people can be vicious, I hope someone has warned her beforehand.
Back to Will, I feel that the author has emphasized a bit too much on the grumpy pole-up-the-arse aspect of Will and not enough of whatever charm that guy may have. I’m still not sure what Naomi sees in him because he doesn’t seem like a pleasant person to be around. It’s not about him being an introvert, often he’s just… whiny. I feel like the author has given Naomi all the cheer and left all the grumpiness to Will. On the other hand, the author manages to sell me that Will’s worth at least two tumbles in bed – she has a way of incorporating naughty talk and naughty antics in a manner that is unexpectedly erotic and funny all at once. Maybe it’s worth keeping him if he’d stay quiet in some closet and only come out with the heroine wants a fun romp.
Naomi is a really fun heroine. I like how the author makes her a realistic modern day woman with an actual love life and friendships, instead of some neurotic ninny completely dependent on the hero because no one else likes her. The author has it right in allowing Naomi to understand and respect Will’s need for space and boundaries, making the happy ending a believable one. No one has to change dramatically for the other person, it’s instead all about understanding one and respecting one another.
At any rate, I find myself enjoying Grumpy Fake Boyfriend considerably, although I admit I personally find the story to drag when it’s just about Will and Naomi. This is because for a long time, there is a repetitive “want, don’t want” dynamic to that relationship, which gets boring fast. He only gets more interesting when he’s boinking Naomi. I’m far more entertained by Naomi’s interactions with other secondary characters, mostly because these scenes just accentuate what a fun and refreshing kind of heroine she is. Also, and I hate to say this, if the author wants to write some smutty story involving Naomi’s loud-in-bed ex and his new girlfriend, I’m buying that story.
Oh, and the author has a nice way with humor.
So, all in all, this one is so much fun. I know, it’s odd for me to say this, considering how uninteresting the hero is to me, but perhaps Jackie Lau is just good at being sneaky.