Secret Admirer – D.J. Jamison
You deserve all the kisses you want …
I want you to know how amazing you are. You won’t believe me, because I’m just your brother’s best friend, but it’s true. Each day my feelings for you grow, confusing but undeniable.
With a few anonymous love tokens, I finally have an outlet for all the things I can’t say. And with each gift and note, you smile. For me. Not your brother’s straight friend, but something new. Something more. Something that will change everything if we can both find the courage to believe.
All I have to do is confess who I really am:
Your Secret Admirer
Secret Admirer is a super cute, feel-good offering from D.J. Jamison. She’s one of the more enjoyable MM romance authors out there. I said this about her before, she can make me read and like pure contemporary romance, a genre I typically struggle with.
This is an opposites attract, nerd + frat boy, brother’s bestfriend romance. It’s not really breaking new grounds but it makes up for it by all the adorkable moments.
First off, I really liked that the identity of the secret admirer was known to the reader right off the bat. I don’t have to drive myself crazy trying to figure it out. This is dual POV.
Benji is out and proud. He’s been secretly crushing on Ace, the best friend of his older brother, Jeremy, since forever. He knows it’s hopeless because the guy is straight. Ace has always been kind to him. Now that he is in college, Ace looks out for him on behalf of Jeremy. Ace treats him like a lil’ brother. Or so Benji thought.
Normally, I’m all over the shy, nerdy types and I was so ready to love Benji. But as the story progressed, his insecurities got the better of him. He gradually lost his charm.
Ace was the better guy here for being genuinely nice, caring, sweet and selfless. He had to reflect on his attraction to Benji a bit, especially in relation to his bi-curiosity and his best friend who might not think too highly about Ace hooking up with his baby brother. Eventually, he became honest with himself and took a chance to see where his feelings would lead.
There is the spectre of Jeremy hanging over most of the story with the guys holding off from telling him. He made his grand entrance, surprising both Ace and Benji. Then it tapered off to a blessedly drama-free but yeah, also anti-climatic, ending.
Secret Admirer falls somewhere between like and love. While there were many scenes that gave me warm fuzzies, these were mostly because of Ace’s efforts. The Benji issue could be a ME thing because many other GR reviewers were okay with him. I could still say the romance developed nicely despite Benji not appealing to me as a character. The story is low-angst and humorous, ideal for days when you’re in the mood for light, fluffy college boys shenanigans.
Posts on D.J. Jamison’s works here.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
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Marital Bliss is a contemporary romance series by D.J. Jamison centering around a group of friends and how they found their other halfs. It started with the squee-tastic Surprise Groom, a fake boyfriends story full of authentic feels and delicious USTs up the wazoo. This was set in Bliss Island, a wedding resort venue owned by Caleb and his husband Julien.
The next two stories take us to the Triple J Ranch owned by Wyatt Jones who inherited it from his grandfather. The ranch is struggling and Wyatt is doing his best to keep it afloat by turning part of it into a wedding venue.
Marital Bliss: Wrangling A Groom – D.J. Jamison
Can two men keep a childhood promise for marital bliss?
Wyatt is overwhelmed after his grandfather dies, leaving him to take over the cattle ranch. The Triple J is floundering, vandals are targeting him, and his first and only love is finally within reach–and still holding a grudge. Wyatt has wanted to marry Diego since they made a childhood pact, but Diego isn’t back for their second chance.
When a funeral calls Diego back to Texas, he comes face-to-face with the cowboy who broke his heart. Resentment has burned inside him for years, but his anger wavers as he realizes just how much Wyatt is struggling to keep his head above water. The man he once loved is lonely and burdened, and Diego feels compelled to help him rediscover the strong, capable rancher he knows him to be.
Hostility gives way to passion, then friendship as they fall into a rhythm of work and sex. Wyatt has renewed hope he might wrangle the man he wants to be his groom. But Diego has a life waiting for him one thousand miles away, and love may not be enough to prevent history from repeating itself.
Wrangling a Groom is Book 2 of the Marital Bliss series, but can be read as a standalone.
Wrangling a Groom starts with the death of Wyatt’s grandfather. Wyatt’s childhood friend and son of his ranch foreman, Diego arrived for the funeral. The two had a pretty tumultuous history.
At the age of 6, they made a pact to marry each other when they turned 25. Wyatt and Diego were very close and even became boyfriends. They were unfortunately caught kissing by Wyatt’s grandpa who didn’t approve of homosexuals.
Wyatt was made to choose between the ranch and Diego. He chose his heritage and Diego promptly took off without saying goodbye. He ended up in Miami as a bartender.
After 6 years of radio silence, the sparks between the two men were still there. But Diego was still angry and Wyatt was still sorry.
A bulk of the story focused on the men working to get the ranch going as well as Wyatt’s determined efforts to renovate some buildings for the wedding venue. These parts were slow for me. I wasn’t particularly interested in ranch chores so I actually put the book on hold for a while.
But then I’m glad I decided to go at it once in a while because the story did pick up the pace a after bit. What eventually won me over was Wyatt’s endearing earnestness and willingness to put his whole heart on the line. I loved how he never held anything back.
On Diego’s first day at the ranch, he reminded him of their pact. He was eager to fulfill his promise. Diego outright said no. Then he offered his heart on a platter again despite Diego rejecting him once again. Diego was clearly still not over his anger.
But spending time together in the ranch as Diego helped out because of the lack of manpower did plenty to bridge the gap between them. They rediscovered their friendship and some good memories. They even made new ones. It was easy to see what the two men could have been had they never separated.
As far as friends-to-lovers went, this went on a circuitous route. It may take patience but the journey was worth taking. Once you get past the middle part, the charm of the story becomes more apparent.
I liked how everything connected back to Bliss Island. Wyatt met Diego’s friends, Caleb and Julien. They helped him with his new business venture. And then they helped Diego and him in their other new venture as Diego finally realized where he belonged all along.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
Marital Bliss: Nobody’s Groom – D.J. Jamison
Can two enemies find love after a rocky start?
TJ hoped the Triple J Ranch would be a fresh start under a new name, with his tarnished family reputation behind him. He didn’t count on the young, spirited Colby provoking him at every turn. But when tempers boil over, TJ discovers that Colby’s disgust with him is more like lust, and that he’d do just about anything to tangle with the confused kitten.
Colby likes everyone, but something about the new, unfriendly cowboy on the crew gets under his skin. He doesn’t understand just how worked up TJ has him until his body reacts, shocking them both. Colby’s never been with a man, but he can’t fight the desire TJ’s rough hands have awakened in him.
It’s just physical, an opportunity to indulge Colby’s secret desires. But the young ranch hand’s innocence softens something inside TJ, and he can’t deny he wants more. He’s nobody’s groom, but could he be Colby’s love — or will his lies come between them?
Nobody’s Groom is a Marital Bliss novella. It can stand alone, but is best read after Wrangling a Groom due to overlapping events that may contain spoilers.
I was excited for this series’ take on the enemies-to-lovers trope. TJ and Colby were introduced as the ranch hands at the Triple J.
For some reason, TJ rubbed the normally affable Colby the wrong way. Colby blamed TJ when something goes wrong in the ranch. TJ being the new guy, he was the easy target.
The two were also opposites. TJ was big, gruff and silent while Colby was slender and talkative. TJ was out but quietly gay while Colby was straight but curious. It didn’t take long for things to ignite between the two because Colby was drawn to TJ like moth to a flame.
This story has good bones in it. There were some family drama in the mix but whatever plot it had was overwhelmed by too much sex scenes. Meh.
This novella’s timeline takes place alongside Wyatt and Diego’s. Many events were referenced so this is not a standalone.
2.5 Stars – far from hate but not quite a like
A lot of contemporary romance fall flat for me but despite some complaints, Marital Bliss was able to draw me in and keep me engaged. It helps that that it is full of characters you can root for, well-loved tropes that feel fresh, writing that’s easy to go through, some angst, some drama, some laughs and definitely a lot of heart.
I’m looking forward to the next groom!
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More unfinished books when I was in a bit of a reading slump last month. At least it’s not as bad as the 3-year one I had back in 2013. It wasn’t until I discovered Captive Prince that I got my mojo back in 2016.
Below are the books currently up in the air and/or not doing it for me.
Steel, one of the last Dire Wolves on earth, has searched more than 100 years for the special mate promised by the Fates. Discouraged after meeting his latest prospect, he sees a naked hitchhiker on his way home who’s everything he’d envisioned the man of his dreams would be. His wolf and body tell him he’s found his fated mate but why can’t he pick up his scent?
I love shifter romances but I balk at certain genre tropes that some people love. Fated mates could be a hit or miss. It comes down to a well-done execution. Omegas and MPREG? Not really my thing. Which sadly is what happened here. The hardcore fans would love this though so if wolf dads are your thing, I’d say go for this.
My fault for not reading blurbs carefully.
A kidnapping, slave auction, revelations of long-kept family secrets and a rare, powerful gift from the gods are some of the surprises in store for both of them until they finally find their way into each other’s hearts after discovering neither is who the other thought he was.
Okay so this is me hoping things would click this time. Thing is, I kind of liked the whole premise of the series. I want to see the brothers find their mates. Normally, I like multiple POVs but this was all over the place. The cheesy bits was too much for my liking. I held on for as long as I could but gave up eventually.
Can two men keep a childhood promise for marital bliss?
I have yet to wrangle feels for this book because sadly, it’s is not clicking with me the way Surprise Groom did. I couldn’t really pinpoint what was wrong. Could be the characters weren’t as interesting as book 1 or working at the ranch scenarios didn’t make for riveting reads Which is unfortunate because the chemistry is there. Another try then.
They have nothing in common—so why does Ryan feel most like himself whenever he’s with Fabian?
I really feel bad for having a hard time finishing this because poor cinnamon roll, Ryan Price, needs our love. It’s one of those books with all the right ingredients but yet somehow still come up short for some vague, unexplainable reason. Which is why I think this is purely a ME problem. I’m not abandoning Ryan and Fabian, no no no.
Detective Lane West doesn’t do Complicated. Especially when it comes to his personal life.
Dr. Aiden Sharp is Complicated. Complicated in ways that Lane can barely get his mind around when he’s forced to babysit Aiden as a favor for the District Attorney.
After that, things get very Complicated.
I’ve been wanting to get my hands on this series for a long time now. Now that it’s here, my slump hit. I’m liking the few chapters I’ve read so far and how Aidan is blowing Lane’s mind the first couple of days they’re together. This promises to be a good series opener so I’m holding on.
What’s the worst slump have you been in? How did you break the curse? Here’s hoping you’re having a better luck this weekend!
Marital Bliss: Surprise Groom – D.J. Jamison
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.
Despite being into the MM genre, I rarely reads books that revolve solely around romance . Contemporary romance tend to be a miss for me because I usually feel like there’s nothing going on.
Surprise Groom by D.J. Jamison was one of the few that piqued my interest. I haven’t really read any MM fake husband stories yet. This seemed like a good place to start. It’s the first book of Marital Bliss, a series exploring different marriage tropes. This is also my first Jamison book and certainly not my last. Lots to love here!
The story features the marriage of convenience/fake husband set-up of Caleb Taylor and Julien Chastain, childhood bestfriends who fell apart after Julien was thrown out of the house at 15 for being gay. Caleb is a wedding planner and owns an island resort with his mom. His late father owed money to Louis Chastain, Julien’s father, who wrote a contract stating that the debt will be paid if a Taylor child marries a Chastain child. This part boggled me slightly because why would Louis make such an arrangement. What would he gain? It was even mentioned that the island didn’t worth much to him.
Whatever the reasons, Caleb, who is straight, cannot marry Sofia Chastain in good conscience. She was like a sister to him. So finding a loophole, he tracked down Julien, found him working as a go-go dancer, and asked him to marry him. After giving it a serious thought, Julien agreed. Two men then had to deal with public scrutiny, sabotage and their own growing feelings.
First, I loved both MCs! Caleb is perfect. The kind of perfect perfect that is not annoying or unrealistic. He’s a born planner and a workaholic with infinite patient and understanding. As in he never jumps to conclusions but instead gave Julien the benefit of the doubt, especially at the latter part where the evil dad tried to gain the upper hand over them. The bastard maneuvered to stop the wedding and cause his son to disappear once again.
Caleb was smart enough to know what Julien might or might not do and what his dad is capable of. After putting things in perspective with the help of his mom, Julien’s sister and his mom, he trusted his childhood friend/fiance completely.
Julien is great too. He’s prickly and slow to trust. Also talented, artistic, tough and protective. He’s been through a lot. After moving to Miami, he was basically living paycheck to paycheck. His days as a dancer were numbered, 27 is old in go-go years. Caleb’s offer couldn’t come at a better time. He has always been attracted to his childhood friend and seeing how gorgeous his friend turned out to be only made the proposal more enticing.
The slow-burn build-up was delicious! Their chemistry was palpable from the start. The two men tried to resist their rekindled attractions. Julien, because he knew Caleb is straight. Caleb, trying to wrap his head around the fact that he is attracted to a man. I loved how their inner conflicts were depicted. I love the way the lines kept blurring.
I also appreciated how the author handled the part of Caleb coming to terms that he is bi. It was done with with care and without making too much fuss about it. Especially in the light of a past traumatic event that left Caleb with the wrong impression of his sexuality. Julien was awesome here. He gently guided Caleb through his awakening and made sure he respected his boundaries.
This being romance, I kept expecting the Big Fight. I was pleasantly surprised by it’s absence. My favorite part was that the MCs don’t fight at all, ever. They were big on communication, taking time to actually listen and talk things though. It’s a simple thing, one many authors tend to by-pass in favor of conflict and drama. So it’s always refreshing when it happens.
The story had good pacing in general but the ending felt kind of rushed. I would love an epilogue but I guess Caleb and Julien will be making appearances on the next book so that would be that. I want Julien’s go-go friends and Rory, Caleb’s friend to have their own books, too.
Overall, Surprise Groom is a fun story and a delightful take on a standard trope. It’s an extremely well-done romance set in a beautiful island with MCs you can’t help but root for. Good job, D.J. Jamison! You might completely convert me to contemporary romance just yet.
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away