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