Pretending He's Mine
Acting on Impulse by Mia Sosa was one of my favorite reads in 2017, so it was pretty much guaranteed that I’d want to pick up the next book in the Love on Cue series. The characters in Pretending He’s Mine were introduced in that first book and there was already a hint of a little ‘something-something’ in the air between them to entice the reader to want to know more. With a classic best friend’s sibling trope combined with a current look at Hollywood and its biases, this sexy romance delivers a thoroughly entertaining read.
Julian Hart didn’t plan to become an agent for Hollywood actors, but when his best friend Carter found out he was being bilked by his current management, he reached out to Julian for help and that started them both on a new path. Still best friends, Julian is now just as likely to spend time with Carter on business as on fun. For years Julian has been a little bit in lust with Carter’s sister Ashley. He definitely can’t afford to screw up their friendship or business relationship by going after Ashley, so he’s kept her in the friend zone. Yet when she becomes his temporary roommate, it becomes harder and harder to resist seeing where things could really lead.
If mutual lust is a thing (and it is), then Ashley is just as smitten with Julian. She, too, knows the risks to Julian’s friendship with Carter, but she’s a little less hung up on them. Needing a place to stay, she ends up with Julian and hopes she can entice him to let down his guard. Solo pleasure sessions are a poor substitute for the real thing, though she does manage to get Julian to let loose a little on his side of the wall. When Ashley needs a date for Carter’s wedding back home, Julian becomes the man of the hour. Faking a relationship is no hardship, and an excuse for both of them to finally put their hands on each other. But will they be able to go back to being just friends?
I happen to love this trope with the caveat that the person in the middle (the sibling/best friend) doesn’t go overboard in warning their friend/sibling off. Carter may make the occasional remark about trusting Julian with his sister (and implying that of course nothing would be going on between them even though Ashley is living with him) but it’s mild, and I appreciated that. In these kinds of situations, I get tired of the idea that the female doesn’t have her own agency in the relationship and it’s good to see that it doesn’t become a major issue here. Ashley certainly doesn’t feel any guilt over her attraction to Julian and tries in several ways to entice him to notice her – and is eventually successful. The heat factor in this romance is higher than the previous one or at least it seems that way, with ‘self-love’ scenes and eventually some steamy sex between the leads.
The crux of the matter is Julian’s business relationship with Carter. The firm he works for relies on the business they get in part due to having a big name client like Carter signed on. A secret fling with Ashley weighs on Julian’s conscience, and he can’t afford too many missteps at work. And on Ashley’s side, there is a significant concern that Julian will always choose business with Carter over a relationship with her. This knot in the middle is the key conflict that takes several attempts before it gets unraveled to the liking of Julian and Ashley to get them to a happy ending that satisfies them, and the reader.
From a character perspective, there are two interesting dynamics that play out. Ashley has always been in the shadow of her older, famous brother. She has musical talents that no-one knows about because she worried about being compared with him. She has a decent job as a flight attendant, but it’s not the career she really wants. In her home town, she’d always been picked on and sometimes bullied for being Carter’s sister, so her memories of home – and some extended family members who were particularly mean – aren’t that great. It’s why she wants Julian there as a buffer for Carter’s wedding (plus it will avoid the inevitable questions about her still being single). Over the course of the story Julian is able to pull her out of her shell, convince her to give her music a real opportunity to be heard, and help her see her home situation in a different light.
Julian is one of the few black agents in his circle (certainly at his firm) and he acutely feels the responsibility of that. In a climate where inclusiveness is finally being paid the attention it’s been lacking, he’s been outspoken in a few circumstances that have brought him to the attention of his boss who would rather he not make a fuss. Julian is in a unique position to help aspiring actors get the jobs they deserve and he knows it. He’s tired of actors and actresses of color getting put into stereotypical roles and he wants to make a difference. He also knows that if he’s too outspoken, it could reflect badly on his agency, and therefore on Carter. Ashley pushes him to look at whether he’s really happy in the job he has, and whether he has the courage to break out of those restraints. How he struggles with his conscience and his responsibilities is a key part of the story and leads to some interesting twists and turns that affect everyone in his circle. I like how the author uses this particular industry to make some salient points about the disparity of roles and pay for non-white actors.
There’s a lot to enjoy in this romance. It’s a passionate and sexy story between two longtime friends who make the leap to lovers. It’s a story about how your own dreams can get waylaid and need a helping hand to be realized. And it’s a story about friendship and family. Pretending He’s Mine is a successful and entertaining follow up to Acting on Impulse, and I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye out for the next in the series!