I’m not a big follower of The Bachelor or any other reality dating shows. While I’ve seen the occasional episode, I don’t have the patience to follow week after week of fabricated drama. But I will admit, the premise sometimes intrigues me… so I jumped at the chance to read Runaway Groom, a book set around a reality dating show. This is book two in the I Do, I Don’t series, but you don’t need to read the first novel to enjoy this one.
Like The Bachelor, Jilted is a show where one man is surrounded by a bunch of beautiful women in a tropical paradise. The twist here is that the bachelor (our hero) has been engaged (multiple times) in the past and has never yet made it to the altar. He now has weeks to choose a bride, and hopefully make it down the aisle in the season finale. Gage Barrett, a well-known movie star, is the begrudging bachelor in question for the premiere season of Jilted.
Much like Gage, Ellie Wright isn’t too thrilled to be on the show, although where Gage was forced into it by a lost bet, Ellie chose to audition in hopes of promoting her luxury T-shirt company. (To be honest, I found myself wishing for a shirt like Ellie’s after reading this, so she definitely succeeded!) This is what sets her apart from the competition upon their first meeting – unlike most of the contestants, Ellie is dressed casually when she meets Gage, and isn’t salivating over the thought of landing a movie star. They also have off-the-charts chemistry, which doesn’t go unnoticed by anyone.
That chemistry is what marks Ellie as an enemy to most of the other contestants, in spite of Ellie’s laid-back attitude. While she makes some friends, there are also a number of manipulative women in the bunch, and Ellie quickly resolves to get herself booted off the show. She’s soon meeting with Gage in secret to beg him to kick her off… and to explore that chemistry a little.
The biggest struggle this book faces is the question of how to develop true feelings amidst such a fake environment. The instant attraction between Ellie and Gage, as well as their secret meetings, does a lot to resolve the issue, but it still feels like a whirlwind romance. Like any pair of teenagers falling in love over a summer, Ellie and Gage ultimately must return to real life and decide how a possible relationship could fit into that. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say Ms. Layne does a good job of addressing this problem in a realistic and satisfying way.
To me, Runaway Groom seemed like a best-case scenario Bachelor–style romance, where the couple really did get to know each other in spite of the awkward conditions. Of course, all of the best moments happen off-camera, further convincing me that I should stick to romance novels rather than reality TV. We get to know the practical and funny person that Ellie is, and see the bits of vulnerability Gage hides behind his public persona. While it might get annoying to have friends this perfect in real life, they were a delight in a novel, and I rooted for them wholeheartedly.
In sum, if you’re a fan of Lauren Layne, The Bachelor, or witty contemporary novels, this book is for you. It’s the perfect beach read – or snow day read, if you’re stuck in cold weather like me!