The Wedding Date Bargain
Mira Lyn Kelly writes sweet and sexy romances featuring real people living their lives and looking for love. The Best Men series – now re-titled as the Wedding Date series – is a planned set of four standalone books with best friends Jase, Max, Sean and Brody as their heroes. Jase got his happy ever after with Emily in May the Best Man Win (one of my favorite reads of 2016) and this time around it’s Max’s turn in The Wedding Date Bargain. While this latest story doesn’t quite live up to the first one, it’s still a very enjoyable and sexy romance and a solid addition to the series.
Max Brandt and Sarah Cole once shared a close friendship at college in Chicago. Meeting Max one night in the library as part of the campus Safewalk program, they’d hit it off and found good reasons to spend time together. But their friendship never progressed beyond wishful thinking for something more. Sarah was clear that she was looking for love and long term commitment and Max was equally steadfast in looking for no commitment at all. One night, one rejected advance (when Max turned Sarah down) was all it took to break apart the status quo and leave their friendship in the dust.
Several years later, both have moved on and have only bittersweet memories of their past friendship. Max is a cop and has maintained close ties with his college friends who in turn have become buddies with his co-workers. At his partner CJ’s bachelor party, a bar night out turns up an unexpected surprise – Sarah is back in Chicago, on a two month work stop before heading for her final job destination in New York. Even more surprising is that she’s working for his friend Sean at Wyse hotels, and shows up at CJ’s wedding a week later as Sean’s plus one.
Max can’t believe Sarah is back in his orbit again, or that she’s working for his long-time friend. Rekindling their friendship comes naturally, but it also brings back all those unrequited feelings. Sarah confesses to Max that she never did find the right guy to be that special someone, and she’s still a virgin. This time when she asks for help to ‘get the deed done’, he can’t say no. They are older and wiser, and besides, she’s only going to be in town for two months. If they are both on the same page, they can have a sexy fling with an end date and put their friendship back to rights. But once they’ve reconnected, and added sex into the mix, will they really be able to say goodbye to each other for a second time?
Max wins the award for being the most committed ‘anti-commitment’ hero I’ve ever read! He is determined to stick to his guns, even when he can tell that his feelings for Sarah are changing, both in the past at college, and again now in the present. He has strong reasons for his opinions about marriage, stemming from the poor example he got from his parents and the damage they caused him emotionally as a child. He’s close to his younger sister, Molly, but one night stands are more his style after his last attempt at a relationship fell apart. His stubborn belief that Sarah can do better than him is frustrating for her (and somewhat for the reader as well!) and almost costs him the chance at his happy ending.
Sarah is a bright, caring young woman who has become a workaholic as a way to deal with her lack of a personal life. The job she’s heading for in New York is a dream come true for her, and the stop in Chicago is meant to be a vacation of sorts, even while she fills in at the hotel there. It’s also a chance to visit with her best friend, Piper – who can’t believe that ‘Safewalk Stud’ is back in the picture! Her virginity feels a bit like a millstone around her neck and despite being rejected by Max the first time, she can promise him that this time there are no strings attached. She’s not looking for love any more, and has no expectations other than having a good time. Max’s agreement to help her deal with her ‘problem’ comes with conditions – three dates first to ‘warm her up’, followed by a fourth to do the deed. The sexual chemistry between them is unmistakable and Sarah is definitely ready by the time they get to date four. For a modern ‘deflowering’ scene, this is probably one of the best I’ve read, and in no time at all they are happily sexing things up on a regular basis, all the while the clock is counting down to her start date in NYC. Emotions run high on both sides as they try not to show each other what they’re really feeling and ruin it all, but it comes at a cost.
The beginning of the story is a bit confusing, as there are a lot of characters introduced in a short time. Max’s circle of friends is pretty big, plus his sister Molly is an important part of his life. Since Sarah work’s for Max’s friend Sean and is spending time with Max on a regular basis, they become her friends too. There are accounts of several social functions that are fun to read with lots of laughs and teasing, the kinds of scenes that are heartwarming and show the depth of friendship between the characters. For me, those kinds of relationships are equally as important as the one between the main characters and are a big reason why I read series romances. The ones here are particularly good.
The title of this novel doesn’t really reflect the plot, but that aside, I like how the story progresses, the glimpses we see of Max and Sarah in the past and how they get to their happy ending (Max’s stubbornness notwithstanding). The Wedding Date Bargain is a fun and sexy friends-to-lovers romance and I’m looking forward to the next in the series.