Carson loves Sweet Darlin', the candy company he inherited from his biological father. He and his father were never all that close, but Carson still wants Sweet Darlin' to succeed. In order for that to happen, he needs a loan ASAP. Gregory Shaw is willing to give him one...if Carson marries Kendra, Shaw's flighty sorority girl daughter. Meanwhile, if Kendra doesn't marry Carson, she won't get her trust fund.
Carson knows that he and Kendra would make an unhappy couple, so, two weeks before the wedding, he lies and tells Shaw that he can't marry her because he's in love with someone else. Shaw decides to call Carson's bluff - he says he'll still give Carson the loan, if he still gets married in two weeks to this other woman he supposedly loves. Carson calls up Ella, an actress he'd met at a party six months ago - at the time, she was dating a friend of his, but she's single now. He asks her to be his pretend fiancee and leave him at the altar. She agrees because her acting jobs have been few and far between and she needs the money. Unfortunately, the two of them have instant chemistry, and their fake relationship turns real, fast.
At Book Bonanza 2019, attendees got a bag with two free books in it. One of them was a random book from the "Misadventures" series, which seems to be a sort of sampler series of unrelated short works by different authors. I think my mom might have gotten M.F. Wild and Mia Michelle's Misadventures of a Valedictorian.
At any rate, after a bad day at work, I needed something fluffy, and this seemed like it might fit the bill. I read the description on the back and the "pretend relationship" aspect was appealing. I didn't bother to look up the author or reviews on Goodreads. If I had, I might have saved this book for another time, because I wasn't expecting erotic romance in which the couple couldn't keep their hands off each other during dinner, the second time they'd ever seen each other, and were having sex within hours of laying out the "occasional public kissing, no sex" ground rules of their pretend relationship.
Readers were supposed to believe that Ella was an actress who was serious about her work and acting future, and that Carson was a dedicated new CEO who'd basically become a workaholic. When it came to what they actually did on-page, though, what I got was that they were both completely driven by their hormones. A large chunk of the beginning of this book was the two of them having sex. The first person POV made most of the sex scenes more stilted and weird than sexy, and the food sex scene, in which Carson ruined a perfectly good bread pudding by dumping it onto Ella's breasts, was downright gross. Other people's mileage may vary, but that was a "no" for me.
After a couple days of screwing each other's brains out, Carson and Ella finally remembered that they'd actually gotten together for a reason that wasn't purely sex. I had to laugh when they learned that Kendra had fallen for an ROTC guy and were doubtful that she could know that she was really in love with someone after only knowing them for two days. Ella had enough self-awareness to realize that this applied to her and Carson as well, but supposedly "we're different" (102). Sure, uh huh.
The more I thought about the plot, the less it made sense. If Shaw had really wanted to call Carson's bluff, he could have told him "Fine, if you aren't marrying my daughter, then no loan for you." Carson either had to get that loan or watch Sweet Darlin' crumble - he had more to lose than Shaw did. Carson and Shaw would sometimes act like they needed each other, and sometimes like they didn't. And there were a couple developments that just came out of nowhere. On the one hand, Shaw was supposed to be this coldly manipulative businessman who was willing to use his own daughter in his machinations. On the other hand, he was also supposed to be a caring father who just wanted what was best for his daughter. And as for Kendra...
Honestly, Ella's acting skills were nonexistent compared to Kendra's.
Everything came together too easily in the end, and I found it difficult to believe that Ella and Carson would last long. They'd spent most of their time together having sex, and staying together meant that Ella had to give up her acting career while Carson got everything he wanted (I'm sorry, but the attempt to make it look like he was sacrificing too was weak at best). Also, it bugged me that one of the first things Carson did when Ella arrived was try to dictate what Ella ate. On the advice of her agent, she'd been trying to lose weight, and while I agreed with Carson that she was probably fine as she was, they'd literally just met and at that point he hadn't even known for sure that's why she was ordering a salad. Trying to bully her into ordering a steak just made him look like a jerk.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)