Review: First Comes Marriage by Shira Anthony

first comesReviewed by Janell

I love fake relationship stories, so I thought I’d test it out in the male/male genre. Jesse is a rich businessman, playboy about town, known in the gossip columns as the most eligible bachelor. Not gay. Chris is a barista and author. Gay. He self-published a sci-fi novel, and he’s trying to get published in New York while he works on another book. Jesse goes to one of Chris’s readings and gets kind of fanboy about him, then suggests that they meet up and maybe Jesse knows someone who knows someone who can get Chris in front of a publisher.

On their second not-a-date, Jesse asks Chris to marry him. Jesse’s grandfather passed away almost a year ago, and in his will he stated that, if Jesse wasn’t married within a year, then the company would pass to his wife, Jesse’s step-grandmother. Jesse believes that step-grandma is an evil shrew who will break apart the company and sell it, so he makes a business deal proposal. He’ll give Chris a million dollars after a year, and Chris can work on his writing.

Why does Jesse want to marry a man? He’s vague about the reasons. He tells Chris that it will be less emotional than marrying the woman he’d been seeing. And they seem to be friends, so why not? The kiss at their quickie wedding is more than businesslike, though.

This is kind of a fairytale. Chris gets whisked away to the mansion by the ocean that’s staffed by a motherly cook and a wise old steward. He gets to redecorate his office and spend his days enjoying the scenery, working out, and clacking away at his computer. Jesse spends most of his time at his apartment in the city because he’s avoiding the hotness of Chris.

So, if these guys were straight friends, I don’t think they could pull it off. They take picnics to the ocean, and play frisbee in the surf. They hold a lavish wedding party and dance together. They go sailing. I mean, even the most hetero of men would probably get a little experimental under the circumstances. Chris keeps thinking that Jesse is flirting with him. Jesse says he kind of is, and then claims to be gay (“I was gay all along!”), but promises not to make any moves since that would violate their business arrangement.

You can guess how things play out. And it’s fun! Their biggest worry is fooling step-grandma, who lives in the giant mansion with them, but since Jesse is in the city so much, and they have separate bedrooms anyway (like the rich people of yore), it’s not hard. Basically, they spend their time together frolicking and enjoying each other. This is not a book of angst and drama. Sure, there is a black moment at the end, but there’s also a miraculous letter from a dead man to make it all better.

It’s kind of nice that a m/m romance can have the m/m be such a non-issue. Like, Jesse announces to the world that it was love at first sight with Chris, and the only person who blinks is a socialite mama who had an eye on Jesse’s fortune. No one cares. Hurray for the modern world! I didn’t get enough character development to really get invested, and their lives were so charmed that I wasn’t worried about their future. But it was a fun story.

Rating: B-

*ARC provided by publisher

Click to purchase: Amazon

First Comes Marriage
by Shira Anthony
Release Date: January 15, 2016
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

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