Marc reviews First Comes Marriage (Dreamspun Desires 2) by Shira Anthony. This story was published by Dreamspinner Press on January 15th, 2016 and is 262 pages long.
This week is Comfort Zone Week at RGR and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to read this category romance story. I love Shira Anthony’s writing and read this story in one day, without putting the book down. Likable characters, sweet romance, low angst, hot sex. That’s my comfort zone 🙂
Their marriage was supposed to be all business….
When struggling novelist Chris Valentine meets Jesse Donovan, he’s interested in a book contract, or possibly a date. The last thing Chris expects is a marriage proposal from New York City’s most eligible bachelor!
Jesse’s in a pinch. To keep control of his company, he has to marry. So he has valid reasons for offering Chris this business deal: in exchange for living in a gorgeous mansion for a year, playing the doting husband, Chris gets all the writing time he wants and walks away with a million-dollar payoff. Surely Chris can handle that. He can handle living with the most handsome and endearing man he’s ever met, a man he immediately knows he wants in the worst way and can’t have. Or can he?
This book is part of Dreamspinner Press’ new Dreamspun Desires line of contemporary category romance books. You can subscribe to Dreamspun Desires and get 2 eBooks each month for $6.99 or two paperbacks each month for $12.99. SUBSCRIBE HERE.
The Millionaire Upstairs by M.J. O’Shea
First Comes Marriage by Shira Anthony
The Stolen Suitor by Eli Easton
The Lone Rancher by Andrew Grey
Taylor Maid by Tara Lain
Trial by Fire by B.A. Tortuga
Forgive and Forget by Charlie Cochet
Unstable Stud by Ariel Tachna
Duke in Hiding by M.J. O’Shea
The Cattle Baron’s Bogus Boyfriend by Nicki Bennett
This was the first Dreamspun Desires book I read and I was not sure if it would work for me. I don’t want my books to be too polished, too perfect and too unrealistic. I don’t mind a nice romantic fantasy about hot guys finding love, but I still must be able to connect with the characters and be interested in their relationship.
I’m really glad that I never had a problem to connect with this story. I had high hopes, given how much I have loved other books by Shira Anthony and I’m happy that I had the chance to meet Jesse and Chris and got to ‘watch’ them find their HEA. I loved their story and for me it was the perfect choice for Comfort Zone Week.
Jesse is not at all what I expected. I thought he might be an over-confident business guy or spoiled rich kid, accustomed to getting everything he ever wanted. And while he grew up with certain priviledges that come from money, I soon realized that he worked hard to make the company flourish and treated his staff like friends and family. He respects the people he works with and the people who work for him and that goes a long way. He is a pragmatic guy and while I firmly believe marriage should be something special, his proposal did not feel ‘wrong’. He did not use Chris and he respected him and gave him an incredible opportunity.
Readers never really get to see Jesse’s business side, the focus of the book is the relationship. Even as the order is different here and marriage comes first, before they find love and ultimately their HEA, the romance is the major focus of the book.
When Chris meets Jesse at one of his book readings, Jesse is a bit shy and charming. It soon becomes obvious that he is a closeted geek and the two guys are comfortable with each other, share similar interests and just seem to have an easy friendship between them.
Chris is a talented writer and I found him to be very likable from the start. He has nice friends who let him room with them and has a loyal fan base. He is able to support himself with a barrista job and his writing, but has not a lot of money to spare and is hoping for a break.
I liked that he was not in a desperate situation that would have forced him to agree with the ‘business deal’ marriage out of necessity. He could have continued the way he lived before and probably would have gotten his break at some point, but earning a million dollars by getting married to a nice guy, a friend, and having the time to write without distractions was a very tempting offer, however unusual the proposal might have been.
The thing I loved most about the book is the difficult relationship Jesse has to his Stepmother and how bringing Chris home forces him to deal with Wanda. She is a very interesting character. Smart, somewhat hard to analyze, but very intriguing.
There are several obstacles like secrets and lies in Jesse and Chris’ way, but they are both likable and in the end manage to overcome all hurdles and find unexpected happiness in their marriage, even though it started as sham. While it’s not always smooth sailing for the guys, the angst level is low and the romance is as sweet as the sex is hot.
I had a lot of fun with the book and characters and I will have to check out other Dreamspun Desires books, whenever I need another comfort read.
8.5/10 Pots of Gold (85% Recommended) – Compares to 4.25/5 Stars
Excerpt from Chapter Six:
Now, standing in the conference room of Windview Enterprises’ corporate headquarters near South Ferry in Manhattan, one of the matching platinum bands Jesse had bought for them in his pants pocket, Chris wondered if he’d wake up from the dream. The floor-to-ceiling windows looked out over Wall Street and the East River through the forest of high-rise buildings.
“Do you, Jesse Chase Donovan, take Christopher James Valentine to be your husband, in love and in friendship, until you are parted by death?” the judge asked.
“I do.” As Jesse slipped the ring on Chris’s finger, he met Chris’s gaze with such intensity that for an instant, Chris could almost forget the entire ceremony was a ruse to ensure the future of Windview remained firmly in Jesse’s control. Damn the man for being so attractive. Damn him for being a nice guy, because that was the worst part of it. And the part that had you agreeing.
“And do you, Christopher James Valentine, take Jesse Chase Donovan to be your husband, in love and in friendship, until you are parted by death?”
Chris swallowed hard and prayed he didn’t look as incredibly nervous as he felt. “I do.” His hand shook as he took Jesse’s hand and put the ring on his finger.
“Congratulations, Chris and Jesse,” the judge said.
Chris caught Val’s eye for a split second, and he half expected her to urge him to kiss Jesse. But it was Jesse who took charge and blindsided Chris with a kiss.
It started sweetly enough, just Jesse’s lips against his, but instead of releasing Chris, Jesse pulled him tighter against him and pressed his tongue into his mouth. Jesse tasted fucking amazing. Chris didn’t hesitate—their tongues tangled and danced. This close, Jesse smelled good and felt even better. Chris was barely aware of slipping his hands around Jesse’s back before resting them on lean hips. He didn’t think twice as his body and Jesse’s responded in kind.
Someone giggled—Chris recognized Val’s voice—and Jesse pulled abruptly away. Their eyes met for a split second, and Chris thought he saw a mixture of desire and surprise in Jesse’s deep blue eyes. The next thing Chris knew, Val had thrown her arms around him and only his racing heart and tingling lips told him he hadn’t imagined the entire thing.
“Oh, Chris,” Val cooed. “You really did it!”
“Yeah” was the only response Chris could manage. He was still thinking about Jesse’s mouth.
“I guess I was wrong about him being straight,” she whispered mischievously.
Chris was thrilled when Terry grabbed him in a bear hug, because he had no idea how to respond to Val’s comment. He also wasn’t sure if he should be pissed off with Jesse for the show. He supposed if this was going to work, Jesse needed to make the marriage look real. Still, how difficult would it have been to warn Chris that he had that up his sleeve?
Shira Anthony is a complete sucker for a happily-ever-after, and rarely reads or writes a story without one. Never a fan of instalove, Shira likes to write stories about real men with real issues making real relationships work.
In her last incarnation, Shira was a professional opera singer, performing roles in such operas as “Tosca,” “Pagliacci,” and “La Traviata,” among others. Her Blue Notes Series is loosely based upon her own experiences as a professional musician.
Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs and when she’s not writing, she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard a 36’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.
Interested in hearing Shira sing? Here’s a link to a live performance of Shira singing an aria from Puccini’s “Tosca”:
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Where you can find Shira
Twitter: Follow @WriterShira