Future Fake Husband (Book 1)
This book is chock-full of fun romance tropes, including fake relationship, a relationship for external reasons, and of course, “there’s only one bed!” Despite these multiple familiar scenarios, the book managed to include plenty of unique elements that I enjoyed. Both Cole and Rhett are solid characters dedicated to their work but still want that tiny bit more, and faking an engagement works for both of them. Cue the requisite family wedding to attend and the familiar moments when the fake relationship becomes more and more natural.
The authors manipulate the expected dark moment into much more of a surprise than I expected, which I certainly appreciated amid the novel’s multiple tropes. I don’t want to talk about the ending too much to avoid spoilers but suffice to say, it was lovely and heartwarming in all the best ways a romance novel is supposed to be.
The secondary characters also do much to bring this novel to life, especially in the form of Cole’s best friend (who happens to be Rhett’s twin brother) and Cole’s not-so-cliché rich-girl little sister. The destination wedding Cole and Rhett attend after concocting their scheme takes place in Tahiti, which gave me lovely flashbacks to a similar resort stay I experienced for a cousin’s wedding in the Caribbean. Hawthorne and Denning could have done a bit better in bringing the vineyard to life in the way they did the tropics. Still, I look forward to becoming more familiar with the titular location in this trilogy’s future installments.
Future Gay Boyfriend (Book 2)
Supposedly straight boy kisses obviously gay boy. You know how this story goes already. Angst ensues until the straight boy realizes he’s somewhere on the queer spectrum, and then they live happily ever after.
This book is nothing like that, and I loved it all the more for it. Yes, Ryan has only dated women until this point in his life, until he sees Darian at a party and the entire structure of his life realigns. He kisses Darian once, then twice, and then more than kisses happen. But the angst and second-guessing about his sexuality are never more than waved over because Ryan is a secure enough person to accept/acknowledge what (who) attracts him. And it happens to be Darian.
The two are just short of perfect for each other, and the drama ensues when both put so much effort into achieving that unattainable perfection for the other person. Also, enough of an age-gap exists that Darian is starting out in his life while Ryan has come awfully close to “settling.” This is the conflict that sparks the actual dark moment in this book, which was significantly more angst than I expected (or perhaps that was the wine). I had to force myself to put the book down and get some sleep, trusting that Hawthorne and Denning would present me with the promised happily ever after in the morning.
They more than delivered on the unspoken promise of the romance genre, and now I can’t wait to return to the vineyard and begin reading the final book of this trilogy.
Future Ex Enemy (Book 3)
Hate and love both stem from passion, so it’s no wonder that two men who initially hate each other end up happily ever after together in this book. Of course, this is only possible because David and Luis have undeniable chemistry. This only serves to irritate each man further, which draws them closer together, which makes them angrier, which… You get the picture. They might have the opposite of a “meet-cute” at the beginning of the story, but by the time the first kiss rolls around, sparks would have flown if it didn’t happen in a walk-in flower cooler.
The plot of this book obviously depends on throwing the characters together time and again, and Hawthorne and Denning deliver the trope de resistance with that old favorite, “there’s only one bed.” The authors skirt a particular line in these hate-sex encounters, which might turn some readers off from the book altogether. However, watching the characters start to realize that there is more to their interactions than pure distaste is fascinating as it unfolds, egged on by both a precocious niece (who’s actually more interested in giraffes) and a slightly manipulative old lady (who’s actually more interested in flowers). Overt or not, circumstances conspire to show Luis and David how much they mean to each other.
Nothing about this book is a traditional romance arc, making it all the more interesting to read. Out of all the characters in this series, these are the two I’d love to check in on later. I have the feeling that being in love will do little to cool the adversity dynamic of their relationship.