One of the best things about following an author on social media is getting to experience the full evolution of a story, from conception to publication. I followed along as Denning mentioned binge-reading all the arranged marriage trope romances she could find and then as she spoke about writing her own.
So, it was pretty easy to see in this novel where the author totally meant to write an arranged marriage story, featuring a friends-to-lovers arc, and where that went totally off the rails pretty much immediately. The story Denning set out to write probably would have been fine, but I can’t help preferring this version. The text reassures readers immediately (literally the second page) that cheating would not be an element to this story. Rowan and Sid have the immediate chemistry that Rowan and Harrison did not. Though drunken shenanigans were involved, I had so much fun as they threw caution to the wind and followed through on their accidental Vegas marriage.
Their entire relationship basically happens in reverse, but that made the arc between them fun and unique. I often felt really bad for Rowan, but I often couldn’t stop laughing at the interactions his anxiety incites between the heroes. Denning doesn’t just focus on Sid and Rowan, however; Rowan’s parents’ reaction to him rejecting the marriage they had arranged for him leads the characters (including Harrison) to band together to figure out what’s going on between their families. This external plot balanced with Rowan and Sid’s character development features the perfect amount of tension to keep this otherwise low-angst book from being a little too sweet.
I’m already looking forward to the second book in this duology, especially based on the hints Denning seeds in this story about the next set of heroes.
Disclaimer: I received an electronic ARC of the novel from the author.