Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Marry me for 1 year. Payment: $1.2 million.
Hayden Somerset is convinced the ad is a joke, but he responds anyway because, hello, $1.2 million. He’s broke, living in a tiny apartment with two roommates, and exhausted from praying his ancient car survives just one more week. His skyrocketing rent and crushing student loans aren’t helping either. At this point, there isn’t much Hayden wouldn’t do for that kind of cash.
The ad isn’t a joke. Jesse Ambrose is absolutely serious. His father, the charismatic patriarch of a powerful Hollywood dynasty, has his eye on politics, and he’s counting on California’s liberals and progressives to elect him. But Jesse knows what his father believes when cameras and voters aren’t around. As the election looms, he’ll do anything to force the man’s hand and show the public who Isaac Ambrose really is.
Anything, including marrying a stranger so his father will make good on his promise to disown Jesse if he ever takes a husband.
Now he just has to wait for his father to take the bait… and try not to accidentally fall in love with his fake husband.
The fake marriage/rent a spouse theme is a popular trope in romance whether it be het or LGBT, contemporary or historic. So I’m always interested in how a author can give it their own twist, freshen it up a bit. The usual path is the the one main character needs to be married in order to collect own their inheritance/title/mega billions. So I was appreciative of the fact that LA Witt took the opposite direction in The Husband Gambit.
Here Jesse Ambrose is using it to foil his toxic father’s political ambitions by forcing his father to reveal his own hatred of his son and the LGBT community by this act. The ploy sounds simplistic but Witt makes it anything but with the creation of a dynasty so foul, complex, and brutal to it’s young that you bleed for them. You get involved in their lives through the character of Jesse, a decent human being brought up entirely too rich but with wonderful instincts about right and wrong. The ad he places leads him to the wonderful Hayden Somerset, poor, highly educated actor, on the edge of making a $20 decision between groceries and gas.
Both men are terrific. The characters come across as real, layered with personal baggage, family problems, and personalities that would appear different and yet, both endearing in ways that the reader can connect with. Witt balances the drama the naturally springs up around them because of the plans to take down Jesse’s father causes increasing amounts of deceptions and the ones they must confront between themselves when each realizes their feelings for each other is real.
Another element I thought was especially well done was the emotional impact of this entire “gambit” upon Jesse. The cost isn’t frivolous, the loss of family (even this one) not taken lightly, and the increasing punch to the heart pain we see Jesse take throughout the story is something the reader will feel with him as well. it’s realistic as is the manner in which he finally has to cope with it’s damage done to him.
The relationship and romance between the men is sexy, warm, and, well, everything you want in a romance. Plus you will love so many of the secondary characters here including Hayden’s roommates and Alex, Jesse’s younger brother.
In short, I loved this new take on an old trope. It was refreshing, lovely, romantic, and a terrific read. One I highly recommend. Looking for a new contemporary romance ? Look no further than The Husband Gambit by LA Witt.
Cover art: L.A. Witt. I liked this cover. Eye catching, bold, while it doesn’t convey that it’s a romance novel, it gets the feeling just right.
Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 489 pages
Published November 15th 2018