Title: The [Fake] Dating Game
Author: Timothy Janovsky
Publisher: Afterglow Books by Harlequin
Release Date: January 23, 2024
Genre(s): M/M Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 245
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Timothy Janovsky is a "new" author to me, so I started this book with absolutely no expectations. And I ending up loving the book; sometimes in much the same way a parent loves their child but doesn't adore everything they do.
So, great start and a great hook. Holden James and his beloved mother watched Madcap Market, a zany reality show that pit teams against each other in winning a $100,000 prize. Holden dreams of getting on the show as a homage to his mom who passed 6 years ago. Asking his long-term boyfriend Buckley to join him on the show doesn't end up well and they end up breaking up in an epic scene in a crowded restaurant where a nearby diner who is an agent says "Are you two filming test footage for a reality series? Because, if so, this stuff is really juicy. This is my card ..."
Traveling alone and checking into a decrepit LA hotel with a Tower of Terror vibe and a room that smells like farts, Holden meets Leo Min, the muscly temp concierge with an attitude and then the fun begins. The two team up to get on Madcap Market and win the $100K by pretending to be boyfriends. Their attraction is sizzling and at times involves a vegetable "you could theoretically slice up for a salad."
I like how these two men are so dissimilar yet somehow there's something that works so well between the two. There is an unexpected joy to this relationship that starts out fake and works its way to the cusp of something more. Until, they start filming the show and ....Holden's ex-boyfriend Buckley appears on the show as a contestant, with a nasty plan for vengeance.
Aargh. The entire flow of the book changes, the fun stops and serious times are ahead. I resented this 180, but stay with it, because the book goes deep and it's worth the angst as Holden finally deals with his mom's death and he and Leo come to the HFN they really deserve. A very strong 4 stars.
I received an ARC from the Publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.