Marry a man I barely know to save my family from ruin.
It might’ve been simple, if my betrothed were anybody else.
On our wedding day, my husband-to-be arrived at the courthouse like a black cloud rolling over Manhattan. Walt didn’t crack smiles or pepper in pleasantries as we exchanged hollow vows in front of the judge.
His disdain for me was so palpable I assumed we’d walk out of that ceremony and resume our regularly scheduled programming. But then fate was like, Hold my beer. I got this.
In desperate need of help and with nowhere else to turn, I had no choice but to ignore a crucial rule in our contract: I shall only contact Mr. Jennings II in case of emergency. But hey, what’s a little fine print between husband and wife?
Turns out, Walt’s a stickler for legalese—I think it might be his love language. Oh, and his attitude at the courthouse wasn’t a put-on. My so-called husband is a jerk. He takes what he wants without giving any consideration to other people—specifically ME, his blushing, contractually-obligated bride!
I knew life with Walt would be no honeymoon, but a marriage of any sort should still come with a few standard guarantees:
To have and to hold.
For richer or poorer.
In sickness and in health.
But after experiencing Walt’s version of wedded bliss, I say let’s forget about all that lovey-dovey crap and just take me straight to death do us part.
I wasn’t expecting much from this book due to the premise. Not the fake marriage, those can be fun, but because Elizabeth’s family is not at all likable so it’s tough to imagine why she’d help people who treat her like garbage. A doormat heroine is never going to work for me so I had concerns but Elizabeth was a nice surprise. She cares about her awful family but harbors no illusions and fully understands they don’t deserve her. Better yet, she tells them exactly what she thinks of them, which is awesome.
Elizabeth is a free-spirit who couldn’t care less about material possessions and has a true passion for art while Walt’s a slightly older workaholic who never cracks a smile. This starts out as a typical opposites-attract kind of story but we eventually see that they’re not actually all that different. Walt is a perfectionist with a tough job full of pressure but when he lets himself relax, he’s a fun, sweet guy. Their grandfathers started a company together and designed a trust to prevent their heirs from squandering the fortune they enjoy thanks to that company.
An intermarriage is required between the two families in order to keep the fortune in the families. Her parents are frivolous spenders and near destitute, so they’ll lose everything if the marriage doesn’t happen. When her sister flakes on her promise to marry the other family’s son, Elizabeth steps up. It’s a business arrangement and nothing more, so she’s relatively unfazed but it’s still a shock to marry a complete stranger. Walt could’ve helped smooth over the awkwardness by being friendly so the two could commiserate but he’s all business to the point of providing legal documents specifying she’s only to contact him directly if it’s a true emergency.
Elizabeth won my heart when she decided to call him directly specifically because of that clause. Fresh out of a master’s program, she has no work history or income so she can’t rent an apartment. She needs a cosigner but her irresponsible family is useless and she’s a loner with no real friends so she asks Walt to cosign. Upon seeing the state of the apartment, he refuses and suggests other properties but Elizabeth refuses to live off of the family fortune so those are out of her budget. Walt moves her into his enormous penthouse while they work out the details.
He’s an art lover and owns some true gems so cohabiting with her fake husband ends up being much better than expected. Access to the masters inspires her and Elizabeth begins a promising new series. While they take great pains to give each other space, it’s clear they’re intrigued by one another. The couple barely spends any time together but when they do, Walt’s clearly jealous of the attention other men pay to Elizabeth.
There’s a point where I thought the romance was going to be with someone else entirely, because she really hits it off with his brother right as we learn Walt has a girlfriend who’s very uncomfortable with the fake marriage. It was the perfect set-up for jealous scheming by a woman scorned and possessive jealousy by a rich man who sees people as things that belong to him. The story didn’t take that direction, to my delight because those are tired plot devices and rarely done well.
The tension between the two is slow burn but when they finally give in, there’s no denying the feelings. Workaholic Walt is insecure about his feelings, what to do with them, how to express them, worried he maybe shouldn’t express them at all. She’s vulnerable and he won’t be that guy. He’s a likeable character anyway but becomes a loveable one once we get this glimpse into his inner psyche. In fact, my only criticism here is that the entire story is from Elizabeth’s POV and it would have been much more fulfilling to see it from Walt’s perspective as well. That said, I still loved it and it’s funny, which is always a plus.
The ending felt slightly rushed and while there was an epilogue – because I hate when there’s not – it was significantly later so glossed over a lot. There’s a happily ever after so I have no complaints but I thought another short chapter or an epilogue that took place sooner would have been more fun for readers. Although it’s implied, I want to know that Walt’s no longer a workaholic and that Elizabeth has stopped allowing her family to use her and how her career has gone. It was still a satisfying ending and to be fair to the author, no matter what they give me, it’s never enough because I hate reaching the end of a book I enjoy, no matter what.
This was my first book by R.S. Grey but I’ll definitely be reading more from this author.