Sandra @ My Fiction Nook

I like romance and boys loving boys in my books. 

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ARC Review: Dating Ryan Alback by J.E. Birk

Dating Ryan Alback - J.E. Birk

Well... this was different.

We all know the trope - rich actor meets regular guy and romance ensues. And this book has that trope, except the way the rich actor meets the regular guy is unusual.

Ryan Alback, the actor in question, is a very private person and hates the limelight. He loves his job, but doesn't like being in the public eye. He's more or less a recluse, after a bad Hollywood relationship turned very sour and Ryan felt used.

During an interview shortly before Valentine's Day, the talk show host launches a Dating Game - people can write in to the show to possibly win a basically blind date with the hot actor. Reluctantly, Ryan agrees.

Fast forward a few weeks, and Jason Santos, a somewhat shy teacher who only allowed his friend to enter him if she would then leave him alone about his love life (or lack thereof), has been chosen as Ryan's perfect date, and the talk show is paying for a long weekend at a nice romantic hotel.

Both men have been burned in the past, and neither expects anything good to come from this weekend date, but they find that they do have some major things in common, and actually enjoy themselves. I really liked how the author didn't make things easy for them - their early interactions are rather awkward, like you'd expect two men to behave after having been put in the same location as nothing more than a publicity stunt.

Ryan had a very difficult time trusting Jason, and Jason seemed to be still very hung up on his ex-boyfriend (the guy who refused his marriage proposal and broke his heart), and I didn't really feel that there was any kind of spark at first between the two men.

Both of them were also really nice guys - Ryan being super normal and not blinded by his success, and Jason intent on starting a non-profit to help kids whose parents were undocumented immigrants.

Over the long weekend in Vermont, as they spend time together, both men realize that there might be something there after all, despite their somewhat unconventional way of meeting.

Of course, smooth sailing is out of the question, and Ryan's distrust for most people rears its ugly head when a tabloid posts pictures of them together, with what seems to be a quote from Jason.

I understood how Ryan could have misjudged this situation, and how angry he was, so angry that he wouldn't even listen to Jason defend himself and deny the accusation.

Obviously, at that point, the weekend is over and Jason flees the hotel at once, heading home and moving on.

I liked this a lot, and I was engaged from start to finish. Their story just easily flows, with ups and downs, and at no time was I bored. There aren't any major lulls, nor are there any rapid time jumps, and the development of their relationship seemed natural in the time frame in which it takes place.

Both Ryan and Jason must learn to trust each other, and this obviously takes time, especially considering how they both have been hurt before. I liked that Jason didn't look at Ryan as some famous movie star, but took the time to get to know the person behind the famous face. He also had some backbone, and didn't easily let Ryan off the hook.

What bothered me a bit, because I wanted them to have a HEA, is that at the end of the story it's not quite clear how they'll actually plan to be together - is Ryan going to move? Is Jason? Still, that didn't distract me from my enjoyment.

Extra points for including a sweet dog (Alby) who's afraid of her own shadow but who warms up to Jason eventually just the same as her owner. The rest of the supporting cast (Ryan's actor friend who gives him some long-overdue advice, Jason's teacher friend who meddles) was well done.

There is but little steam in this book, and while there are a few bedroom scenes, they're not super explicit. This story didn't need it - it's a sweet and adorable romance, and it should be read as such.


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return. **