During a spat with her mother, Hope Donnigan drops a comment about her completely inappropriate boyfriend—who doesn’t actually exist—then convinces an acquaintance to fill the role, surprising them both when they actually fall for each other.
Hope and J.T. Webster have a thing for each other, which they don’t realize they share. But when Hope has dinner with her family and her mother berates her about her job, her clothes, and her lack of a relationship, she responds with the news that she’s dating a man who, she knows, will press all her mother’s buttons, most pertinent of which is that he’s a tattoo artist. J.T., the son of her aunt’s partner, is a tattoo artist, so she convinces him to pose as her boyfriend to prove the point that her mother is a snob. However, as they spend time together in order to make a believable couple, their natural attraction comes into play. There are a slew of reasons to ignore it—the many intertwining connections between their families, J.T.’s history as a lady’s man, their growing friendship that would be damaged if things went awry—but they fall into a sexual relationship, telling themselves it’s a friends with benefits situation. However, Hope has a creepy, unknown stalker, and J.T. finds a protective streak he never knew he had, his first hint of deeper feelings. Harte continues the hypersexy, interconnected tangle of Donnigans and McCauley series relationships, and while she hits her typical sweet spot of sexy and emotional, the main characters’ denial lasts a bit too long, and the wrap-up of the stalker storyline comes across as contrived.
Harte hits the romance but slightly misses the mark with other elements of the story.