TITLE: The Husband Gambit
AUTHOR: L.A. Witt
LENGTH: 302 pages
RELEASE DATE: November 15, 2018
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.
I’m not ashamed to say that I usually enjoy the fake boyfriend/fake marriage stories and this one delivers much more pure enjoyment than most.
The story itself is at times, rather dark although somewhat realistic with a ‘ripped from the headlines’ vibe. It isn’t so farfetched that someone, even someone from Hollywood, would have political aspirations and hide their true nature and beliefs in the hopes of being elected and make change other than their campaign promises. We’ve seen it. What is different about this story is the presentation with gallows humor, and incredibly detailed characters and situations.
The main characters are so different. Both are entirely lovable and have the best intentions.
When Hayden sees the advertisement on his laptop, it is almost ridiculous yet sparks a glimmer of hope. He gets along great with his roommate friends but destitute isn’t a good look on them. Even though it seems unlikely that someone is really willing to pay 1.2 million dollars to marry him for one year, 100 k per month for twelve months, the possibility that it is real is too good to pass up.
Jesse knows that he lives a life of privilege. It’s not that he wants it to throw it away exactly. He can’t stand the fact that his father is going to run for political office as a liberal, pride-flag waving candidate when Jesse knows what a bigoted racist his father is. His own queer son will be disowned if he comes out of the closet any further than he already has. Jesse hates the lies and he feels that his father is dangerous. He has a plan.
Jesse is a sweet and naïve young man with the best intentions. His goal is to be publicly disowned by his father in a manner so public that his father won’t be able to hide his true nature any longer. Jesse is going for the long game. He has a job and believes that he can support himself. He owns a luxury car and a condo with a trust fund coming. He isn’t really considering that everything is in his father’s name. Such is the devious nature of his father.
Hayden’s family life isn’t all peaches and cream but not anywhere near as toxic as Jesse’s.
For me, the best part of this story is the real, detailed descriptions of the people and their motivations. Example, Jesse’s father’s mansion has a huge front door because he and a neighbor were in a sort of a dick-measuring competition to have bigger. Bigger door, bigger pool, bigger/better everything.
Some things that we experience every day are presented with such humor and clarity that we buy in, emotionally with the characters, these two young men and their friends as well as their story.
When Hayden first meets Jesse, he is a bit panicked – not at the what of his meeting but more at the where – “Did I look remotely suitable to be in anything marked VIP? Should I have worn something else? Did I look like a million dollars…”Oh, sweetie, some voice inside my head tsked. You look like twelve bucks in wrinkled bills”….and the self-defeating self-talk took over.
When Hayden realizes who is offering the 1.2 million dollar marriage, he quickly understands the motivation. The author sets the stage and introduces us to Jesse’s father before we meet him through the eyes of Hayden’s roommates. “Jesse’s father’s movies weren’t on-the-nose overtly racist..but in the more subtle, insidious ways that made Luis’s skin crawl. Lily white heroes and brown-skinned villains. Ensemble casts dying in order from darkest to lightest with the pristine Caucasian leads surviving to the end. So many white saviors.”
Hayden believes in Jesse’s goals. For both men, this is a win/win situation. The author sets the scene with such emotion that I had goosebumps. “Answering Jesse’s ad changed my life in a matter of days. My two best friends could finally breathe. I was going to be okay. They were going to be okay. And…I’m not ashamed to admit it. I cried.”
The author describes the feelings of being poor so descriptively that many of us can identify as with the feeling when entering a high-end store, specifically a jewelry store, that somehow they will know that there is no way your credit card or debit card would support buying anything in such a place. Even more than that, that security guards and salespeople can tell that you don’t belong there.
The most hysterical part was when they were planning the fake wedding. “do you think your parents would take it well if I said I wanted to use paper streamers from the dollar store and print the invitations on an old dot matrix?” “You rich people live in a different world…if it was left to me (Hayden) … everyone would just get emails, or Facebook invites. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could do this whole thing via a Facebook event.”
I hope that you can visualize how truly funny, and entertaining this story is. I alternately smiled, laughed out loud, frowned and became just plain angry until the warm and fuzzies took over again.
4.5 Top pick
4 Compelling page-turner
3. OK – Not bad, Ehhh
1. Oh so Vanilla
3. Passion and Romance
4. Toe-curling yumminess