A Flighty Fake Boyfriend (Men of St. Nacho’s #2) by Z.A. Maxfield

a flighty fake boyfriend

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All Ryan Winslow needs is a fake date for his ex’s wedding. What happens when a fake date turns into real, but impossible, love?

Ryan Winslow has everything he needs to attend his billionaire aristocrat ex’s wedding. He’s got an out and proud A-list celebrity date, reservations at an exclusive resort in Santa Barbara, and two weeks to enjoy a vacation—his first in six years.

The drive down gives him a chance to visit old friends in tiny St. Nacho’s, but that’s where things start to go wrong. His workaholic, driven lifestyle takes its toll, and his date calls to say he can’t make it. How will he ever find a substitute date for a formal wedding in time?

Epic Alsop waits tables, but that’s not all he does. He pays special attention to people, and responds to their needs accordingly. When he meets an overworked, underfed Ryan, he offers him a healing smoothie and a little extra care. When Ryan’s date for a wedding cancels, Epic offers to be his fake boyfriend.

What Epic doesn’t expect is Ryan’s kindness, or the amazing resort vacation he offers. He doesn’t expect Ryan’s patience, his wit, or his passion.

But they live in different countries, and Ryan’s job leaves no room for a social life. The hunger and weariness that drew Epic to Ryan in the first place is only a symptom of the reason they can’t be together.

Can fake lovers who fall in genuine love find a way to make their relationship work? Or are they destined to be alone forever?

Rating: B+

Don’t be fooled by the cute cover model and the word “flighty” in the title; Z.A. Maxfield’s A Flighty Fake Boyfriend IS a fun fake relationship story, but it has surprising depth, two strongly characterised leads and packs quite the emotional punch in places, too.  Age-gap and fake relationship are two of my favourite tropes so I was looking forward to reading this, and I’m pleased to report I wasn’t the least bit disappointed.

Workaholic Ryan Winslow has stopped off in St. Nacho’s to visit a couple of friends on his way to Santa Barbara, where he’s due to attend his ex’s wedding.  He’s not sure if the invitation was a genuine gesture, a way to gloat or just a mistake, but Ryan accepts because he doesn’t want Luis to think his marriage bothers him, and has arranged for a friend – who happens to be a gorgeous, out-and-proud A-list movie star – to go as his date.  At the last minute, however, his friend  has to cancel, which leaves Ryan with a problem – does he not go and give Luis the satisfaction of thinking he’s sulking, or does he go stag?

We met the sunny-natured Epic in the previous book (A Much Younger Man). He waits tables at the bistro – appropriately named “Bistro” – in St. Nachos, and has the quirky habit of pinning on whatever nametag is uppermost in the box that day – but his name really is Epic.  He’s cute and funny and smart with the sort of self-possession Ryan knows he never had at his age (Epic is twenty-three to Ryan’s thirty-six). When Ryan finds himself suddenly without a date for the wedding, he impulsively asks Epic to accompany him instead.  Epic might not be a famous movie star, but he’s attractive, articulate and compelling – and Ryan is drawn to him like iron filings to magnetic north.

This fake relationship story proceeds as you’d expect – but I liked the way things play out, with Epic gradually coaxing Ryan to unwind as their attraction grows and a deep connection forms between them over fancy dinners, moonlight walks and sight-seeing trips.  Epic turns out to be extremely perceptive and wise beyond his years; he’s brilliant, caring, funny and upbeat, and fiercely protective of Ryan, who at this point in time, badly needs looking after, someone to remind him to eat, quit smoking and to stop working once in a while.  He’s also more than a bit bossy in the bedroom once things get that far 😉

You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.

A Much Younger Man (The Men of St. Nacho’s #1) by Z.A. Maxfield

This title may be purchased from Amazon

One man is older and not quite wiser. The other is young and steady. Can they ignore the critics and let their hearts decide?

Veterinarian Linden Davies gets on better with animals than men. After a lifetime of always putting work first, he’s resigned himself to one-night stands and shallow blind dates. But years of heartache evaporate when he offers a handsome young busker a free health check for his companion Labrador.

Christopher “Beck” Beckett vowed to care for his late brother’s loyal dog. After falling out with his parents and ending up on the streets playing music for tips, he longs for a warm embrace and a compassionate kiss. Linden is perfect, and he takes Beck under his wing, but his hangups over a relationship with someone half his age have Beck’s head spinning.

As Linden lets the sweet wayward guitarist into his world and gives him renewed purpose, he battles disapproval from his friends and family. And when Beck realizes the kindhearted vet could well be his true soulmate, he fears that their love is probably doomed.

Will this perfect match transcend the judgment of others?

Rating: B

A Much Younger Man is, as the title would suggest a May/December romance, and it’s the first book in Z.A. Maxfield’s Men of St. Nacho’s series – a spin off of her earlier books set in the small California coastal town of St. Ingacio, (called St. Nacho’s by the locals).  It does feature some of the characters from that series, but the story is self-contained and can easily be read as a standalone

Busy veterinarian Linden Davies – known to his friends as Lindy – decided to try the infamous brunch at Nacho’s Bar one day, and was instantly captivated by the place, so much so that a few months and visits later he’d sold his thriving practice in San Diego and opened a new practice there.

I moved for the view, the powerful feeling of community, the sense of belonging and I’ve never looked back.

He’s perhaps a little set in his ways, but he’s mostly content; he has good friends, and colleagues and has his outstpoken parrakeet for company, but since his last relationship ended, he’s decided he’s really not cut out for relationships because his work has always come first (he doesn’t only run his practice he also volunteers regularly with various animal rescue charities).  He lives alone (with his parrakeet!) and contents himself with the occasional one-night stand or blind date that doesn’t really go anywhere.  At thirty-eight, he’s resigned to the fact that finding someone willing to put up with his workaholic lifestyle isn’t going to happen and that love has passed him by – until the day a beautiful young man by the name of Christopher Beckett bursts into his life and captivates him completely.

Beck is an extraordinarily talented guitarist, and the first time Linden sees him, Beck is busking on the beach by the bar.  Lindy can hardly look away; he knows he should – the guy can be no more than twenty and Linden feels ashamed at simply gawking at him, so he’s relieved to divert his attention to the chocolate Labrador sitting at Beck’s side.  When the performance is over, Lindy asks to be introduced to the dog – Callie – and offers to give her a free health check; Beck is a bit defensive initially, but when he realises Linden really does have the dog’s best interests at heart, he agrees to bring her along the next day.

Beck hasn’t had an easy time of it over the past few years, and has been travelling around earning money by busking.  His other – human – companion, Tug, is a bit of a shifty character to whom Lindy takes an instant dislike (one he’s not quite ready to admit is jealousy) – and Lindy can’t help being pleased when, a few days later, a distraught Beck arrives at the practice and tells him that Tug has left and taken everything with him – including Beck’s beloved guitar.  Well, Lindy isn’t pleased to hear that, but he’s glad Tug has gone – and that it was he – Lindy – Beck turned to for help.

Beck’s backstory – why he’s busking for a living and how he came to be responsible for Callie – is heart-breaking, and yet he retains the resilience and optimism of youth.  He’s funny and kind and secure in himself; he’s exactly what Lindy needs – if only Lindy would let himself have it.  But Lindy’s lack of self-esteem and inability to see that he deserves to be loved get in the way, as does his conviction that the eighteen-year age gap between them is a no-no.  The author addresses the question of the power imbalance really well as Lindy struggles with his deepening and genuine affection for Beck while worrying he may be taking advantage of him – and about what everyone else will think, preconceptions which are only reinforced by (well-meaning but very annoying!) friends and family.  The story is told entirely from Lindy’s PoV, so his struggles are immediate, and his longing for Beck and his love for him are very well conveyed although the single perspective means that Beck is perhaps not quite as fully-fleshed out as Lindy is.  And while I appreciated the way the author addresses the age-gap issue, there were times I felt it was just a bit overdone.

A Much Younger Man is a charming and wonderfully readable character-driven romance featuring a pair of loveable central characters who are meant to be together, but have to jump quite a few hurdles in order to get there.  It’s a delightful read and I’m really looking forward to reading more about the Men of St. Nacho’s.

Deep Deception (Deep #2) by Z.A. Maxfield (audiobook) – Narrated by Caleb Dickinson

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

He’ll give up everything for his immortal lover…except his humanity.

Leave a note and slip away to Paris alone, Adin thought. It’ll prove to his vampire lover he doesn’t need 24/7 supervision, Adin thought. Instead Adin lands in a surreal situation that isn’t going to endear him to Donte – at all.

As he awaits an old foe, Ned Harwiche III, for a prearranged meeting, Adin is head butted, tossed into the back of a car…then gets the chance to acquire an artifact Harwiche had been bidding on.

Adin jumps at it, if only as payback for all the dirty tricks Harwiche has pulled over the years. To his horror the “artifact” turns out to be an adolescent boy named Bran.

Sickened, Adin vows to help the boy out, but like Donte – like a lot of the world Adin never knew existed – Bran isn’t at all what he seems to be.

While Donte and Adin negotiate the meaning of the word forever, Bran is running out of time. Especially when tragedy and betrayal pit Adin’s long-cherished beliefs against Donte’s love.

Rating: Narration – C+ : Content – C

There are spoilers for the first book in the Deep series, Deep Desire, in this review.

When five-hundred-year-old vampire Donte Fedeltà and his human lover Adin Tredeger embarked upon a relationship at the end of Deep Desire, it was clear that the road to Happily Ever After wasn’t going to be an easy one, not least because of Adin’s emphatic refusal to allow Donte to turn him (into a vampire) so that they can be together for all time. For Adin,

“It’s [life is] my journey. And without its beginning, its middle and its end, I’m not ever going to be the man I was born to be.”

– and he is content to be with Donte for the time allotted to him. However, this isn’t the only issue causing friction between them in Deep Deception. Adin is fed up with Donte continually treating him as though he needs constant supervision. He accepts that the supernatural world he is discovering contains previously un-thought-of dangers, and he’d hoped, after months of self-defence classes and constant lecturing, that Donte would realise he doesn’t need to be so protective… but after yet another spat, Adin decides he needs some breathing space, and slips away to Paris to attend an auction, leaving his lover a note –

“I’ll be back but you’re going to have to get used to letting me come and go.”

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Deep Desire (Deep #1) by Z.A. Maxfield (audiobook) – Narrated by Caleb Dickinson

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

There’s no leverage like seduction…until love takes a bite of his plans.

As the Indiana Jones of historical erotica, there is no document existing – or just rumored to exist – Adin Tredeger can’t unearth. Why he would risk the biggest coup of his career to join the mile-high club is beyond him. But the disarming, dark-eyed man who somehow enters Adin’s locked airplane washroom has him completely nude and coming apart. All without a whimper of protest.

From that moment Adin and Donte Fedelta engage in an international battle of wit and cunning. The prize – a priceless, 500-year-old journal with illustrations so erotic it could make the Marquis de Sade blush. Yet Donte’s desire for the journal goes far beyond simple possession. The undead nobleman wrote it. And he’s not above using every trick in his otherworldly arsenal – including seduction – to get it back.

Chemistry draws them together even as fortune tugs them apart. But when a third party joins the chase, they must unite to fight an enemy with a deadly goal – to erase Donte from history.

Rating: Narration – B+ : Content – B

Romances featuring vampires aren’t ones I gravitate towards, but the audio of the Deep series was recommended to me by a friend on Goodreads, and as I’ve enjoyed books by Z.A. Maxfield in the past, (and I’d seen the series crop up in the Audible Romance Package), I picked it up. On the whole, that was a good decision, and I was engaged and entertained throughout all three books in spite of some inconsistencies in the plots and issues with the narration in book two in particular.

Deep Desire opens as Dr. Adin Tredeger, an authority on antique erotica, is flying home to San Francisco following the purchase of a very rare manuscript on behalf of his university. Notturno, a five-hundred-year-old journal that details the forbidden love affair between an Italian nobleman and his male lover, is the find of Adin’s career, and he is determined to keep it safe, some instinct telling him to pack it in his luggage rather than in his carry-on for the journey home.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

The Long Way Home by Z.A. Maxfield (audiobook) – Narrated by J.F. Harding

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Ever since the accident that cost him his job on the Seattle police force, Kevin Quinn has been living with psychic abilities he refers to as the ‘gift that keeps on taking’. His attempts to use his talents to help the police have been met with limited success. Yet, when teenage boys start going missing from the beach cities of Southern California, Kevin gets on a plane.

Connor Dougal has every reason to believe all psychics are fakes and charlatans. He’s still numb from the disappearance of his first love, a boy who went missing 10 years earlier. Everything he aspires to is a direct result of that tragedy, even the acquisition of his detective shield. The irony of having to babysit Kevin Quinn is not lost on him.

These two suspicious men must develop trust and respect for one another to solve the case and, on the way, maybe fall in love.

Rating: Narration – B+ : Content – B-

Z.A. Maxfield is a new-to-me author, and I was intrigued by the synopsis for The Long Way Home, a romantic mystery featuring an ex-cop who gained some sort of psychic ability following a serious car accident, and the detective assigned to babysit him when he is called in to consult on a particularly disturbing case.

Kevin Quinn liked his job and his life, but after the accident – in which he lost the sight in one eye – he started to realise that something else had changed as well, and that he could somehow sense feelings and emotions by touching inanimate objects. For the past five years, he’s hidden himself away on a ranch in Wyoming with only his faithful dog for company, has a friends-with-benefits relationship with the local vet, and is fortunate enough to be able to make a decent living as a romantic novelist (under a pseudonym of course.) 😉

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.