by Cole McCade
Series: Undue Arrogance #3
Publication Date: September 5, 2021
I received this book for free from BookSprout in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
What happens when the Prince of Romance...meets an actual prince?
For decades, Brendan Lau has swept the Hollywood scene as an openly gay actor starring in romantic films — but now, at 51, he's losing out on leading roles to younger actors. And when he's passed over as the hero in a sprawling period film and instead cast as the father, it's less his reputation and more his pride that can't take the insult. But when he confronts the younger actor who stole his part...
Brendan walks right in on Cillian Tell struggling to fend off the director's aggressive — and unwanted — advances.
For 29-year-old Cillian, Brendan's more than a knight in shining armor. He's the reason Cillian fell in love with acting in the first place, and fought to find a place in Hollywood. But the real Brendan is nothing like his debonair heroes or the charming, reserved image he presents on the red carpet; he's arrogant, domineering, grumpy, and entirely set in his obstinate ways. There's no doubt in Cillian's mind that Brendan's a straight-up a-hole.
There's also no doubt that Cillian needs him.
Cillian can't stand to lose his first role in a major feature film. Brendan can't stand the idea of working with a sleazy director. Yet when Cillian begs him to silence, Brendan agrees to keep his secrets — and stays on set to remind the director, Oliver Newcomb, to keep his hands to himself. But somehow Brendan's role as Cillian's guardian and even mentor turns into something else, when Cillian confesses a taboo kink he can only practice with someone he trusts. Brendan just may be the perfect lover of convenience...and is definitely the fake boyfriend Cillian needs to maintain his public image.
But what happens when Cillian starts to fall for the heart beneath the grouch?
And what happens when Brendan discovers Cillian's royal lineage...and how short the leash on his career might be?
I’ve wanted to try this out since I heard about His Cocky Valet in the general furor around Cockygate, and this one has a fake relationship! Plus it’s also an age gap romance with a bit of kink. This is the third book in the series, but I read it as a standalone.
After years of being Hollywood’s heartthrob, Brendan is dismayed that he’s cast in his latest film as the heroine’s father, the villain who dies at the end. When he goes to confront the movie’s hero, the ingenue Cillian, and interrupts the film’s director attempting to assault him. While Brendan’s first inclination is to call the police, Cillian begs him to keep it quiet – for now. Cillian’s not out in Hollywood, and his main excuse is that it’ll shut the film down, harming everyone else who’s dependent on it for their jobs. The solution Brendan comes up with? He’ll act as the shield between Cillian and the director. But Cillian is hiding more than just that secret, and it may upset any chances at their decidedly not-fake relationship staying the course.
“What makes you think I’m even attracted to you?!”
Brendan only rolled his head to the side, watching Cillian with a deadpan, knowing stare, dark brows lofting.
Cillian narrowed his eyes. “… oh, you are such a dick.”
First off, there is a twenty-two year age gap between the characters. There’s not a ton of overt discussion around it, though it does show up in their approaches to their careers and in their life experiences – and amount of experience – in general. Brendan was my favorite character in the book. Brendan’s been around long enough to not mince words, and his bluntness – especially around kink – flusters Cillian into a blushing mess. He’s no-nonsense, growly and grumpy, but he’s also heart-stompingly charismatic. Cillian has some of that natural charisma as well, and he comes off as just so vibrant and alive. He was extremely sheltered for most of his life, and he’s quite naive and innocent. I had to keep reminding myself that he was nearly thirty. The royalty bit mainly acted as a way to explain Cillian’s shelteredness and give an excuse, I think, for the toxicity of some of his family relationships.
“So,” he whispered. “Now you’re my fake boyfriend, my real kink partner, and my acting coach.”
“I’m versatile like that[.]”
This is Cillian’s first big movie role, and between the director’s harassment and his inexperience, he’s floundering. Part of the book is Brendan taking him under his wing and helping him refine his character, scenes that I found absolutely fascinating. I definitely have a thing for competent characters, and even more so competent characters who put in the time to help others become just as competent.
“How could I meet someone who doesn’t already think they know me just from my work? How could I meet someone…and believe they actually saw me?”
Due to a lot of factors, Brendan and Cillian have a very emotionally intense relationship with a lot of angst. While the assault was stopped, Cillian’s still dealing with trauma from it, and part of the book is him reclaiming his sexuality. The consent between Brendan and Cillian was lovely and super hot. While the kink – and protecting Cillian from the director – is the impetus for the relationship, neither overwhelms it. The level of attempted sexual assault was something I think many people will have encountered at some point in their life, especially if they’re not male, straight or cis. The author provides detailed content warnings at the start of the book, which I appreciated very much. I’m always interested in how characters view relationship, and I loved that in this case both viewed love as safety. Brendan spent several years in the closet at the start of his career, and that’s affected all of his subsequent relationships, and Cillian’s toxic family relationships have also given him a skewed version of love. The understanding, the consent, that each find in the relationship is so fulfilling.
The second characters are lovely as well. The banter between Brendan and Drake, his agent, was hilarious, and I also liked their coworker, Sophie, the heroine of the movie. As for cons, the grand gesture was a bit unbelievable, but I’m willing to overlook it due to the adorable upending of the traditional epilogue.
Overall, while this is my first Cole McCade book, this certainly won’t be my last! This is a lovely angsty read, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a celebrity romance.
Content notes: View Spoiler »