Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2
As a relatively new reviewer, I love receiving information about new authors. Roxie Noir is a new author to me, and I was excited to read her newest book, Best Fake Fiance. Now, I have to admit. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the title. It’s not the most original. However, the blurb had me interested in the “friends-to-lovers” and “fake fiance” tropes. I will admit that “friends-to-lovers” is not my most favorite trope to read. It’s pretty far down on my list, but there was something about the blurb that intrigued me:
- Hot guy
- Best friend
- Custody battle
And I was in.
Roxie Noir’s story surprised me exceedingly. Yes, this is the second book of a series The Loveless Brothers (I will definitely be tuning in for more; I’m thinking Levi Loveless’s book will come next), and I never felt confused, having not read the first book. This is a standalone that simply happens to exist in a series.
Best Fake Fiance revolves around Daniel, the second oldest Loveless brother, and his best friend, Charlotte, or Charlie. These two have been best friends since they were eleven, so they have lived a lot of life together. In his early twenties, during his irresponsible period, he sleeps with a woman, and she becomes pregnant with his child. Daniel know he has a child until his daughter, Rusty, is nine months old. Growing up quickly, he gains custody of her, and he becomes a great father who holds full custody of her.
Rusty is now seven years old, and her mother decides to sue for custody. There are several complications with this for Daniel, so he lies to the judge, stating that he’s engaged…to Charlie. After asking Charlie to live out the lie at least until after the court hearing deciding custody is settled, Charlie agrees, knowing it will be difficult but realizing it is necessary so that Rusty can remain with Daniel. What neither of them realizes is their interest in the other and how this arrangement will bring those feelings to the surface. Will Daniel and Charlie become a real couple? That is the focus of this book.
From the beginning of Best Fake Fiance, I LOVED Daniel and Charlie, mostly Charlie. Like I said at the outset, I like the “friends-to-lovers” trope, but it isn’t my favorite. Oftentimes, in those stories, one of the characters has more feelings than the other friend, and the character spends most of the story wooing their friend. The one who is being wooed tends to fight his/her feelings, and this puts the friendship in jeopardy. It’s not a bad plot device; it’s just predictable.
With this story, Noir has done something a bit different. Both of them have repressed feelings of the other. They share a moment in the past that has to be pushed deep because life happens. Neither of them believes they can have a relationship beyond friendship…until they can. And that’s the exciting part of this book. There isn’t the tension of one character liking the other character more and having to spend the story negotiating for a relationship. These two have mutual feelings, but Rusty tends to complicate it.
As such, together, Daniel and Charlie are the best parts of a relationship. For one, their love is grounded in friendship. Noir makes a point at multiple times in the story to note how Daniel and Charlie simply talk. They genuinely like each other, love aside. Since they have this level of friendship, when the story goes awry (as all good romances do), Charlie and Daniel miss that level of friendship beyond their love relationship. That was my favorite part of reading the story, and I think it’s the genius of Noir in this book.
Secondly, while Charlie and Daniel complete each other (she’s flighty and unorganized and he’s rational and ordered), together they are funny. There is so much witty banter between these two in and out of the bedroom, and I loved them as a couple in every way. Additionally, since they are opposites, this also sets up the tension. Charlie believes she is too much of a risk; that she is “not enough” for everyone, not just Daniel. And it’s this flaw in her character that drew my heart to her. You can’t help but love her because she is so hard on her self. She is the most likable character in the story even when she makes mistakes. I found myself making notes about her every time she diminishes herself because she struggles to see her power. And her power is there, carefully clutched in Daniel’s heart. Noir makes you fall deeply in love with Daniel and Charlie, and their story makes the “friends-to-lovers” trope work in a way that I personally have yet to read, which excites me.
Even more, Noir’s style is interesting. She has a way of putting words on the page that isn’t redundant and repetitive to other authors. I found myself appreciating the images she creates in the ways she characterizes the people in her story. We get a strong sense of Daniel and Charlie, but she also continues to characterize Daniel’s family. I asserted at the beginning of this review that I believe Levi’s story will be next. That comes at the way Noir took the time in this story to give us a sense of Levi. And he isn’t the only one. We learn more about Eli, Seth, and Caleb too. For me, that’s intriguing because she doesn’t leave the supporting cast as flat characters; Noir takes the time to give dimension to everyone.
Now, if I had to critique anything in the story, it would be in the handling of the custody battle, namely Daniel’s ex, Crystal. I give kudos to Noir in creating a man who is emotionally responsible for his daughter. As a child of divorce, I too had a Daniel for a parent in my life. My mother had every reason to speak ill of my biological father, but she didn’t for the same reason that Daniel doesn’t: he wants his daughter to love her mother. It’s important that Noir places these words in his mouth and offers up his responsible actions. There is definitely a message here about handling divorce and children’s feelings in more mature ways. However, there were holes in the story as it relates to the custody battle. For one, we never do find out if Rusty knows that her mother is married and pregnant. I would have liked a discussion between Daniel and Rusty to develop this portion of the story more. As well, Crystal doesn’t reenter the story until over halfway through the story. I kept waiting for her to wreak more havoc on Daniel’s life, requesting more visitation time or rescheduling times with Rusty earlier in the story. I made a comment in my book, wondering where she was. A few chapters later, Rusty has a visitation with Crystal, but I think this battle should have been intertwined earlier in the story as Daniel is developing his feelings and relationship with Charlie. Again, that’s my only big critique of the romance.
Roxie Noir’s Best Fake Fiance is the best of the fake fiance/friends-to-lovers story tropes. Honestly. I didn’t intend to go into this book thinking that I would love it as much as I did. This is really a story about wanting and getting something more than you think you deserve. It’s also about making the best decisions for children even when parents aren’t together. Between Daniel’s and Charlie’s big hearts, this book has so much soul that I am looking forward to the “heart” of Noir’s other books in the series.
In love and romance,