The First Time Around, Declan Rhodes

The First Time Around: Romance In the City, Book 2 by [Rhodes, Declan]

We first meet Mark in The Pretend Husband as the sad but loyal friend to Liam and Alex as they navigate from pretend partners to real ones.  They play a role in Mark's life in this story as well and give support and good advice when he needs it.  Given only vague details about a difficult relationship when we meet him at the dog park and a dinner party with the couple, we begin to feel badly for Mark but aren't really sure why.  I know I wasn't sure if I was feeling badly because he's just a sad, mopey kind of sweet guy that needs his own happiness or if it's simply because he was dumped.  In The First Time Around we're given a much more detailed explanation as to why he's so sad in the first place and it isn't for the reasons we came up with before.

Mark gets dumped.  Sad?  Yes, but not for the reason you think.  It's sad because he's such a sweet guy who wants so much to be loved and deserves freedom from his loneliness.  The breakup is a much-needed event that Mark isn't completely sure why he didn't bring it about sooner.  He's liberated from verbal and emotional abuse to finally regain his confidence and sense of self.  And while he's not looking for a relationship it seems that it's when we're not looking for something that it ends up finding us instead.

Daniel is an actor that has dreams of a bigger stage than the one he's on currently.  Known as "the straight guy who kisses like he's not" (my paraphrasing here...), his talent shines as well as his passion for more than just acting.  He's not out or hiding, he's just unaware.  His co-star, Stanley, is able to pull some amazing chemistry out of the seemingly straight Daniel and Daniel is surprised that he's feeling so much more than he thought possible.  And then he happens upon a sad Mark at a movie theater.

They're seeking things that are quite opposite from one another but end up in the same place.  In a theater you can be as alone in a crowd or as surrounded by stimulus as you want.  Mark doesn't want to be so alone and Daniel needs the distraction of the masses.  They both decide that a romcom will best soothe their hearts and take the risk of introducing themselves to one another.  A chance meeting turns into something more and they're off to the start of a very sweet relationship.

It has sweet and tender beginnings but soon ambitions and fears seek to drive them apart.  Job opportunities, misunderstandings, obliviously callous offers, and overreactions all play a part in the rocky road Daniel and Mark travel to find their HEA.  With humility and a spontaneous vacation they find that there's more to love than what fits their pictures.

Overall this was a sweet book that was pretty predictable but lighthearted enough to flit along the surface of enjoyment.  Geesh, that's flowery.  I liked the softer story and the hope and happiness of the ending though I feel that it's probably this writer's style, at least in this series, to have a lack of depth and gut feelings.  Meaning that I feel this higher in my chest and wish that there were something compelling in the writing that would let it sink into my gut and make me feel it on a deeper level than what's currently offered.  Still a nice story that leaves you feeling light and happy at the end.

 The First Time Around: Romance in the City Book 2, Declan Rhodes

Get to know Alex and Liam in The Pretend Husband, Book 1 in Declan Rhodes' Romance in the City series
The Pretend Husband: Romance In the City, Book 1 by [Rhodes, Declan]
 The Pretend Husband: Romance in the City Book 1, Declan Rhodes
"We could pretend I'm your husband."

Alex only needed a place to crash for two or at the most three weeks while he licked his wounds from the end of a bad relationship and found a full-time job to get back on his feet. Liam was more than generous offering room and board in exchange for regular dog walking and home maintenance.

It all seemed so simple until Alex’s stay stretched into a month, six weeks, and more. Faced with the skeptical eyes of friends, and complete strangers' unsolicited compliments about being the perfect couple, Liam and Alex concoct a scheme to present themselves to the world as husband and husband.

It works perfectly until they lose control of their plan. Alex finds out about a quality job, and it looks like it’s time to leave. Will the pretend marriage turn into a pretend divorce or something much more real?

Alex finally finds a quality full-time job and decides that it’s time to leave. The moving van is loaded, the new job is only days away, and then a late-night encounter throws all of the future plans up in the air. Will the pretend husband become something much more real?

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