Book Reviews

Say Yes to a Mess (Dreamspun Desires) by Elle Brownlee at Dreamspinner Press

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Romance
Reviewed by Barb on 17-November-2020

Book Blurb

Can a fake engagement become a real marriage?


Wiley Grey is stuck in a rut. He loves his picturesque hometown, helping in his best friend’s bakery, and the house his grandmother left him. But something’s missing.


Holt Leydon never intended to become a reality TV show host. When his flamboyant brother, Kit, needed a handyman on the set of I Do!, Holt fell into the role, using his expertise to make Kit’s wildest wedding designs come true. Now he’s ready to move on. Kit has agreed on one condition: they rescue Kit’s would-be ratings bonanza “coming home” episode by making Holt the groom.


The problem is Holt needs someone to marry, and fast. Something compels him to ask childhood friend Wiley—and Wiley agrees to the pretense.


Kit gets his dramatic last episode, Holt gets off the show, and Wiley gets some artificial excitement and a “honeymoon” on the show’s dime. It’s perfect—until the grooms start wishing their pretend engagement was more reality and less TV….


Book Review

Fans of the fake engagement trope will love this sweet love story. Wiley Grey is living quietly in his hometown, helping his BFF with her bakery, doing some design work, and going nowhere. Literally. Along comes childhood friend Kit Leydon, now host to a popular reality TV show that features a new wedding every week, and Kit pulls Wiley into his latest scheme. Kit’s brother, Holt, who helps with production of the show, is getting married (to give him an out to resign) and Kit announces that Wiley is his betrothed. Shocked speechless at first, Wiley agrees to the plan.


The story is literally all about the happy (and bumpy) road of wedding planning. Wiley is a total sweetheart, the kind of character I enjoy reading. He’s creative, intelligent, sympathetic to others, faithful to his friends, and deserves all the love. But here’s my big hitch with the story: I could not warm up to Holt, who came across as cool and stoic to me. Yes, he’s tall, muscular, sexy, enjoys helping others, and appears to like Wiley. Most of his thoughts of Wiley are centered on how cute Wiley is and how sweet he is and how worried he is that Wiley may get hurt by this fake marriage situation. Their verbal discussions are primarily about the wedding and how to fake it, so they use standard get-to-know-you questions and answers to prepare. But over and above that, they don’t have life discussions, and Holt always has a blank expression when Wiley looks to him, leading Wiley to another thing I don’t like— jumping to false conclusions. Communication would have gone a long way toward making this a better story. I wanted to hear Holt’s internal dialogue— or even hear him say something out loud— about what a good person Wiley is, how intelligent, or how much he’s coming to care for him.


The secondary characters were diverse, including Wiley’s BFF, Carla, who I found a bit harsh— too bossy, and a brassy caricature of a fag hag. Kit, Holt’s brother and host of the reality show, was sparkly and outgoing with a steamroller attitude and a ton of self-love, so I was happy he was only a secondary character. The POV of a blogger who hosted a fan page devoted to the show was featured off and on throughout the story to give the show’s fans a chance to interject their take on the progress of the romance. Though I didn’t get the context and content the first time it was introduced, by the end of the story I looked forward to more and was caught up in the fans’ excitement, so kudos for that inventive twist on getting readers on board with the reality show audience.


All in all, if you enjoy reality TV, fake marriage, and a sweetheart main character, this is a great book to pick up.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by Dreamspinner Press for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 228 pages/61243 words
Heat Level
Publication Date 17-November-2020
Price $4.99 ebook, $9.99 paperback
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