Fake relationship? As if.
I don’t need a man to complete me, but to get my tubes tied before I turn thirty, I do need a husband.
When the former child TV star turned producing director for the angsty hit drama series currently shooting in my hometown comes to me desperate for a favor, the exchange of my services for his seems like a great idea.
I help him relearn how to drive a car, and he acts as my fiancé for a few doctor’s visits.
What could go wrong?
Bingeing 90’s TV shows like Seinfeld and Ally McBeal have you jonesing for a time when email and cell phones were strange new things, and an app was something you ate before the first course? Then this slow burn, fake relationship, entertainment biz romantic comedy is just what the doctor ordered.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “A fun, sweet and a zigazig-ahmazing 90’s retro story that brings all the feels in the best possible ways.” - Bookbub review
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Dust off your old Nokia phones and brush up on your snake game because we’re going back to the 90s!” - Jojo Reads Romance
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “This fabulous series keeps giving and giving, and I couldn’t be happier. This time, the main trope is fake marriage, but neither the circumstances surrounding the arrangement, nor the actual terms of the arrangement, are common. Trust this author to keep you on your toes.” - Vero Ticker book blog
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “So heartfelt and relatable - I was drawn in and hooked from the first page.” - Goodreads review
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “I enjoyed everything about this slow burn, fake relationship story, the charming characters, the humor and all the feels of this sweet and sexy romance.” - Bookbub Review
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Dani and Lukas are an amazing pair that take us on an adventure of big life decisions, taking chances and ultimately an amazing love story.” - Bookbub review
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “The blossoming friendship and slow burn romance between them is beautiful. Karen always has such a great way of writing, and I'm just such a fan of everything she does! I highly recommend this one to everybody. You can definitely get away reading this as a standalone (the former book characters backstories aren't necessary for this one), but it's always good to know their stories instead of going back later and knowing a few things!” - Goodreads review
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “I Want It That Way is an amazing story. Author Grey takes a difficult, controversial topic and tackles it head on. Thoughtful. No flinching. Dani is a woman who knows her mind and Grey makes your mind step back and think about this. Amidst the always well-written, well-plotted humor, heat, romance and difficulties to be dealt with by well-formed, likeable, loveable characters, Grey inserts a very serious subject and deals with it very seriously.” - Bookbub review
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “I was totally rooting for them to work out their relationship as they were perfect for each other.” - Netgalley review
“Are you sure you don’t want me to take the 405?” the cab driver asks as he pulls away from my Studio City house. The one I won’t be seeing for several months. “Traffic wasn’t bad.”
“I prefer surface streets, thanks.” Hopefully my tone is curt enough to prevent further discussion without being rude. I have my reasons for avoiding the highway—no easy feat in the City of Angels—but I’m not getting into them with a stranger.
Anyway, I’ve got plenty of time before my flight departs, and I’ve got phone calls to make. Goodbyes to say that will distract me from the drive as well as from my worries about my new job.
Just as I pull my cell from my jacket pocket, it vibrates. Seeing my buddy Max’s name on the screen, I flip it open. “Don’t worry, man, I’m on the way to the airport.”
“I’m not checking up on you.”
Max was my roommate at boarding school, so not only does he know most of my secrets, I know when he’s bullshitting. “You sure about that?”
“Okay, I am checking up on you. But I’m also calling with news. Some good, some bad.”
Max is the latest showrunner on the hit TV show Lawson’s Reach. Number five, to be exact; the production hired and fired three just in the second half of its first season. He’s taking a calculated risk in bringing me on as producing director. The showrunner, who has to be in LA full-time running the writers’ room, would typically rely on the line producer or UPM to be his eyes and ears. But because this particular show has a history of drama both on- and off- camera, he wants someone he can really trust on location.
By hiring a guy like me, Max is betting that our long personal history will be more beneficial than the short list of credits on my directing résumé.
“Bad news first,” I say.
“New budget from the studio means we’ve got to cut costs. Which means you only get a driver for the first couple weeks.”
The egg white and spinach omelet I had for breakfast suddenly threatens to come back up. “Well, that’s a problem.”
“You have a driver’s license.”
“That I haven’t used in five years.”
“I thought you said therapy was helping.”
I slump down in the backseat and lower my voice to answer. “Only in terms of being a passenger.”
“Maybe this is a chance to change that,” he says, like it’s no big deal. Even though he knows it is.
“Max, you know it’s not—” Trying and failing to keep irritation out of my voice with just the thought of driving making my hands clammy and my heart race, I do my best to concentrate on my breathing.
“I mean, the town is tiny,” he goes on. “It’d be a good place to work through things. Plus, you said you requested the same driver you had on that movie you shot there, right?”
“You liked her.”
“What is this, eighth grade?”
“Not liked her, liked her, you idiot. You said she was super chill. Unimpressed by your famous ass.”
“I’d argue that more than my ass is famous.” Or was, anyway
“My point is, instead of just driving you around, she could help you get back to doing it yourself.”
With an eye on the taxi driver, I swallow further argument. No need to air my dirty laundry in public. “I’ll figure something out.”
“I’m just saying, man. You could take this as an opportunity.”
“Anything else?” I ask, my tone probably sharper than it should be with my boss.
“I’m about to fax the final budget to O’Neill, the line producer. I just wanted you to know about the change before you went over it with her.”
“Thanks, man. I do appreciate the heads-up.” It wouldn’t be a good look to wig out on my first day at the office.
“O’Neill’s a ballbuster, but she’s good people.”
“Anything else? I owe Angie a call.”
“Ah, tell your lovely mother I said hi. You have the latest scripts?”
I pat my briefcase, bulging with photocopies. “Yep. Plan to go over them on the plane.”
“That’s the good news, by the way. You’ve got the green light from the network to direct the first episode.”
“Wow, that’s great.” Both Max and I were worried the powers that be might insist on bringing in a director with more experience.
“I had to beg a little bit, so don’t fuck up.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
I open my mouth to tell him that I’ll check in tomorrow, but before I can he says, “Oh, shit. There’s one more thing. Speaking of literally fucking up, we just got this memo, directly from the chairman of the board of Brothers Werner.”
“It’s a no-tolerance policy for quote-unquote ‘fraternization among employees.’ People are already calling it the Morality Memo.”
“What is this, the 1950s?”
“My theory? It has to do with two things. You remember how I said it was all hush-hush why the last showrunner got fired?”
“Yeah,” I answer, wondering where this is going. People get fired in Hollywood all the time for all kinds of reasons.
“When I cornered one of the writers who’s been around from the beginning, he told me the previous showrunner had an affair with a writer.”
“Why is that such a big deal?”
“Apparently, after they broke up, she had a huge meltdown in the company cafeteria. Right after the show got that mention in Ten Things I Hate About You.”
“You mean the dad character saying something about Lawson’s River where the kids share beds ‘and whatnot’?”
“That line plus the woman’s meltdown stirred up controversy all over again about the show being overly sexual. Long story short, they fired the writer and bought out of the showrunner’s contract.”
“Meanwhile, we’re still trying to sell the idea of a love story between two male characters to the suits.” He clears his throat. “All this is to say that I need you to keep things squeaky clean over on the left coast. Keep those kids out of each other’s beds.”
When I groan, he echoes it. “My thoughts exactly. Good luck, brother.”
After I hang up, I take a moment to digest all this information before calling my mother. Who also happens to be my manager. Or ex-manager, though she’s refusing to accept that I’ve fired her. Once her assistant puts me through, she starts right in. “Are you sure you can’t put off leaving another day? Because I was just talking to casting at Universal and they’ve got a movie you’d be perfect for.”
“Angie. We talked about this.”
“I could get you a meeting later today. Then you could take the red eye.”
“For one thing, my first day is tomorrow. I’m not starting this gig by driving directly to work from the airport. And two, when are you going to get it? I quit.”
My mother’s acting career fizzled out when she had three kids back-to-back. After I booked a commercial that she lost out on, she shifted gears. I’ll never know if leaving acting behind was a relief or a disappointment for her, but I do know she flourished as a manager. My brother and I were her first clients, but twenty-some years later, she’s got more clients than I can keep track of, and an office full of minions.
My brother’s career is booming, so I’m not sure why she takes my failures so seriously. Before she can launch into her usual arguments, like I just need to take a class from this guy, get a haircut from that woman, change my workout, yadda yadda yadda, I’m saved by the bell.
“Gotta go, Angie. Kellie’s on the other line.”
“Oh, tell her to call me. I have something to run by her.”
Did I mention that my mother also represents my long-time co-star-slash-best friend with whom I have a complicated public relationship? Stifling a sigh, I promise to pass on the message and tell her I’ll check in with her and my father once I’m settled.
“I just hope you’re not making a mistake. Running second-unit shoots and babysitting a bunch of teenage actors in the middle of nowhere,” she tuts. “Are you sure you want to give up on your own career for that?”
Maybe it’s because I was her first client. The one responsible for extinguishing her own rising star. But my mother just can’t quite accept that not every child phenom can cut it as an adult.