5 stars adult - 18+ Angst Level Book Contemporary Dreamspinner Gay Heat Index Hidden Lovers Homophobia m/m Mid level angst Mid level steam/heat Novel 140 pgs + (80K + words) Part of a Series

First Comes Marriage by Shira Anthony

release day review

Dreamspinner Presents


Their marriage was supposed to be all business….

When struggling novelist Chris Valentine meets Jesse Donovan, he’s interested in a book contract, or possibly a date. The last thing Chris expects is a marriage proposal from New York City’s most eligible bachelor!

Jesse’s in a pinch: to keep control of his company, he has to marry. So he has valid reasons for offering Chris this business deal. In exchange for living in a gorgeous mansion for a year, playing the doting husband, Chris gets all the writing time he wants and walks away with a million dollar payoff. Surely Chris can handle that. He can handle living with the most handsome and endearing man he’s ever met, a man he immediately knows he wants in the worst way and can’t have. Or can he?

A Dreamspun Desires title


Jesse is a billionaire in need of a marriage to save his inheritance from the “evil” step-grandmother who would sell his beloved business if she inherits. (Yay – I love this trope!)

Chris is a struggling novelist. He’s got a few titles under his belt and has high hopes his newest will gain him a heft advance, but living in New York is expensive and his part time job as a barista isn’t doing much for his savings account.

Jesse happens to be a fan of Chris’ and approaches him at a reading for a date to discuss what Jesse’s connections can do for Chris’ career. They have a good meeting, but Jesse is straight so…

Later, Jesse approaches Chris about a business arrangement wherein they’d be platonically married for the sake of getting the inheritance Jesse’s grandfather left him, and Chris could leave the marriage after a year with a million dollars for his efforts.

At first Chris is offended and declines. He’s not ready for a marriage – he’s young, inexperienced in dating and doesn’t even know which hand a wedding ring is supposed to go on (they’re worn on the left hand FYI, Chris) – but his friends and Jesse show him how silly that idea is and he eventually agrees.

From there is a whirlwind of change into Jesse’s decadent beach house and life as a writer exclusively. The only problem is Jesse keeps giving mixed signals to Chris about his sexuality and after a couple of scorching kisses, Chris has to wonder…

Eventually some truths are uncovered and both parties feel betrayed by the other. Will their burgeoning relationship have a chance at forever once the lies are dispelled or have they ruined it with their deceptions?


So this is totally what I was expecting when I read about this series. This trope – the Cinderfella trope (in this case) is a tried and true one. Shira Anthony played it off perfectly!

She gave us a believable scenario, with a fairly realistic approach to the arranged marriage and then gave us some sizzling chemistry and a confusing step-grandmother to keep us on our toes.

My only quibble was I wasn’t sure why Jesse kept the secrets he did… it seems to me he’d have been better off being honest from the start and I’m not sure what he thought he’d gain by lying… but… in the end it absolutely worked out and I loved it!

Highly recommended.

5 of 5 stars


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Copy Generously Provided by Publisher for Honest Review

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