Spencer Holiday loves his playboy lifestyle. He's drop-dead-gorgeous, well-endowed, and great in bed. And he knows it. Deep down, though, he isn't just a shallow love-em-and-leave-em jerk, but a genuinely great guy who simply loves women and enjoys playing the field. He's business partners with Charlotte Rhodes, his best friend since college, and on occasion, they've pretended to be each other's boyfriend or girlfriend to fend off unwanted suitors. Spencer's father is ready to retire and has found a promising buyer for his flagship family-owned jewelry store. But when the guy turns out to be an ultra-conservative stick in the mud, and it seems like Spencer's rather public love life might jeopardize the deal, Spencer tells a little white lie about being engaged to Charlotte. Now all he has to do is convince Charlotte to go along with it.
At first, Charlotte thinks it's the worst idea Spencer's ever had. But when she realizes she can use the fake engagement to rid herself of an annoying, cheating ex who won't leave her alone, she agrees to play Spencer's fiancée for a week. When they have to engage in touching and kissing to make it seem authentic, she also quickly figures out that she has the hots for him, and it might be the perfect chance to sample the goods, so to speak. Once she's convinced him that they could be lovers for a week and then go back to merely being friends when the pretend engagement is over, Spencer can't resist. The only problem is that now that he's had Charlotte once, it simply isn't enough. He just might be falling for his best friend, but does she feel the same? And what will they do when his little white lie keeps growing and growing until it's too big to contain?
Big Rock was my first read by Lauren Blakely and I couldn't have asked for a more perfect book to begin my reading relationship with this author. First of all, it's utterly unique to the genre in that it's the first and only hetero romance I've read to date that's written entirely from the first-person male POV. This gave the story a very different feel than any other romance I can recall, but I found it to be a refreshing change of pace. Second this is a pretty light, breezy story that definitely has more of a romantic comedy vibe to it. I have to admit that I don't often read rom coms (or even watch rom com movies), because they rarely satisfy me. I often lean more toward darker, angstier reads for the intense emotions they tend to evoke, while rom coms often leave me feeling cold due to the lack of depth and/or feeling. Sometimes it also seems like the author is trying too hard to be funny, causing the jokes to fall flat. Big Rock certainly doesn't delve into any dark places, and yet it still somehow managed to indulge my senses and slake my thirst for a great love story in a way that most books of this nature don't. Maybe it was because Spencer is a great character, or maybe it was the friends-to-lovers trope that's almost always a hit with me, or maybe it was the smokin' hot love scenes, or maybe it was simply that the story was so darn much fun. In fact, it was probably all of those things wrapped up together that made this book a huge winner for me.
Spencer is invited to attend a business meeting involving his father, who wants nothing more than to sell his iconic jewelry story and retire, and the new buyer his dad has lined up to take over the business. Spencer wants to make a good impression on the buyer for his dad's sake, but it soon becomes clear that the guy is an ultra-conservative boor who seems to have some knowledge of Spencer's playboy exploits and finds them distasteful. Wanting to smooth things over, Spencer lies about having just gotten engaged to his best friend and business partner, Charlotte. He thinks it will help create a flawless business transaction, and that it won't be a big deal on a personal level either. After all, he and Charlotte have acted as each other's boyfriend/girlfriend before to get out of the unwanted attentions of certain members of the opposite sex, so what's a little pretend engagement between friends when it will only last a week. The only problem is that all the kissing and touchy-feely stuff they have to engage in to make it seem real, suddenly leads to all sorts of emotions that are anything but friendly and actually are real, at least on his part. And when all of his lies start to unravel it could lead to disaster.
The first few lines of the cover blurb could easily leave the impression that Spencer is an egotistical jerk. I have to admit that as I first began reading that blurb, I wasn't so sure about him, but the further the blurb went, the more intrigued I became. I'm so glad I added the book to my TBR list, because I can unequivocally say that Spencer is not an egotistical jerk. He's certainly filled with tons of confidence, and he's absolutely certain of his bedroom skills. However, since he can definitely deliver on all counts, I found it to be a metaphorical truth in advertising sort of thing rather than off-putting in any way. In fact, his narration about it all is pretty funny. Yes, he is a playboy with an overactive libido who doesn't do commitments and sleeps with a different woman practically every other day, but he has a kind, gentlemanly side, too. I loved him for not giving in to the temptation of having sex with Charlotte when she was drunk. He's also a great son, who wants nothing more than to help out his dad, so when he lies about the engagement, it's only with the best of intentions. Spencer does get taken down a few pegs by the end, finding himself eating crow and needing to make amends for his mistakes along the way, but he does so with gentlemanly grace. And he's just too cute when he starts having real feelings for Charlotte. It's such a foreign concept to him, he ends up protesting way too much, but once he realizes that he truly is in love with her, he fully embraces it even though he isn't sure she feels the same way. He transitions flawlessly and believably from confident lover to an uncertain man in love because he's now in uncharted territory. I couldn't help but adore Spencer for falling head-over-heels for Charlotte and for turning over a new leaf in which she's the only woman he needs in his life, and also for simply being his intelligent, witty self.
Since there are no scenes from Charlotte's POV, we don't get to know her quite as well. There isn't a lot about her background or family life, but I didn't necessarily feel like anything was missing because of that. The main details we do know are that she's being pursued by an ex who cheated on her and she hasn't been with any other man since that breakup. Otherwise, we see her wholly through Spencer's eyes, which admittedly might have been rose-colored glasses to some degree, but I loved what I saw. She's a loyal friend and business partner to Spencer. They've been besties since college, and although each went their separate ways immediately after, they kept in touch and eventually started a successful small chain of bars together. It's very clear early on that Charlotte enjoys a comfortable, trusting relationship with Spencer, so it wasn't a stretch at all to believe that she would fall in love with him in such short order. She's also pretty confident in her own right, being the one to propose that they take advantage of their pretend engagement to indulge a few sexual fantasies with a pledge to go back to being friends when it's over. Even though she said this, I could tell that she was falling in love with him just as quickly, even though Spencer failed to "get the memo."
Overall, Big Rock was a fun, delightful read. Parts of it were perhaps a tad predictable, but it didn't ruin the enjoyment for me. I loved the interactions between Spencer and his family and best male friend, Nick. The love and respect between them all is readily apparent in their behavior, and they all have a wonderful way of taunting and teasing but in a good way. Despite being an almost overly confident alpha male, Spencer really managed to capture my heart by being a good guy inside, and I very much liked Charlotte, too. I wasn't really bothered by the rapid progression of their relationship, because this couple was obviously made for one another. Not to mention, their long-standing friendship played into it a lot. A strong argument could be made that they were already falling for each other long before the pretend engagement and simply never allowed themselves to explore that as an option out of fear of losing their awesome friendship. The love scenes are crazy hot and explicitly detailed without ever resorting to anything tawdry or kinky, and they perfectly expressed the depth of attraction and feeling present between Spencer and Charlotte. Last but certainly not least, the story is just pure, witty enjoyment. It never tries too hard to be funny. It simply is. I know I had a goofy grin on my face for a large part of the time I spent reading it. This book would make a perfect rom com movie that I'd definitely pay to go see, and it was an excellent start to both the Big Rock series and my reading of Lauren Blakely's books. I can't wait to dive into Nick's book, Mister O, which is the next one.
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