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REVIEW: “Pretend” by Riley Hart



Mason Alexander thought all he wanted in life was something to call his own—something without the family name attached. He got that when he bought his bar in Blackcreek…but then a hard truth opens his eyes that he’s been lied to his whole life, and he’s tangled amid the family that loves him, a truth that haunts him, and torn between the life he wants for himself and the obligation he feels for his family.

Gavin Davis knows a thing or two about living a double life. Being a gay man with strict Christian parents who believe he’s going to Hell, has never been easy. Instead of dealing, Gavin lost himself in his career. Teaching music gives him solace. So when he loses his job at a private school for helping out a gay kid, he feels like he lost more than a job. He lost his identity.

Blackcreek is a new start for both of them, two men, loyal to a fault, who both feel obligated to people in their lives. What Mason and Gavin don’t expect to find in each other is the place where they can be real. They know they want each other, it’s the rest of it they can’t figure out. Caught between loyalty, obligation, fear, tragedy and family, Mason and Gavin’s lives threaten to pull them away from each other if they don’t get real, and stop playing pretend, for good.


This is my fifth book by Riley Hart and at this point, I can pretty much guarantee that there are no guarantees that I’ll love her work.  Well, I guess that’s pretty true for most authors, right?   Anyway, I’ve adored a couple of her stories and just kinda liked the others.  Pretend is sadly in the “meh, didn’t do anything for me” category. Boo, for that.  Lemme explain why…

There are a few key elements to this story:

  1. Religion
  2. Family
  3. Self-Love/Acceptance

Points two and three are tried and true angles of Hart’s work.  The push and pull between hardships and longing and the struggle of choosing between responsibility and love.  Can they find their way?  Will it work for them? Well, we’re reading romance so it’s pretty obvious that they do, but the landscape from points A to B (or lack thereof) seemed a little too stock-standard.

One of the MCs struggles with the disapproval of his parents because of religious reasons.  This is ordinarily a hard topic for me.  I find the disregard of a person primarily because of religion abhorrent, so reading about it is really, really hard for me – but I think this was handled fairly well.  There weren’t long scenes filled with religious passages.  There was no hateful language – just fear from his parents; fear of the repercussions caused by homosexuality.

There are two families in completely different circumstances.  One son is born into a family that doesn’t accept him – and he struggles with that.  The other son is brought into a family which accepts him unconditionally – but he struggles to forgive them for a secret they’d kept.

Anyone who’s read anything by Riley Hart knows that she can write  a damn hot sex scene – and Pretend is packed with some of the best grunt-worthy sex I’ve come across.  A round of applause right there.  :)

Some of the conversations initially seemed unrealistic between some of the guys.  I mean, do guys ever talk about their feelings? Do they ever remind their friends about their self worth?  I thought not, but then I considered that maybe they don’t say things like “is he/she the kind of person that deserves you?”, but they would say things like “make sure you get treated well.” or “be careful you don’t get taken for a ride.”.  Perhaps Hart has managed to sugarcoat real life intentions… maybe I’m just wishful thinking.

Also, do people shutter in anticipation or shudder in anticipation?  I thought it was shudder…

But I think my biggest bone of contention was the missing emotional connection between the MCs.  There didn’t seem to be the same tenderness mixed with playfulness. Or maybe it’s a case of too much telling and not enough showing..? I’m not sure I can put my finger on it, but their seemed to be a great divide between the intention behind the writing and the delivery.

This was nice enough, but it didn’t rock my world.



23154941Title: Pretend (Blackcreek #3)
Author:  Riley Hart
Publisher:  Self Published
Pages:  201
Release Date: December 29th, 2014
Purchase Links:  Amazon

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This entry was posted on January 12, 2015 by in Contemporary, Reviewer: Sue and tagged , , , .

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