~ Book Review: Pretend You’re Mine (ARC) ~

Expected publication May 9, 2023

Author: Lucy Score

I only wanted to protect you…

Luke Garrison is a hometown hero, a member of the National Guard ready to deploy again. He’s strong, sexy, broody. The last thing he’s looking for is a woman to ruin his solitude. When the wildly beautiful Harper stumbles into his life, though, he realizes that she’s the perfect decoy. A fake girlfriend to keep his family off his back until he’s deployed.

So what if kissing her sends his mind to wicked places? He can control himself. Can’t he?

Harper was on her way to starting a new life… again. But something about Luke makes her want to settle down in this small town and make his house a home. When she’s in his arms, she finally knows what it’s like to feel safe. Protected.

One night of sharing a bed turns into something much, much more… and soon Luke can’t keep his mind off Harper’s wide gray eyes or his hands off her luscious curves. He never thought he’d feel this way about a woman again. But he knows that he can’t tell her the truth about his dark past. And she can’t reveal what she’s running from.

At least this isn’t a real relationship. It’s only for a month. It’s only pretend. Until it isn’t…

Pretend You’re Mine is the first standalone novel within the Benevolence series. If I recall correctly, this novel was self-published back in 2015 and then rereleased in 2018 and now again in 2023. Each novel in the series seems to focus on a new couple in the small town of Benevolence, so they could be read as standalones, and it seems this republication is treating them as standalones. The story follows Harper Wilde who ends up running away without a cell phone or money after some events at home. She ends up at a bar in Benevolence where she ends up meeting National Guard Luke Garrison. As a foster child passed through the system since the age of seven, experiencing feeling lost and abused along the way, Harper was a sympathetic character that you wanted to root for. Luke is the brooding hero who has completed three tours overseas and will be shipping out for his fourth in a few weeks. Not only has he been away on multiple tours, but years also ago his wife passed away in a car accident and he has been grieving ever since.

Luke decides to make a deal with Harper for them to help each other as he will give her a place to stay, and she’ll pretend to be his girlfriend until he is deployed to get his family off his back. The two have great chemistry together, but it is obvious that Luke is not ready to open his heart fully. Some readers may automatically be turned off by Luke still holding on to his wife, but I have seen it done well in other stories, so I held out hope. Unfortunately, for me, I could not see in any way Luke was ready to have a new relationship. It seemed I saw a new red flag with every page. While I could see the love develop, I honestly could not explain Harper’s decisions. For me, I needed more exploration into why she put in so much work for Luke yet her past relationship was straight-forward in why it ended. I understand that the situations are different yet there still should have been something in the writing to explain why Luke was worth the extra effort.

I believe there is a lot of potential in this novel, but I think the last half of the book took some elements too far. There are some moments that Score seemed to write to drive home some of the emotions of the characters to the reader, however, it just did not quite get there. The writing itself was enjoyable as it seemed it was just the content choices that did not work for me. I think Score has a lot of potential to work for me as a reader, but this storyline just does not mesh with me. The ending did not work for the characters’ journeys, and I did not think events matched either. While I had my expectations for how I thought the story should play out, I would have been okay if it did not happen if it made sense for the characters. For this story, unfortunately, it just did not make sense. Other readers may disagree. Overall, I still enjoyed Score’s style and want to read more from her even if this one did not work for me.

**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Bloom Books, for the opportunity to read this entertaining novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**

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