The fake relationship trope is commonly found in romance novels. The hero and heroine pretend to be romantically involved and wind up falling in love. The main characters may be strangers caught up in extraordinary circumstances, or colleagues who become reluctant allies, or even friends willing to go the extra mile.
Yet pretending to be a committed relationship seems like an extreme step to take. Why would two people fake date?
Most of the time, it has to do with reputation or pride.
In The Boyfriend Experience by Carly Phillips and Erika Wilde, Evie needs to hire a boyfriend to escort her to a family reunion. She can’t deal with her relatives’ pity and intrusive questions about why she’s single again. It’s going to awkward that one of her ex-boyfriends will be there because he recently became engaged to her cousin. Evie decides to use a boyfriend app so she doesn’t have to attend the event alone.
Of course there’s an app for that.
When she meets Eric, her temporary and fake boyfriend, Evie doesn’t expect sparks to fly. Neither one is looking for a commitment, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a weekend affair. All they have to do is keep it casual and uncomplicated… but the deeply intimate moments continue to catch them by surprise.
This romance novel is an example of the hero and heroine developing an instant bond with a fake relationship. They not only share a secret, but also a common goal.
Not to mention close quarters.
Another reason the couple will pretend to be in a committed relationship because they need to transform or repair their reputation.
For example, in The One in My Heart by Sherry Thomas, it appears that high society’s bad boy and good girl have fallen for each other, but it’s all pretend. Bennett had been disowned by his family years ago because he fell in love with an inappropriate woman. He yearns to return to the fold but he can’t show that he wants to come home. (Once again, it’s a matter of pride!) Bennett needs someone to facilitate the reunion with his family. He wants someone safe, familiar—and most importantly, respectable—by his side. Someone like Evangeline.
Bennett and Evangeline have a shared history that also includes a recent one-night stand. But Evangeline didn’t pursue the relationship because, like Bennett, she longs for and fears emotional intimacy in equal measure. Fake dating allows her to get close the man of her dreams without being vulnerable.
So the hero and heroine in a fake relationship discover the bonus of acting like lovers without taking an emotional risk. Sure, it’s bound to get messy. How many times can one fall into bed with a pretend lover to maintain the charade before it suspiciously begins to feel like a real affair?
But, perhaps the bigger question is this: Why would anyone think that fake dating is a legitimate solution? Of all the possibilities, how did the hero and heroine agree that this was a sound plan of action? And accept it as practical?
Admittedly, there’s often some bias in the decision making. Perhaps the main character is already in love with the other when he or she suggests the pretense. Or, the two have been dancing around the sexual attraction that’s just beneath the surface.
That happens in Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey. In this story, Georgie is a professional clown but no one takes her seriously when she’s out of costume. Travis (her brother’s best friend whom she’s loved forever) has recently returned after his baseball career ended due to an injury.
Travis needs to acquire a family-friendly reputation if he wants a job related to the sport. When Georgie suggests they fake date to improve their images, Travis can’t believe he agreed. But then, Georgie always had the ability to challenge and motivate him when he needed it the most.
In most pretend courtships, it doesn’t take long for the hero and heroine to change their perceptions of each other. Each character shows their true colors while participating in a fake relationship. But it gets complicated. It doesn’t matter if rules were agreed upon and expectations were managed. The tender moments mean something to the hero, even though he knows the heroine is putting on an act. The heroine knows the relationship isn’t real but she can’t help indulging in the fantasy.
Eventually (and usually at a time when they are at their most vulnerable) someone will have to take the biggest risk of revealing the truth. After all that time hiding, they find the courage to speak from the heart.
Recommended Reading List
In addition to the books mentioned above, get these fake relationship romance novels:
- A Fake Girlfriend for Chinese New Year by Jackie Lau: In order to avoid his family’s disastrous matchmaking for Chinese New Year, Zach asks his friend Jo to pretend that they’re dating.
- Claiming His Christmas Wife by Dani Collins: In this emotionally intense romance, Travis and Imogen must pretend that they have reconciled just in time for Christmas.
- Hero by Night by Sara Jane Stone: This hot fake relationship romance is all about acceptance and strength as the heroine struggles with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Perfect Match by Pat White: When the pro-wrestling promoters create a romantic storyline for two cast members, Julianna and Matthew find it hard to distinguish what is pretend and what is unscripted.
- Playing with Fire by Kate Meader: A female firefighter and the thorn-in-her-side mayor save each other during a fire. Circumstances require them to fake a relationship before the next mayoral election.
- The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory: After meeting Drew while stranded together in a hotel elevator, Alexa agrees to pose as his girlfriend while attending his ex’s wedding.
What to know more about tropes? Read my beginner’s guide!