Rating: 4.5 Stars

Publisher: Jax Calder

Genre: Gay Romance

Tags: Contemporary, Fake Relationship (Kind of?), Romance, Single Dads/Kids, Small Town

Length: 174 Pages

Reviewer: Cindi

Purchase At: Amazon

Blurb –

I moved to Mineral Creek so I could focus on my son. After my recent breakup, small-town life is exactly what we need, and I’m determined to stay single.

But the town’s resident matchmakers have other ideas. Every second person I meet tries to set me up with Mineral Creek’s one other gay single Dad.

Jeremy. King.

I’ve heard those two words so many times since we moved here. I might explode if the name is uttered one more time.
But when I finally meet the man himself, any potential combustion will be due to the chemistry between us.

My Mineral Creek neighbors have looked out for me since my divorce and are now determined to set me up with the new guy in town.

I feel bad that everyone is hounding Dustin to ask me out. I want to get them off his back. Enter my brilliant idea: the fake date.

Convincing the Mineral Creek matchmakers that we’re not compatible would be much easier if we’d kept to our script of uncomfortable silence instead of talking for so long that the restaurant kicked us out when they closed.

But nothing changes the fact that Dustin doesn’t want a boyfriend, and I’m not able to offer my heart to anyone anyway.
We can keep things casual between us, right?

This light-hearted, low-angst 36,000 word MM romantic novella is full of fun banter, steamy times and sweet times between two adorable guys who are desperately trying to pretend they are not falling in love.

Review –

Ah, the joys of small towns. Everybody knows your business, and worse, everybody knows your mama. 😉 Well, that’s how it is in my neck of the woods anyway, and apparently, that’s how it is in the tiny town of Mineral Creek.

Dustin and his fourteen-year-old son Lachie move to Mineral Creek after Lachie gets into a bit of trouble. He’s been hanging around with the wrong crowd, and Dustin feels a move to new surroundings might help straighten him up a bit. He’s barely even arrived when the townsfolk are throwing out the name Jeremy King. Apparently Jeremy is also a single gay dad, and there aren’t exactly a bunch of other prospects in Mineral Creek, so surely Dustin would be interested in meeting him, right? That cracked me up. Every single person Dustin comes in contact with mentions Jeremy.

Apparently, the whole town of Mineral Creek is just a giant Grindr site where all swipes lead to Jeremy King.

When they do meet, it’s quite embarrassing for Dustin, but thankfully Jeremy’s cool about it. To say they’re both attracted to each other is a huge understatement. Even so, Dustin just got out of a bad relationship that he felt prevented him from seeing what was going on with Lachie. He believes that had he not been so focused on Robbie (the bad ex) he wouldn’t have missed the signs of trouble with his son. He doesn’t want another relationship anytime soon because he fears he’ll fall back into putting so much focus on a partner that he won’t see things with Lachie that might be right in front of him.

That doesn’t stop Dustin from wanting Jeremy. He just has no desire to act on it.

What happens over the next few days is kind of funny. Dustin and Jeremy constantly show up at the same places; sometimes with their kids, sometimes not. From impromptu soccer games in the park, to their kids conveniently insisting on getting ice cream at the same time, to even both men seeing each other at the grocery store… they can’t get away from each other. Sure, the town is small, but come on.

What they decide to do about the nosy townspeople is they’ll go on a bad fake date, pretend to be totally bored with each other, and then everybody will see their matchmaking is for naught.

Only that fake bad date turns out to be anything but. It turns out they have a lot in common and they genuinely like each other. Still, Dustin refuses to get involved. When it does happen – and man, does it happen! – it’s funny at the same time it’s sexy. Apparently to shut one of the nosy women in town, Jeremy had implied there was no sexual chemistry between him and Dustin. He lied big time. One glance and they were wanting to crawl all over each other. Of course, their so-called lack of sexual chemistry has to be proven, right?

Over and over again, even if they did pretend it wasn’t anything other than a friends-with-benefits type of thing.

Watching them to pretend they weren’t falling head over heels in love with each other was downright funny.

The town was… interesting. It may have been set in New Zealand, but Mineral Creek was just like other small towns all over the world.

Then there are the kids, Lachie and Lucy, who’s nine. They quickly took to each other even if there was five years between them. I loved them both.

Other characters to note are Lachie’s sister and Jeremy’s ex-wife. I loved the sister. As for the ex, I’m neutral. In the beginning I wasn’t a fan, but that kinda/sorta changed later.

I felt bad for Jeremy. He and Emily had divorced two years prior after Jeremy finally came to terms with the fact that he was gay, though he’d always identified as bisexual. There’s a lot of guilt over ripping apart their little family, especially when Emily was against the divorce. There’s also the guilt of feeling like coming out as gay after identifying as bi for so long was an unintentional slap in the face to those who are bisexual.

Jeremy desperately wanted a relationship with Dustin, though Dustin was fighting a relationship outside of sex every step of the way. Then an emergency with Lachie freaks Dustin out a bit and he ends up hurting Jeremy.

Of course things were going too well. Thankfully the author didn’t bog the story down with a bunch of unnecessary drama that dragged out for page after page. When Dustin realized he screwed up, he went to great lengths to fix it.

I read The Anonymous Hookup by this author last year and absolutely loved it. While I can’t say I loved Keeping It Casual as much as that one, I will say that I definitely enjoyed it. You can’t not adore Jeremy. I liked Dustin well enough. I understood his hesitancy with taking things beyond the bedroom with Jeremy, but it got kind of tiring after a while. I did get a kick out of some of the people in town, though they weren’t the only matchmakers in Mineral Creek. Part of that was a nice surprise.

Overall, a really good book. I really enjoy this author’s writing style.