Hall (Fire & Water) breathes new life into the fake-dating trope with this effervescent queer rom-com. Luc O’Donnell, the hapless son of an aging British rock star, is tired of being a tabloid headline. When his employers at the small environmental charity where he works raise concerns about his public image and prompt him to find a stable relationship, Luc lets his friends set him up with Oliver Blackwood, a stuffy but sexy criminal barrister. Though their first date is a disaster, after Luc confesses his true motives, Oliver agrees to pose as his boyfriend at work events if Luc will return the favor at Oliver’s parents’ anniversary party. Their ruse gets its first test during a fancy work lunch in a hilarious, standout scene reminiscent of P.G. Wodehouse. Oliver proves to be “Annoying. And thoughtful. And protective. And secretly kind of funny” as he inspires Luc to take control of his life, supports Luc through his absentee father’s cancer diagnosis, and teaches him sex can be meaningful. But Luc’s efforts to help Oliver cope with his hypercritical parents backfire, leading to a delightfully comedic take on the inevitable grand romantic gesture. The writing is witty, and Luc and Oliver’s chemistry is irresistible, but it’s Hall’s insights about trust and self-worth that set the story apart.
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