The pretend boyfriend/girlfriend trope is rife in het romance, but you don’t see it very often in m/m. In fact, you’re far more likely to encounter the opposite, when closeted characters have to hide their relationship and get themselves a fake girlfriend instead. After reading a few great books featuring pretend boyfriend storylines, though, I thought it was time to highlight the trope and see what you all think about it. I’m hoping for recommendations!
When it works:
You have to have a convincing reason for why a character would need a pretend boyfriend, and the real world doesn’t offer all that many of them, so writers need to be creative. Most often this trope is used as a very minor part of a larger storyline, and played for laughs as the comic potential is huge. It’s also particularly delicious when one of the characters isn’t gay (or doesn’t think they are), so that the pretence is doubled.
When it doesn’t work:
I’m not fond of provoking the jealousy of the man our hero really fancies being used as the motivating force for them pretending to have a boyfriend. There are much, much better ways of attracting someone’s attention, and I don’t find the idea that a man would act in such a manipulative manner terribly convincing. At its worst, this trope can come across like a bad soap opera, complete with melodramatic characters doing bizarre and out of character things simply to advance the plot.
Because this trope turns the genre expectation on its head, I do enjoy it (done well). There’s something delicious about watching a relationship that began as a masquerade change into something deeper. It lends itself beautifully to situation comedy, but also to poignant scenarios when the heroes begin to fall for each other, but can’t tell whether the other one is pretending for appearance’s sake, or whether they feel the same way too.
Bad Company by K.A. Mitchell – In which minor reality TV star Kellan bamboozles his old friend Nate (who has a huge crush on him) into pretending to be his boyfriend so Kellan can publicly “come out” in order to upset his controlling father. Of course, Kellan discovers he isn’t as heterosexual as he previously imagined…
Bad Boyfriend by K.A. Mitchell – In this story Quinn needs a pretend boyfriend to get back at his closeted and soon to be married ex, and asks Eli to help him – the most flamboyant twink he can find. What begins as hot sex interspersed with awkward family events soon deepens into so much more. One of my all time favourite m/m romances!
Just for You by Jet Mykles – This is another “gay for you” type plot in which Kevin asks outrageous fashionista Justin to be his date so that he can attend an exclusive gay club and gain access to the CEO of the company he works for. Justin is head over heels with Kevin, but it takes Kevin a little longer to realise that he feels the same way.
What do you all make of this trope? And does anyone have any recs for more books featuring it?