Title: The Boyfriend Bargain
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: 5 May 2019
Synopsis from Goodreads
Wall Street Journal bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills returns with an all-new swoon-fest of a novel about what happens when you take a chance on love.
Wanted: one hot guy with rock-hard abs and a big stick.
Broke and desperate, Sugar Ryan has no use for arrogant, bad boy athletes . . . until she’s forced to bargain with the cockiest of them all.
If only he knew she was alive.
Her mission? Get on this hockey player’s radar any way possible.
Zack Morgan is the king of the ice and the bedroom—but nothing prepares him for the mystery girl who shows up everywhere he does—frat parties, his favorite bar, and finally his front door with an offer he can’t refuse. The only rule in her boyfriend bargain: no falling in love.
But after one (um, two) smoking-hot hookups, he’s done with pretending and vows to make their fake relationship real. Too bad she can’t trust a player with a reputation for breaking hearts.
Will this hockey star score his forever girl or will their Boyfriend Bargain end in heartbreak?
A standalone hockey romance.
Let me start by saying one of my pet peeves in romance is the use of the doppelganger, when the hero falls for someone that looks like someone they once had feelings for. With that out of the way, I have to say, Ilsa surprised me by making me understand that it isn’t necessarily the fact that the love interest is similar to a previous partner but rather that the hero has a type 🤯
On first impressions Zack and Sugar would seem complete opposites, although Zack’s reputation is greatly exaggerated and as we get to know him it is easier to understand his true character buried beneath the image that has been created for him.
Both Zack and Sugar have a lot of negativity concerning relationships stemming from events in their past, and they have different ways of dealing with them. Unfortunately, the emotional baggage Zack carries with him also manifests itself physically in the form of anxiety and panic attacks. Having personal experience of anxiety I could relate to the triggers Zack has and the spiral of negative thoughts that are so difficult to dig yourself out of.
Sugar, on the other hand, takes the negativity she has been subjected to and is determined to prove her worth to the people who made her feel undeserving in the past. Her complex family situation and unorthodox upbringing add to Sugar’s drive.
The passion between Sugar and Zack is off the charts from their very first encounter. The intensity of their emotions is something neither of them has anticipated especially as their relationship is supposed to be fake in order to further both of their plans.
What begins with a bargain quickly turns into much more than Sugar and Zack could have dreamed of. This does also mean that they both have to open up the wounds the past inflicted on them and trust the other with their deepest, darkest secrets.
While there is a bit of angst within the narrative it is the way in which the characters grow from their experiences and learn how to overcome the emotional damage they have encountered that is the true heart of The Boyfriend Bargain.
There are also some very interesting peripheral characters that add so much to Sugar and Zack’s story in The Boyfriend Bargain.