Romance Tropetonite: Famous Fake Flings

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Jessica Pryde

Contributing Editor

Jessica Pryde is a member of that (some might call) rare breed that grew up in Washington, DC, but is happily enjoying the warmer weather of the desert Southwest. While she is still working on what she wants to be when she grows up, she’s enjoying dabbling in librarianship and writing all the things. She can be found drowning in her ever-growing TBR and exclaiming about romance in the Book Riot podcast (When in Romance), as well as on social media. Find her exclamations about books and pho on twitter (JessIsReading) and instagram (jess_is_reading).

Ah yes. Here we are again. The romance tropetonite. These are particular romance tropes that we will always fall for, that make us weak, that will make us break our book-buying ban for just a moment. The tropes we can’t resist, whether the author is new to us or a beloved favorite. The ones we will drop everything to read when there’s a new one that sounds Just Perfect. 

Today’s tropetonite: The Famous Fake Fling.

I’ve talked before about a very similar tropetonite: the fake relationship. But this is a very specific type of fake relationship — the famous fling. Famous flings can exist in any situation. Girl meets boy, boy turns out to be a famous athlete. Boy meets girl, girl is a celebrity influencer. The pair often have to deal with the more famous one’s position in the spotlight, though sometimes there’s a bit of a twist. And every time, they figure out their way to that coveted Happily Ever After. 

But what if it’s not real…at least at the start? So many fake relationships in the greater romance world start because someone needs to present themselves in a certain light. What happens if one or both of those people is a celebrity? There are elements of famous life that make the story altogether different. Sometimes that makes things a little more dramatic; sometimes it eases things along. Any which way, they’re usually pretty delightful to read.   

Here are some irresistible Famous Fake Flings to try out.

The Dating Playbook from Fake Dating Books 2021 |

The Dating Playbook by Farrah Rochon

This second installment of the Boyfriend Project series takes us deep into the life of Taylor, who is looking to get her personal training business off the ground. She has some steady clients and does well with pop-up boot camp classes, but can’t completely get ends to meet. So when ex NFL player Jamar asks her to be his exclusive personal trainer for an exorbitant amount of money, as long as she keeps it on the down-low, she’s all for it. Jamar is looking to get back into NFL shape after an injury, but doesn’t actually want people to know that. So when a reporter asks what he’s doing hanging out with a personal trainer, she blurts that she’s his girlfriend. And things…well, they go from there. 

Cover of Fake It by Lily Seabrooke

Fake It by Lily Seabrooke

Celebrity Chef Holly Mason has a problem. Her show isn’t interesting anymore, and her ex is causing issues behind the scenes. But when her agent recommends supporting luxury restauranteur Avery Lindt, and a fake relationship for a little pizazz, Holly dives in. The two, while agreeing that their dating is only for show, have pretty sizzling attraction, and they have to figure out how to navigate their work lives, their public lives, and the life they’d like to live in private. This is — I think — trans author Seabrooke’s first romance with a trans lead, and I hope to see many more trans folks just living their lives, getting into romcom shenanigans!

(Side note, if you want more food and fake famous flings, there’s also Spicy Pickle — which sounds ridiculous in the best way.)

cover of one true pairing by cathy yardley

One True Pairing by Cathy Yardley

When TV star Jake dives behind Hailey’s counter, she thinks he’s crazy. But it turns out he’s running from a few crazed fans, and he really needs something to keep them away from him. What better than a fake girlfriend? His Q-score could use a boost, and he could use a friend while at a conference in the middle of nowhere.  The nerdy, geeky goodness in this book — the whole series — hits a lot of the right buttons for the right reader.

cover of Act Like You Mean It by Shae Sanders

Act Like You Mean It by Shae Sanders

At the start of this novel, we meet August, a B-list actor who needs to improve his image. He doesn’t have a bad one, but if Black women are going to support him he needs to stop dating white women. When it’s recommended he find a Black woman to pretend to date for a while, Xandra comes into the picture. A socialite and influencer, she has her own following. So the pair set out on a journey of faking it for the cameras — until they’re not anymore.

Boyfriend Material Cover

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

Luc may only be famous in certain circles, but his OTT behavior can get him into trouble. When his job at a small (and very strange) nonprofit is put on the line if he doesn’t clean up his act, he needs to find a boyfriend to clean up his image. So he enlists friend-of-friends Oliver to do so. Luc and Oliver have had sort of a contentious relationship in the past, but somehow end up perfect as fake boyfriends — for both their sakes. (Special note: this book is funny in every format but absolutely hilariously done by audiobook narrator Joe Jameson. If you do audio, that’s definitely how you want to do this book.)

cover of The Sweetest Charade by Jadesola James

The Sweetest Charade by Jadesola James

When we first meet Professor Alexander Abbott-Hill, he can’t get his class to stop whispering. He later discovers that he’s been accidentally tagged on a lurid instagram post, and contacts the person responsible to have it taken down. But Delysia’s publicist has a different idea: what if the pair embark on a pretend relationship that will get Alexander the attention he needs for his academic work and Delysia some access to people and groups she hadn’t had before. But the pair aren’t particularly good at pretending, no matter how hot their chemistry is. 

cover of Just For Show by Jae

Just for Show by Jae

While Psychologist Claire Renshaw isn’t Hollywood famous, she does have a thriving career and a self-help book deal. But when her own relationship dissolves overnight, she hires out-of-work actress Lana to pretend to be her fiancé for the sake of her book’s success. The two are as opposite as a pair can get, but the more stiff Claire learns to loosen up a bit around Lana, and their relationship for show becomes less for their observers and more for them. 

cover of The Surprise Bollywood Baby by Tara Pammi

The Surprise Bollywood Baby by Tara Pammi

If you want every trope in the book, try this enemies to lovers, second chance, fake dating, famous fling, surprise baby romance. Virat and Zara once dated, but have been old flames for a long time. When the buzz around the press is that Zara is lamenting the upcoming marriage of her ex, and that Virat is having an affair with a high-level married woman, Zara proposes a fake relationship to change the story. When a single night leads to a pregnancy, it can only be so long before their fake engagement becomes something else, right? 

cover of The View Was Exhausting

The View Was Exhausting by Mikaella Clements and Onjuli Datta

Win and Leo have a relationship that was made for the tabloids. For years, they’ve been in and out of each others’ lives and beds. But what people don’t know is that their relationship was literally made for the tabloids. Rising star Win Tagore and wealthy socialite Leo Milanowski were arranged for their first appearance at a big party, and continue to present a front that doesn’t get anywhere near the real relationship they have. But is all that about to change? 

cover of While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory

While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory

In a reverse of many of these kinds of stories, While We Were Dating starts with ad executive Ben and rising star Anna in a pretty intense flirtation. They meet professionally, but can’t help diving into the palpable chemistry between them. Neither is particularly interested in a relationship; they’ve each got other goals. But when Anna’s publicist recommends a fake relationship with Ben to get more in the public eye on the road to the Oscars, they agree. But what about those Feelings? 

cover of Casting Lacey by Elle Spencer

Casting Lacey by Elle Spencer

TV Legal Drama star Quinn wants to come out. She knows it’s the next step to living an authentic life, but she’s a little bit terrified. When her publicist recommends a fake relationship to just sort of…move things along, she agrees. Enter Lacey, recently let go from an ongoing soap and newly in Los Angeles. When an injury leaves the pair in extremely close quarters, they learn more about themselves and each other than they ever expected. 

(Want more between two actors? Check out Act Like It if you haven’t yet. Just freaking marvelous.)

cover of The Princess Trap by Talia Hibbert

The Princess Trap by Talia Hibbert

When office worker Cherry Neita and an under-the-radar Prince Ruben are discovered in a compromising position, Ruben does what’s best for his image: he asks Cherry to enter a contractual agreement in which she will pretend to be his fiancée, including payment and an end date. The pair travel to his homeland and deal with a lot of emotions and past trauma, but also get pretty hot and heavy in the sack. In the end, what does each of them want?

(Also, if you’re digging the royal romance thing, definitely check out A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole, which is just as delightful as this one!)

What’s your favorite famous fake fling? Come tell me on the socials!