Holden James was ready to jet off to Los Angeles with his boyfriend to audition for his favorite game show, Madcap Market. But when he is unceremoniously dumped, Holden takes the nonrefundable trip himself—and has a bit of a meltdown in his hotel room that leads to the smart-ass (and sexy) concierge arriving at his door with a pizza, Monopoly, and a distraction.

Holden doesn’t know much about Leo Min, but he does know their chemistry is off the charts—maybe even enough to fool the show’s casting directors that they’re a real couple. The pair just have to work hard to crush the competition, make sure they’ve got their stories straight, and then they’ll win—solving all of Holden’s problems.

I never thought I’d be invested in a game show that is some kind of mix between The Price is Right and Jeopardy, but Holden James really knows how to sell it! It was a bit hard to understand Holden’s obsession with the game show and why it seemed like it would make everything better at first, but Janovsky creates a rich history and emotional connection between Holden and Madcap Market that makes you wish it was a real game show that you could watch (or be a part of). It’s easy to relate to Holden’s ex-boyfriend and only scratch the surface of Holden’s connection to the game, but as the story progresses, the layers continue to be peeled away, leaving you wanting to wrap him up in a hug.

The back and forth between Holden and Leo is electric from the start, even when Holden kind of hates Leo. The story is told strictly from Holden’s POV and even though he seems to dislike Leo at first, it’s clear that there is something there right from the get-go. While it can be argued that Leo is only lovable because the reader is seeing him through Holden’s eyes, I think Janovsky finds a way to sneak in pieces of Leo that even Holden doesn’t understand at first and that allows the reader to truly fall for him as a character independent of Holden’s influence. Also, we absolutely stan a man who understands that drunken consent is not true consent!

What I thought would be a lighthearted and fun read was…well, it was that, but it was also so much deeper. The death of Holden's mother weighs heavy on him throughout and his relationship with his grief is a prominent part of the story. Following along in Holden's grieving process allows the reader to understand how truly non-linear the grieving and healing process is. It really struck a chord with me and allowed me to feel a little better about the way in which my emotions change when confronting my own grief and loss. Janovsky managed to pack a lot into a little package and found a way to really balance the comedy with the tougher topics.

THE (FAKE) DATING GAME by Timothy Janovsky is available now and you should most definitely head here to pick up a copy for yourself!

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores as well! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2024 Book Recommendations."