Title: The Groom
Author: Melissa McClone
Genre: Sweet Contemporary Romance
The only thing more awkward than falling in love on national television, is having your heart broken in front of millions of viewers.
When public school teacher Millie Kincaid signed up for the popular dating show, The Groom, falling in love was always a possibility. But then Jace proposes to someone else on the season finale, and her hurt and humiliation leave her desperate to escape the glare of Hollywood's spotlight...until a new reality TV show provides her a shot at money that her school desperately needs. Former star of The Groom, Jace Westfall, went from fan favorite to villain overnight. Hurting the sweet and shy Millie cost him everything: his reputation, his endorsements, and his heart. It was the last thing Jace wanted to do, but he had his reasons. Now on the verge of financial ruin, Jace finds himself left with no choice but to do another reality show. Neither expected to face each other again, but both need the money. As they race from country to country, trying to put the past behind them, it quickly becomes clear they have a real shot at the million dollar prize…and a second chance at love. But only if Millie and Jace can overcome the biggest obstacle that stands in their way: each other.
As if someone had hit the mute button, the set went quiet. Avery touched her earpiece. “It’s time.”
Millie’s nerve endings sprang to life. Excitement surged. She couldn’t wait to see Jace.
She walked through the mansion, accustomed by now to ignoring the equipment, the cameras, and the crew. The show’s host, who also worked on the network’s nightly entertainment news show, gave her the thumbs-up. He’d interviewed her when she first arrived. Now only she and Jace would be there. Oh, and the cameras.
Rounding the corner to the final set, she saw him standing on a balcony with hundreds of flowers. Her stomach fluttered.
Jace wore a black tuxedo with a red rose boutonniere pinned on his lapel. He seemed taller, almost larger than life, all dressed up and his light brown hair neatly styled. This was how he would look on his wedding day.
She sucked in a breath.
His eyes widened when he saw her.
Uh-oh. He looked almost...scared. Her heart went out to him. This was a big moment for both of them. Millie fought the urge to run and reassure him the way he had that first night on the show when the world of reality TV had threatened to overwhelm her.
But before she reached him, he smiled.
Suddenly all was right in the world.
In Millie’s world.
The backdrop of the Pacific Ocean stretching to the horizon brought out the blue in Jace’s eyes. If they had children, would their babies have his eye color or would they be green like hers? Maybe hazel?
No, she was getting ahead of herself. But that was part of his appeal. He might be strong and solid, but he also made her loosen up and want to take chances. When Jace was around, her dreams became possible. She loved that about him.
If they had children someday, Millie hoped the kids inherited Jace’s smile. She loved his wide, easy grin. Not to mention the determined set of his jaw and the little bump on the center of his nose. He was so handsome, so supportive, so caring. And he was also a family man. He loved his family so much. He’d mentioned to her how close they were. Relatives worked for his firm, and he even supported his mother.
So kind. So sweet.
Contentment coursed through Millie. The way his gaze never left hers made her feel cherished and adored. She seemed to float, even though she knew that was physically impossible. Unless a fairy godmother had waved a magic wand.
Maybe one had. The balcony defined romance with the elegant flowers and flickering candles everywhere. Music—Pachelbel’s Canon in D—played from hidden speakers while waves crashed against the shore below.
A breeze ruffled Jace’s hair. A strand fell forward across his forehead, making him seem appealingly real and approachable.
Even though the killer setting was as carefully contrived as her appearance tonight, Millie found herself caught up in the mood. The moment. The magic.
She moved toward him.
The scent of roses, her favorite flower, wafted in the air. She caught a scent of salt, too, blowing off the ocean. Millie wanted to etch every detail on her brain so she wouldn’t forget anything. Of course she could watch the scene over and over again. That was one good point of the show, a visual recording of their falling in love.
Millie stopped in front of him. “Hi.”
“Hi, Freckles.” His appreciative gaze started at the top of her head and went down to the tips of her oh-so-out-of-her-budget slingbacks. “Though I don’t see many freckles tonight. You look amazing.”
Okay, relenting and allowing the production staff to do her hair, makeup, and clothing for tonight’s show had been a good thing. She enjoyed looking and feeling like a princess. Millie wiggled her toes.
“Stunning,” he added.
His words wrapped around her heart like a warm hug.
“Thanks,” she said. “You, too. Gorgeous. I mean, handsome.”
“Millie.” Smiling, he reached toward her and his large hands engulfed hers. “My sweet Millie.”
This was it.
Her pulse quickened. She wanted to hear him say that he chose her. That he wanted her.
“Being with you has made these past few weeks fly by.” His warm voice, his words, resonated with her. “You always had an encouraging word or a smile for me. I don’t know how I would have made it through without you.”
“We had so much fun together.”
Remembering all the good times, Millie nodded. Those were only the beginning. They had a lifetime of memories to create together. A lifetime. She nearly sighed.
He looked at their linked hands. “You became my confidant, my counselor, my good friend. I’ll always value our friendship.”
Anxiety spurted through Millie.
Okay, don’t overreact. A relationship, not to mention marriage, needed a strong foundation that friendship provided.
Jace squeezed her hands. The action gave her no comfort. Zero reassurance. She needed him to say she was his choice.
His gaze returned to hers. “But you deserve someone better than me, Millie.”
Oh, no. He can’t be serious.
She searched his face for a sign to contradict his words, but found...nothing except for a fleeting look of regret in his eyes.
A vise gripped her heart.
She couldn’t breathe.
“You need someone who will love you the way you should be loved. Someone who can take care of you the right way.” Jace said the words as if he were doing this for her own good. “I can’t do that. I just...can’t. Too many people count on me already.”
Millie heard a gasp. She wasn’t sure if it came from her or one of the crew. It didn’t matter.
She wanted to run away, but her feet remained cemented to the balcony. She opened her mouth to speak, but closed it. What was she going to say?
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What makes your featured book a must-read?
The Groom is a fun romp around the globe with two people who would rather be with anyone else. But they slowly warm to one another and deal with their past. If you enjoy second chances, you’ll like this story.
Enter to win a $40 Amazon gift card:
Open Internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon Canada account to win.
Runs January 11 – January 20, 2022.
Winner will be drawn on January 21, 2022.
USA TODAY bestselling author Melissa McClone writes heartwarming women’s fiction and sweet contemporary romance novels. She lives with her husband and has three young adult children. When she’s not writing relatable characters and sigh-worthy happy endings, she spends her time in the rainy Pacific Northwest reading from her Kindle’s ever-growing TBR, napping with her dog and cats, and decorating her Happy Planner.
Social Media Links:
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/MelissaMcCloneBooks/
McClone Troopers Reader Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/McCloneTroopers/