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Sugar Lake #1

The Real Thing

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This sassy, spirited baker is fine with heat—but is her fake fiancé too hot to handle?

Bakery owner Willow Dalton’s friendship with Zane Walker has always been a bit complicated. Now a scrumptiously hot A-list actor, Zane’s always had a reputation as player. He’s arrogant, and he’s definitely not boyfriend material. Sure, he did Willow a favor by agreeing to take her virginity before college, but is that reason enough to go along with a fake engagement a decade later—even if it comes with a real diamond ring?

Zane should have known better. Nothing involving Willow has ever been easy. Still, he knows her better than anyone, and becoming America’s hottest new leading man means cleaning up his reputation. An “engagement” to curvy, sass-mouthed Willow is the perfect PR move . . . provided no one gets hurt.

Now Zane and Willow’s little white lie has turned into an irresistible recipe for sweet temptation. And soon no one will be able to tell the difference between their fake engagement or the real thing—including them.

288 pages, Kindle Edition

First published September 5, 2017

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About the author

Melissa Foster

152 books11k followers

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Melissa Foster is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of more than 100 novels. She writes sexy and heartwarming contemporary romance and women’s fiction with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Melissa’s emotional journeys are lovingly erotic, always family oriented, and feature fiercely loyal heroes, smart, sassy heroines, and complex relatable issues.

Melissa also writes sweet romance under the pen name, Addison Cole here: https://addisoncole.com

Melissa loves to hear from readers! Feel free to send her an email or chat with her on social media.

Melissa welcomes the opportunity to chat with book clubs and other reading groups.

"What sets Melissa Foster apart are her compelling characters who you care about... desperately...I dare you to read the first chapter and not be hooked." International bestseller, M.J. Rose

"Melissa Foster is a wonderful connector of readers and books, a friend of authors, and a tireless advocate for women. She is the real deal"--Author Jennie Shortridge

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 892 reviews
Profile Image for Carol [Goodreads Addict].
2,432 reviews24.8k followers
August 31, 2017
The Real Thing is book one in the brand new series, Sugar Lake, by Melissa Foster. This is my first book by Melissa and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would her book be sugary sweet, or have some heat? Would there be humor? The answer to all of these questions is YES!

The Real Thing - Melissa Foster

Willow Dalton grew up in the small town of Sweetwater and loved it there. She was very close to her three sisters, her brother and parents. Willow loved to bake and owned her own bakery, Sweetie Pie Bakery. The only thing missing was a man to love. Willow dated but no one ever measured up to the one man that had always had her heart, Zane Walker.


Willow has known Zane all her life. He was her older brother’s best friend and like a part of her family. When she was young she always had a crush on him. Just before she left for college, it was Zane she asked for the biggest favor of her life, to take her virginity. But that secret night by the lake was so much more than it was meant to be. It was the night she fell in love.

But Zane’s life was not in Sweetwater. He couldn’t leave town fast enough when he was old enough. He was now an A-list actor in Los Angeles. He was known for his action films and his playboy lifestyle. But now he wanted to break in to romantic comedy and needed to clean up his reputation. What better way than to come up with a squeaky clean, sweet, small town fiance. Zane would only consider asking one woman to play this role, and that was Willow.

movie equipment

As Zane and Willow prepared for their role, though, memories were unburied and feelings were finally faced. There was a reason neither Zane nor Willow had ever been able to find someone they were interested in. Because no one could ever measure up to the one person they always yearned for.

“She was his every fantasy come true, only better. Because she was Willow, and she was finally his.”

Once Zane finally realized that Willow was the one, was his one and only, this man was seriously swoony. At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about him, asking Willow to play such a role. But when he owned up to his feelings, nothing was going to stop him from proving to Willow that he was the man for her, that he was her man.

“Every day we’re together will be more perfect than the last, because every day I’m learning how to be a better man for you.”

But Willow’s life was in Sweetwater, and Zane’s life was in Los Angeles. His life was crazy filled with paparazzi and fans and autographs. Her life was quiet filled with sugar and cupcakes and frosting. But once Zane spent time with her in her little apartment above her bakery, she couldn’t imagine her life without him in it.

“Five minutes would never be enough. A week would never be enough. Loving Zane Walker would take a lifetime. And then some.”


This was such a sweet book. I fell in love with Zane and Willow. And there was some serious sexy times as well, which is a good thing. Zane and Willow had no problem with chemistry and Zane most definitely brought out Willow’s inner seductress.

This was such a sweet start to this series (pun intended) and I look forward to more. The next book will be about Willow’s sister, Bridgette in Only For You.

“Willow was his. Willow was home.”

Profile Image for Wendy'sThoughts.
2,658 reviews3,255 followers
April 24, 2019
4 Real Love Stars
* * * * Spoiler Free-SPECIAL SALE $1.99!!!!
Melissa Foster is someone who knows what she is doing... she creates situations that warm our hearts as we watch them unfold. She is the Queen of Heartwarming Series and every time I crack open one of her books, I know I will be taken to a place I don't want to leave.

The Real Thing is a new series that focuses on a hidden love that becomes front and center when movie star long time "friend", Zane Walker, needs a "Cover Fiancee." He needs this to clean up his reputation. The only person he can truly trust is a girl who came to him... asking for a favor of a lifetime long ago.

Willow Dalton has always had a soft spot for Zane... yet sometimes his arrogance and confidence has driven her nuts. They have this friend/enemy thing happening... which actually hides the true/real feelings they both have.

When Willow drives at breakneck speed to a resort thinking she is about to have the interview of her career, she has no idea how life changing it actually will be. She has been working so hard to make her bakery a success and closing a contract with the resort would take her to the next level.

With all her hopes tied up with this opportunity, she is in no mood for anything to go wrong...

Of course, they do...and the icing on the cake... Zane is responsible for her being there in the first place! When he comes clean as to why she is really at the resort, he presents her with a proposal... She will get the exposure her bakery needs and he will have a trusted friend helping him "clean up his act" as his pretend fiancee.

After all...She owes him...

This is a sweet story done well by Melissa Foster. We get all the yummy bits of two people who have cared for each other all along.

A gifted copy was provided by author/publisher for an honest review.

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Profile Image for Dali.
1,851 reviews485 followers
August 31, 2017
A wonderfully sweet second chance love story that was equal parts swoony and sexy. Melissa Foster fans will fall in love with Willow and Zane and go nuts over this new series.

I have only read a couple of Melissa Foster’s book and would venture into characterizing her stories as low drama high voltage swoony sexiness. They’re easy to read with just the right amount of steam and heart that support a strong connection between the main characters. The Real Thing is Zane and Willow’s story which unfolds in the small town of Sweetwater. It is one full of friendship, desire and affection as well as the obstacles that accompany a second chance at love.
“His arms pushed beneath her, cradling her body against his, until even air couldn't fit between them. Their mouths came together as they began to move, and he kissed her so deeply, so lovingly, years of pent-up emotions came rushing forward.”

Willow Dalton and Zane Walker fell in love when they were so young they couldn’t have possible understood the concept but they never expressed their feelings toward the other. He was her older brother’s best friend, the boy who spent so much time at her place he could practically be part of the family. They’ve always been close friends and before she went to college she asked him to be her first but then he moved to LA to become an A-list actor and turned into a well-known player. So why is he back a decade later asking her to be his fake fiancée?

Zane thought his decision to clean up his playboy name by asking Willow to help out was harmless enough and solely for public relations purposes, but as soon as she’s in his arms pretending, all the feelings of familiarity, intimacy and love they’d never acknowledged before flood them, lines get blurred and neither can distinguish between what’s real and what’s fake. But do they really want to?
“I'm about as imperfect as they come, but my love for you is real.”

The closeness between Zane and Willow practically leaps from the page. They were cute and sweet and sexy. It was wonderful and heartwarming to see these two get their second chance at a love that had been latent for years and how their relationship helped Zane find his life’s purpose.

Zane realizes he’s deeply in love with Willow and would do just about anything to be with her. He goes big with everything he does to convince her to give them a chance and the things he says are super sweet and cheesy. He was incredibly endearing. And let’s not forget about the sizzling chemistry between them! I really enjoyed how Melissa explores all the ties that bind them starting from a young age and the lasting power of their love.
“For years they’d kept each other at arm’s length, and now heat and the past and something much bigger seemed to twine together, tethering them with an unbreakable bond.”

And although I personally don’t have a big sweet tooth and like stories with a bit more drama, I found Zane and Willow’s journey very enjoyable, smiling and swooning throughout their story and can’t wait to read about Willow’s brother and sisters.

The Real Thing is the first book in Sugar Lake series by Melissa Foster. It is a full length second chance romance that is easy to read with likeable characters, very little drama a whole lot of sexy sweetness. It has a happy ending and is told from both points of view.

* I was given an ARC of this book courtesy of the author via NetGalley. The excerpts taken are from that copy. *

Amazon -> http://amzn.to/2wJpfPq

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Profile Image for Natalie  ~ The Biblioholic.
2,565 reviews1,249 followers
September 4, 2017
Willow and Zane have known each other since they were kids. Zane happens to be best friends with her older brother, Ben. He spent more time at their house than his own dysfunctional one and was seen as a member of the family. Well, to everyone but Willow. She’s been crushing on him for ages. When he left town to make it big as a Hollywood actor, they remained in touch. They were not only really good friends, but they shared a secret (he was her first). When Zane needs to clean up his image as a renowned player, he looks to Willow to help him out. What happens when a fake engagement leads to real love?

When I’m looking for sweet, Melissa Foster is definitely at the top of my list. Her heroes are swoon-worthy and her heroines have spunk and more than prove that they’re a match for their men. Her stories are full of humor, family, friends, romance, good times and feel goods. The Real Thing gave me all of that and more and is worthy of a one-click!

Release Date: September 5, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
POV: Dual - 3rd person
Heat: 3 out of 5
Type: Standalone - Book 1 of the Sugar Lake series
Profile Image for Alex.
457 reviews146 followers
December 30, 2017
Not for me

I tried hard to like this story, and I’m sure it’s great for others but just not my cup of tea. I like different styles of dialog, love and romance than what this author wrote. Not that it’s bad, just not meant for me. If you give it a try I hope you have better luck :)
Profile Image for TJ *Book Twins Reviews*.
1,074 reviews2,464 followers
September 8, 2017
This was such a sweet read! Great characters, one of my favorite tropes, and a fun storyline made this a quite enjoyable read. In true Melissa Foster style, The Real Thing is both sassy and sweet!

Here’s the breakdown: Willow and Zane grew up together in a small town. They practically grew up together. Once Zane leaves town to pursue his dream of acting, their relationship changes. They change, but remain in contact. When the Zane needs helps cleaning up his movie star man-whore reputation, he calls on the one person he knows will agree to help him…Willow.

What I enjoyed: I’m a sucker for friends to lovers and fake fiancé romances. When the reader knows the couple has the hots for one another even if they try to avoid acting on those impulses, it’s like the best tease EVER. The main characters are also great. They grew up with one another and share a special history. Because of that, it was really easy to root for their love affair. Their chemistry was off the charts. Zane is a bit cocky and Willow is as sassy as they come. I’m a sucker for both!

Overall, this was a super fun read! I recommend it to romance lovers who favor, fake relationships, friends to lovers, and brother’s best friends tropes.

For more of my reviews:
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Profile Image for Love2ReadRomance.
266 reviews93 followers
November 27, 2018
Loved Zane and Wills in this great second chance romance story. The Real Thing is Book 1 in the Sugar Lake Book Series, and I can’t wait to read more about Wills’ siblings in the other books!
Profile Image for Diana.
551 reviews18 followers
June 10, 2018
3.75 stars (audiobook)

I could really kick myself for not listening to audiobooks sooner. I love how convenient it is to pop a book on and do housework, yardwork and running errands, Although I had to remember that when I was out in public, not to crack up laughing, which I did happen a few times.

The narrator (John Lane) has a sexy as hell voice, and it was perfect for what I imagined the hero, Zane, to sound like. I did have a slight niggle when he did the heroine’s voice. His voice made Willow sound exasperated or annoyed all the time. However, I did get used to it and it didn’t bother my enjoyment of the book.

The Real Thing is book 1 in the Sugar Lake series, following the Dalton siblings. This book is about Willow and Zane, who is her childhood crush and her brother’s best friend. Willow has been in love with Zane forever, but thought he didn’t feel the same way, especially since he is a big shot movie star and is pictured with beautiful women all the time. It turns out there is more to the story than what she thought.

Zane Walker is back in his home town to shoot a few scenes in his upcoming movie. He convinces Meredith to be his “fake fiancé” so the press will stop hounding him. It isn’t long before their true feelings are revealed and the struggle of figuring what happens next. Willow owns a bakery, and Zane lives in LA. How can they manage a real relationship?

This was definitely a sweet read. Even though friends to lovers isn’t my favorite trope, I did enjoy swoon worthy Zane and his love for Willow. There were times that Willow made me roll my eyes, but she was likeable enough. The side characters, mainly the Dalton family, were sweet and funny and I am looking forward to continuing the series.

Profile Image for Irene.
1,858 reviews120 followers
September 6, 2017
4 Sweet Stars

The Real Thing by Melissa Foster was a sweet, entertaining and enjoyable read.

When I'm in the mood for low angst and high romance my go to author is Melissa Foster. I love how she always manages to bring out the feels with her words and characters.
In The Real Thing she's done it again, a sweet and romantic storyline, characters that will make you swoon, but also frustrate you and then leave you with a huge satisfying smile when they eventually get their happily everafter.

Willow and Zane, they were likable, endearing characters that I easily connected with and I loved watching their fake relationship turn into the real thing.
These two had a strong attraction and their chemistry was smoking!


The Real Thing is a lovely read and a great start to the Sugar Lake series. Looking forward to Only for You which is due for release December 5th.

*Buy Links*
➜KINDLE: http://smarturl.it/TRT4_KINDLE
➜PAPERBACK: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1542045819

*Thank you to Montlake Romance for the advance copy in exchange for my honest thoughts.*

Profile Image for Carvanz.
2,100 reviews747 followers
September 2, 2017
Willow and Zane have been friends since they were young. He did her the favor of removing her virginity and then stuck by the rules she had laid out afterwards. Now, ten years later, he’s cashing in the favor. He needs to repair his reputation as a playboy A-list actor and the only woman he wants to pretend to be his fiancée is Willow. It’s always been Willow. She’s his real thing and this story showcases how this couple moves from a friendship into a romantic relationship.

I loved Willow and Zane! As individuals they were both sincere and likable. As a couple they were intense, engaging and so hot I’m sure my Kindle was scorched. This story has a crew of secondary characters that will be getting their own stories and there’s not one of them I’m not anxious to read about.

I’m relatively new to the Melissa Foster bandwagon, but OMG…I’m so glad I was able to hop on!

ARC provided by NetGalley

Dual POV
Safety issues – they slept together once when they were young and they each have other relationships afterwards but once together as a current couple there is no one else
No apparent triggers
283 reviews85 followers
September 8, 2017
This was a sweet story and the first in the new Sugar Lake series. While this centers around Zane and Willow, you are introduced to many characters whose tale will propel the series.

Zane is a successful actor who is in desperate need of a "character" makeover. It would appear that he does not like the playboy reputation and furthermore, it could hurt his career. He comes up with a plan to help soften his image but it will require the consent of a childhood friend. Enter Willow. She has had a crush on Zane since she was a little girl, and Zane is also responsible for being her first, but it was a one-time event. Her heart was broken.

Willow has since moved on and has worked hard running her own bakery. She has a potential new client that can help boost income but soon learns that the client is Zane. Zane pleads with her to help him and convinces her that the exposure can put her bakery on the map. She goes along with the plan and as they spend time together, the old feelings start coming back. What surprises her is that Zane, too, has feelings for her. Will they follow their heart or allow more time to pass them by?

This was a fun, quick read and the pace was pretty consistent throughout. If you are a fan of Ms. Fosters, this will not disappoint.
Profile Image for Michelle.
145 reviews3 followers
October 6, 2018
Honestly, it’s amazing that I even made it through the first chapter of this book considering the word “slut” was used twice in the first four pages of this book. Twice. In four pages. The backstory for this book is that Willow, our heroine, “gave” her virginity to Zane before she went away to college to save herself from the “embarrassment of being an inexperienced virgin” freshman. But now that Zane is this super, ultra hot action movie star, he has “a sluttier reputation than a prostitute”. When Zane’s bad boy reputation gets him in trouble, he essentially blackmails Willow into a fake engagement, holding his “favor” of having sex with her years ago over her head until she agrees.

Some books I will trudge through the awkward/bad/slow beginning because I feel like I’ll eventually like the characters. But not these two. Willow whined, about everything. She was 100% convinced that Zane could never love her back, because of reasons. And Zane. I knew there was no chance of me ever liking him, because there was no chance of me ever believing or forgiving him.

Our introduction to Zane was him tricking Willow into showing up for a business meeting that didn’t exist. He got a friend to impersonate a local businessman and pretend that they were interested in hiring Willow for a big event that could be the opening she needed to expand her business, and then told her she was being high strung and needed to chill out when he admitted that it was all just a ruse to get her to meet him. So he could blackmail her into fake dating him. Great dude, right? And then the icing on the cake was how, even after begging her to agree to this plan and telling her they needed to act like a couple, he immediately leered at a pretty woman, right in front of Willow and later gets offended when she shows even the slightest bit of interest in another man. Even worse, he’s entertained by her anger.

I think this is finally the breaking point for me when it comes to Foster’s books. People love her alpha male heroes, but I’ve realized that I find them fundamentally problematic and that’s probably never going to change. I occasionally love a good alpha hero as much as most other romance readers, but a man doesn’t have to be disrespectful towards women and over-the-top controlling to be a good alpha hero. A man can be alpha without being a dick.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
2,035 reviews107 followers
June 23, 2022
DNF at 18%. They had a one night stand when she was almost 18 when apparently she made “some rules” that he followed. I’m guessing her rules included no catching feelings. And supposedly, he was totally into her and she was totally into him. But they follow the rules and went their own way!

Now, I have so many issues with this book so far. First of all, the fact that it sounds like he was several years older than her while she was not even 18 yet makes me feel a bit sketchy about their first time together. Second of all, if he was so into her why wouldn’t he just say something? Instead, for the last bunch of years he has been a man whore chasing every woman in town.

He asked her to be his fake fiancé, and almost immediately afterwards checks out another woman! It made her mad in a book and it makes me furious in real life. What makes me really angry is that supposedly he is approaching her to be his fake fiancé and actually has real feelings that he’s hiding. I don’t feel great about his “real” feelings when he’s leering at m another woman while he’s supposedly with the woman he cares about.

I am stopping this book because she is drunk out of her mind and, even though he warns her that she’s drunk and he shouldn’t take advantage, he does anyway! He basically tells her “if I kiss you, I won’t want to stop,” And then proceeds to move forward. For all his “care” of her, moving on a drunk woman is not cool!
Profile Image for Jean.
421 reviews56 followers
September 14, 2017
Within the first 10% of the book, I was bored. I was hoping it would get better but the story never took off. There was no conflict. No drama. The protagonist was annoying. Their friendship was inconceivable. The story was unbelievable.

I so wanted to put this book on my did-not-finish shelf but felt like I owe it to the author/publisher to finish it. I would like to thank NetGalley and Montlake Romance for supplying a copy of Melissa Foster's "The Real Thing" in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Lisa Filipe.
Author 5 books242 followers
September 7, 2017
I simply adored the heck out of THE REAL THING, the new release from Melissa Foster and the first in the Sugar Lake series. I love all of Melissa's romances. Her writing is always so emotional and heartwarming and dare I say steamy! In THE REAL THING, she brings a whole new element onto the pages with hilarious banter and sexual chemistry that had my kindle sizzling!

Zane and Willow have a complicated history which becomes all the more complicated when he asks her to play his "fiancee" to help his reputation with the movie folks. With the potential boost for her catering/bakery business, she agrees, and so begins the laugh-out-loud fun! But we can't leave out the Melissa Foster steam factor, it was there and it was HOT!

I am loving the setting of Sweetwater, and I can't wait to read the next book which features Willow's sister Bridgette. Fans of Jill Shalvis (Lucky Harbor), and Toni Blake (Destiny) need to make this their next must read!
Profile Image for Amy .
2,757 reviews
September 13, 2017
4.5 Sweet Stars!

"We're good at crossing lines, remember?" "Cross this line with me, Willow."

"If alpha male had a scent, it would smell like Zane Walker, rugged and musky, with an underlying hint of come-hither and a dash of panty-melting lust."

"Zane didn't just kiss Willow; he possessed her with his arms, his hands, his wicked tongue. He delved into the recesses of her mouth, unleashing a surge of heat that first flooded, the consumed her from the inside out. She had almost forgotten what a real kiss felt like."

This was such a fun, fun book! I am such a sucker for those friends to lovers/fake relationship type romances and this one totally takes the cake. The Real Thing is wonderfully written, entertaining and is the kind of story that will leave you smiling while pulling at your heartstrings.

The Real Thing is told from dual points of view and is the first book in an exciting new series from author Melissa Foster. From the moment I picked up this book, I couldn't help but be drawn to Zane and Willow. The connection between these two was strong and undeniable. The tension just oozed off the pages and begged to be explored. Add in one of my favorite troupes, a fake relationship, and you have the recipe for one delicious read.

The Real Thing was absolutely everything that I wanted. It was fun. It was sexy. It was entertaining. The chemistry was real and I loved Zane and Willow together. Sure they weren't perfect and they made their fair share of mistakes, but that's the beauty of love. When you find the real thing, you fight for it...No matter how long it may take before it's finally yours.

Author Melissa Foster has once again delivered a wonderful and unforgettable read. From a fun story-line to a sinful alpha male to the importance of family and an unforgettable love...This book has it all. The Real Thing kicks off a fabulous start to the Sugar Lake Series and I can't wait to read more!

*I was provided an ARC copy of this book via the publisher and NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review* 
Profile Image for Sissy's Romance Book Review .
8,183 reviews16 followers
September 4, 2017
'The Real Thing' by Melissa Foster is the First Book in the New Series called "Sugar Lake. This is the story of Willow Dalton and Zane Walker.
Zane was Willows brother best friend and always popular in school, where Willow was the opposite. Before she went off to College she ask Zane to do her a favor by taking her virginity. Now 10 years Willow has her own bakery and Zane is a famous actor. Zane comes back to ask if Willow would be his pretend fiancée to help build his image up.
This was a very sweet love story that I really enjoyed.
"My honest review is for a special copy I voluntarily read."
Profile Image for Under the Covers Book Blog.
2,818 reviews1,360 followers
November 16, 2017
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve read something from Melissa Foster. I haven’t given up on her at all, but life does get in the way sometimes. This series is one that’s slightly different. Firstly, it’s published with a publisher this time and I could immediately tell the difference in the writing. It doesn’t sound like Foster’s usual writing style. While the core bits are present, I do feel like the flow was different and I think that’s the result of having someone else working on it.

This book has a fake engagement trope in it. I am not a fan of this trope at all. It’s overused and kind of boring for me because I feel like it really undermines the romance and I felt that way with this book too. Everything that is meant to develop the bond between Willow and Zane felt contrived and unbelievable.

I also wasn’t the hugest fan of the hero, Zane. He’s an actor who has had a lot of great success. He’s meant to be a little cocky and for me, that was his downfall. I really didn’t like the part where he used the fact that he took Willow’s virginity all those years ago to coerce her into this fake engagement together. I don’t know. It wasn’t romantic to me at all so the author had to work extra hard to make up for it and make me fall in love with Zane again.

*ARC provided by publisher
Reviewed by Annie❤ ♡ Don't want to miss any of our posts? Subscribe to our blog by email! ♡ ❤
Profile Image for Annie .
2,449 reviews818 followers
November 16, 2017

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve read something from Melissa Foster. I haven’t given up on her at all, but life does get in the way sometimes. This series is one that’s slightly different. Firstly, it’s published with a publisher this time and I could immediately tell the difference in the writing. It doesn’t sound like Foster’s usual writing style. While the core bits are present, I do feel like the flow was different and I think that’s the result of having someone else working on it.

This book has a fake engagement trope in it. I am not a fan of this trope at all. It’s overused and kind of boring for me because I feel like it really undermines the romance and I felt that way with this book too. Everything that is meant to develop the bond between Willow and Zane felt contrived and unbelievable.

I also wasn’t the hugest fan of the hero, Zane. He’s an actor who has had a lot of great success. He’s meant to be a little cocky and for me, that was his downfall. I really didn’t like the part where he used the fact that he took Willow’s virginity all those years ago to coerce her into this fake engagement together. I don’t know. It wasn’t romantic to me at all so the author had to work extra hard to make up for it and make me fall in love with Zane again.
Profile Image for Tpagirl Loves Romance.
1,636 reviews140 followers
September 4, 2018
The Real Thing was the first book in Melissa Foster’s Sugar Lake series. We’ve met the characters in other Foster series but it wasn’t necessary to have read those first.

Zane Walker was an A List Hollywood actor with a playboy reputation. He was gorgeous, talented and all around fun. He was from the small upstate NY town Sweetwater but had gotten out of there as soon as he graduated.

Willow Dalton was the beautiful, eclectic and quirky bakery owner. She was born and raised in the small vacation town and never wanted to be anywhere else.

Zane and Willow were longtime friends. Zane was Willow’s brother Ben’s best friend since the third grade. Willow had even lost her virginity to Zane before she went to college, but they agreed to Willow’s rules - just friends, no feelings. So for ten years, they ignored it and stayed as friends, until Zane needed Willow’s help with his reputation.

Foster created another sweet and steamy story. The primary premise of the story was an old one, but I loved everything about Zane so it worked for me. I remember meeting Zane in Foster’s Crashing Into Love (book six, Braden’s at Trusty Co - still one of my all time favorite Foster books) and have been waiting for his story ever since. As for Willow, I loved her quirkiness and sassiness. I didn’t love her insecurities and unreasonable anger - but I guess I could understand it since she wasn’t sure whether he was acting in a role or being the real Zane. But they weren’t my favorite parts. Once she got passed it, I loved her wackiness and humor.

Foster also created additional secondary stories surrounding Zane, Willow, Sweetwater, Willow’s siblings and a variety of other characters that will ultimately dominate the series. It was the perfect new series set up.

All in all, it was enjoyable and fun. Bridgette is up next in Only for You.
Profile Image for Bookgasms Book Blog.
2,794 reviews1,380 followers
September 7, 2017
Whoa. I fell hard for Willow and Zane from the very first pages of The Real Thing. Seriously, the pictures Melissa Foster painted in my mind through her words were vivid and completely cracked me up!

I love a second-chance, best-friend’s-little-sister romance. And add in the quirkiness of a small town and I am all in. I so enjoyed watching Zane and Willow work through their issues—their perceived feeling and their real feelings.

I loved all the time I spent with Zane and Willow and Willow’s awesome family. I couldn’t read fast enough to know what happened and how they finally figured everything all out. I loved their give and take relationship. Loved their banter and their oh-so-sexy times. And I finished The Real Thing with a big ol’ smile on my face. I can’t wait for Bridgette’s story in Only for You. ~ Missy, 4 stars
Profile Image for Paula White.
579 reviews27 followers
September 19, 2017
I received a copy from NetGalley for an honest review.

I really enjoyed this one and can't wait to read the others when they come out.

It was a really nice change to see the H put himself out there and say what he feels and put his heart on the line. The h was torn but not really, she wanted him too but just needed a bit of time - but not a lot. That is what I really enjoyed - no push and pull - no unnecessary angst - something smallish towards the end, but you knew this would not impact them - they were strong. Everyone needs a Zane!

The secondary characters all added something and look forward to Bridgette's story.
Profile Image for Tilly.
1,356 reviews158 followers
January 13, 2022
3.5 Stars

I definitely enjoyed this book but it was a little OTT and too sickly sweet for me. I think that along with the fact that it involved a trope I don't particularly love meant that I liked the story and characters but wasn't emotionally invested in this one.
One of the main things I loved in this book were the side characters so I really can't wait for the next books to see the stories of two of the sisters.
Profile Image for Gabriella.
484 reviews3 followers
September 21, 2017
This was one of those easy and sweet stories that are just perfect to read if you're feeling grumpy. It is so loaded with sugary sweetness, I feel like I should check for cavities...
Sure, it's the same old fake fiancee trope, but it has its good moments. I have to say, my first impression of the H was not the best. In the first chapter, the H is portrayed as a selfish actor/playboy, selfcententered, manw**re, entitled... I instantly disliked him... however the author pulled a bait and switch, and it didn't take long for the reader to discover that in reality the H was the complete opposite, and that he truly loved the h and would do anything for her. He was almost too perfect... but I'm not complaining. It's always nice to see a male character that's so devoted to the h, and is such a sweet decent guy.
The first impression I got from the h, was great. Strong, confident and independent, but also caring and loyal. Even though she loved the H, she wasn't going to take any of his sh*t, and although she agreed to help him, she would do so in her own terms. As the story progresses there are a few things she did that I didn't agree with, but that didn't change my opinion of her.
Personally, I would have liked a little bit of conflict, just to make the story a little more interesting, add a touch of angst and emotion, everything was just too easy for the characters, and sometimes I like to see them work a little for their HEA. But that's just me...
All in all, this was a super easy, completely angst free, sugary read that will be perfect for a relaxing afternoon.
Profile Image for Cali Jewel.
4,863 reviews29 followers
September 28, 2017
Quirky, Fun, Sweetly Sexy Romance!

This second chance romance was so much fun to read. It was Laugh out Loud fun, sweetly sexy, emotionally thrilling and filled with all the warm fuzzy small town family bounds you could crave.

Zane Walker is sexy, sweet, charming and a small town boy at the peck of his acting career. He just needs the help of the one woman he has ever loved to clean up his racy reputation. Willow Dalton grew up with Zane and has loved him forever. Question is can she help her best friend clean up his reputation with out losing her heart again? Loved every heart pounding twist and turn. Looking forward to more visits to Sugar Lake.
Profile Image for Becca.
2,005 reviews20 followers
October 29, 2018
Friends to lovers. Another Great book from Melissa!
Profile Image for Meegz Reads.
1,400 reviews108 followers
September 9, 2017
*5 Stars*

ARC kindly received in exchange for an honest review.

This was my first Melissa Foster book, and it definitely won't be my last. I absolutely loved it! I feel in love instantly with both Zane and Willow and their story was so much fun!

The banter and the way they clicked was so well written and I particularly loved how things progressed for them, and once they got into the grit of things, there was really honesty between them.

The secondary characters in this book were also great, Willows family and some of Zane's co-stars.

There was also little to no angst in this book, which is really refreshing sometimes. Sometimes its great, and other times no angst is just what you need. A funny and romantic book thats perfect in all the right ways.

Friends to lovers stories and fake relationship stories are both faves of mine, so I absolutely devoured this book.

I can't wait to read more of this series, this was so much fun! I highly recommend.

Review also on my blog: The Real Thing - Melissa Foster

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Profile Image for Book Lover.
553 reviews42 followers
September 8, 2017
Zane Walker and Willow Dalton have been friends since they were kids. He is her brother’s best friend. Zane is also the man she gave her virginity to, he was 20, and she was 18. Willow went on to college and Zane went on to Hollywood and became a famous actor. They continue a strange, quirky, texting friendship. It’s 10 years later and Zane finds himself in a position where he needs to improve his playboy image. He tricks Willow into meeting him, otherwise, she never would have shown up, and convinces her to play his fake fiancé.

I had so many issues with this book.

Zane convinces Willow to be his fake fiancé but immediately leers at a buxom leggy blonde when they step off the elevator together.

He convinces her to lie to her family who practically raised him, encouraged him and whose house he spent more time at than his own growing up.

Saccharine sweet romance. They fell back together rather seamlessly. There’s no conflict or drama anywhere or with anyone, no working for it. I struggled to finish, not sure I would because there just wasn’t anything to keep my attention.

I voluntarily reviewed an ARC provided by NetGalley and the publisher
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