The Fake Mate by Lana Ferguson: Book Review

📖 GenreRomance, Fantasy, Adult, Paranormal
📃 Number of Pages400 pages
🪴 Average Goodreads Rating3.73⭐
🌻 My Rating1.5 ⭐

What is The Fake Mate About?

The Fake Mate by Lana Ferguson is a fake dating romance between Mackenzie, an omega werewolf shifter and Noah, an alpha werewolf shifter. When Mackenzie’s grandmother keeps forcing her to go on terrible dates, she decides to tell her that she’s already dating someone. Enter Noah, who’s just been called to the HR board of the hospital where they both work. His alpha status has been discovered, and because of some stigma, he needs a mate, quickly. So they decide to start a mutually beneficial fake dating/mating scheme and end up getting more than they bargained for.

After finishing (and loving!) Bride by Ali Hazelwood (see my review here), I decided I needed more wolfy romance. Partly because one got me out of a reading slump, and partly because werewolves as a concept can be so charming. 

And wouldn’t you know it, on the Bride’s Goodreads page, in the recommendation box, I found The Fake Mate. 

But because of my aforementioned reading slump and general dislike for cutesy covers, I didn’t get my hopes up. I kept the bar very low — as long as it was fun and not too cringe, it would be okay. 

And reader, this book somehow managed to slide right under that bar. 

Let’s start with the concept, shall we? 

Fake dating as a trope is highly unrealistic but I love the yearning and chemistry that comes with it. You have to suspend your disbelief a little, but that’s okay. But I just couldn’t do it with this book. 

Both of our main characters are supposedly intelligent people, who are overall happy with their lives. Yet Mackenzie, the heroine, lets her grandmother dictate her dating life, and Noah, the hero, can’t find a better solution to his problem than dating a coworker he never even spoke to. 

Now, I know that this is how fake dating usually works — it doesn’t have to make much sense — but it was just so stupidly done that I couldn’t go with it. It happens in chapter one. We don’t get to know these two people outside of their little setup. We don’t get to see them desperate to solve their problems. It would help if they knew each other at all, in any capacity, but they don’t. They’re just two random people in the hospital staff break room. 

It doesn’t help that the stakes are much higher for Noah than they are for Mackenzie. Noah could lose his job, his reputation, and any possibility of working again. Mackenzie would just have to go back to listening to her grandmother complain. 

Then, there’s the whole omegaverse thing, which includes a boatload of power dynamic issues that are not at all explored in this book. For the uninitiated, alphas in the omegaverse are the strong, powerful individuals while omegas are weak and only exist to provide offspring and take care of the home. It’s like a biological urge to be and do these things, outside of one’s will even, especially if an alpha and an omega meet. And I don’t believe it should have been used in a cutesy rom-com. It’s inherently dark and needs nuance to be done well.

It’s not something I enjoy reading, but spend enough time in any fandom, and you’ll inevitably run into it. 

But this author decided to borrow a few terms, the smutty parts of it, and just run with it. In The Fake Mate, Mackenzie is an omega, while Noah is an alpha. When they begin fake dating, the more time they spend together, the more this biological imperative is forcing them to engage in a sexual manner. Which is just icky if you think about it — neither of them was attracted to each other prior to the whole thing. 

I believe it would have been better if they were just normal, regular werewolves who decide to fake mate but then figure out that they truly are each other’s mates. Or something along those lines. 

The whole werewolf part of this novel wasn’t executed well either. It’s a nonissue, completely irrelevant other than the scenting thing. I would think that elements of being a werewolf would help them in their jobs. For example, they’re both doctors, so you would think that their enhanced senses of sight, smell, and hearing would help them save more patients. But no, there is nothing to being a werewolf other than being able to smell other wolves and going into heat. 

Then there’s the entire werewolf population not being allowed to shift within the city limits because of one silly incident decades prior, and none of the wolves are rebelling against it. Everyone just takes it in stride. World-building is practically non-existent — how did humans and werewolves end up living in harmony? Are there any other creatures? Who knows? 

It feels like these elements — werewolves, alphas, omegas — were just tacked on for the sake of more smut and marketing. And that’s what’s so annoying. 

The prose doesn’t save this book much. It’s readable, I’ll give it that, in a way that the back of a shampoo bottle is readable when you go to the toilet and forget your phone. There is a ton of internal monologue that goes around and around in circles, landing nowhere. The dialogue is a weird mix of Disney Channel, Wattpad, and Hallmark — so are the scenes and the beats. 

Mackenzie — again, a supposedly intelligent, adult woman — has all the humor and reasoning of a slightly older Hannah Montana. She constantly spouts jokes that are not remotely funny. Her attitude about her omega status is flippant, her understanding of it nonexistent. She reeks heavily of not-like-the-other-girls and look-at-me-aren’t-I-relatable. 

And then there’s Adam Driver — oops, sorry, Noah Taylor. But seriously, replace him with Adam from The Love Hypothesis, Josh from You Again, or any other recently published Reylo hero, and nothing changes. He’s huge, he’s broody, awkward around people (but nice on the inside), quiet, restrained, and have I mentioned that he’s huge? 

Now, I do get it. The fandom perceives this character a certain way, so obviously all versions of him are going to be alike. But I have to wonder if there is really so little nuance there. Has he no other versions? Because I’m a part of some fandoms, and I have never run into a character done exactly the same way twice. Take Draco Malfoy — every single Dramione fic does him differently. He’s never the same, yet he retains some of his qualities in each without being a carbon copy. Even Hermione, who we arguably know a lot about from canon, is never exactly the same. 

I swear, poor Adam Driver has done nothing wrong (to me), yet I have a grudge against the man solely because of imagined renditions of his personality. 

But anyway, back to the book. 

The plot pitter-patters around their fake relationship for about 50% (in which nothing of note happens), and then they decide to sleep together. For the sake of their inner alpha and omega. And then it’s just smut, all the way, all day long. Interspersed with some “oh, we can’t be together for reasons”. 

The problem here is that they have no chemistry. Or at least no time to develop it. The scenting scene, which is supposed to be sensual and make you (and the heroes) swoon, does nothing. Mostly because it’s so awkwardly described (his cheek goes where? What is happening?). But also because it’s just awkward between them. Then there’s the scene where they dance together — it’s supposed to make you feel something, but I was just confused. 

It feels as if the author has read all of these scenes somewhere else, and then decided to make her own characters do them too. They act as if someone is poking them with a stick to do these things. 

It doesn’t help that their relationship is mostly based on biology rather than any sort of mutual understanding or emotional development. I can’t root for that. 

To finish it off, in The Fake Mate, you’ll find icky tropes galore — gay best friend! POC girl best friend! mustache-twirling villain! sweet-but-intrusive grandma! heroine can’t fall in love because something parents did!

All in all, I would not recommend this book. It’s a poor rendition of things done before, and it should have stayed on AO3 or wherever it was before. If we are going to publish fanfic, can we at least pick some good ones?

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