I’m not a great one for reading sports romances where one of the protagonists plays a sport that’s very US-centric, but I’m always happy to see established authors branching out into subsets of romance that are closer to my interests than anything they’ve written previously. In this case, a writer who has previously written only straight romances, as far as I can see, has branched out into gay romance and taken a familiar trope in the form of the marriage of convenience, but put a bit of a twist on it.
Isaiah Blackwell is a successful American Footballer, as well as the widowed single father to a flamboyant teenage boy. Although he’s made no secret of his being gay, Isaiah has never made a big deal out of it either, and his manager and teammates are happy for him to keep things that way. By contrast, Victor Aleksandrov, a visiting Russian ballet star, is very outspoken about his sexuality and about the way LGBT people are treated back home. The unlikely pair have a one-night stand after Isiah takes his son – a fan of Victor – to the ballet, but don’t expect to meet again.
Victor’s application for asylum is turned down, however, and he ends up being rescued from the bar where he’s drowning his sorrows by Isaiah. They discuss Victor’s plight and the dangers he’ll face if he returns to Russia, after which Isaiah comes up with the idea of a fake marriage for at least as long as it takes Victor to get a green card. Isaiah is keen that they make this a marriage in name only – no more sex – because he’s scared of falling for Victor and having his heart broken all over again, should anything happen to his new husband.
Sadly, the twisting of the trope wasn’t enough for us to fall into a whole big world of clichés. I found it hard to believe that Isaiah’s teammates and fans were cool with him being quietly gay – we seemed to be inhabiting a strange parallel universe at times where the West is quite a bit more liberal than it feels to quite a few of us after the past couple of years’ political happenings. I also found it odd that Isaiah hadn’t noticed any of his son’s issues and was more than a little cynical of the men being able to convince the authorities that their marriage was real, while they told all their friends what a sham it was. Finally, there was that really annoying thing lazy US authors do of assuming that British and English are interchangeable when describing accents and that both are without regional variation anyway (accents and dialects vary from town to town, never mind from county to county or from one end of a country to the other).
Not an inspiring introduction to this author for me, but I did think Isaiah’s son and his friends were kind of cute.
NFL football player Isaiah Blackwell lost his husband three years ago and is raising their teen son alone. He lives his life as quietly as his job allows, playing ball to support his family but trying not to draw unwanted attention. His quiet life is shaken up when a mutual friend introduces him to Victor, a visiting principal ballet dancer who is everything Isaiah is not.
Brash and loud, Victor Aleksandrov has applied for political asylum to avoid returning to Russia, where gay men are targeted and persecuted. He’s been outspoken about gay rights in his home country, and if he doesn’t get asylum, going back to Russia is a death sentence.
Their one-night stand turns into a tentative friendship, a relationship they both agree is temporary…until Victor’s denied asylum. Isaiah can’t offer Victor a happily ever after, but he can propose something that’ll keep Victor in the US and safe…marriage. He just doesn’t expect his new husband to dance away with his heart.
Read an excerpt.