Author: Robin Covington
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
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.
I enjoyed this story. When I read the blurb, I thought I’d probably like it, but I didn’t expect to become as engaged in it as I did. I’ve read other stories with the same or similar titles and they were all as expected—light, fluffy, romantic, marriage of convenience turned serious and leading to a HEA. On the one hand this was that. But on the other, the characters were well-developed, particularly Victor Aleksandrov, ballet dancer and LGBTQ rights supporter. Because of his outspoken advocacy and his derogatory comments on the treatment of homosexuals in his home country, he needs to remain in the US. If he doesn’t, he’ll be killed. It’s as simple as that.
Isaiah Blackwell, pro football player, widower, and father of a fourteen-year-old artistic and genderfluid teen is not interested in any more than a hookup, so when he’s sees the opportunity to sleep with the gorgeous dancer, he seizes it. Interestingly, they both share the same agent. (Somehow I doubt that would be the case in real life. Sports agents and artists’ agents are likely completely different in who they know and what they do to secure the best for their clients. It was little things like this that kept my rating from going higher.) Because they share the same agent, and he’s friends with both men, he acts as the catalyst to bring the two together. When Victor is denied asylum by the US, it’s Isaiah who offers to marry Victor so he can stay.
I found both main characters to be very personable and I particularly liked Victor, who knew his own mind and remained true to his beliefs and feelings. Isaiah was quite childish in his need to keep Victor in a separate component of his heart. Dragging out the old trope of giving him his own room because the master bedroom belongs to the widower and his ghost (whose picture is on the nightstand by the bedside!); and encouraging him to be a part of the family but excluding him from decisions involving the child just didn’t cut it here. His self-inflicted angst was too much for me, as well. I’m not a big fan of a character repeating the same actions and thoughts over and over and over again. Too much wallowing in pain that’s totally not necessary.
The ending was sweet and what I had expected. Without giving details on that, I can say that I may have read something similar in the sixties. In fact, as I write this review, it occurs to me that the whole story felt a little old-fashioned. With apologies to all if this comes out as sexist: it felt like a light, fluffy, ladies’ romance of yesteryear, dusted off, and then revised to include today’s social issues (including a genderfluid child) and with Victor inserted as the “ballerina” who fell in love with the football player.
So if this kind of sweet romance is your thing, by all means try this one.