The moment football player Isaiah Blackwell sees gorgeous ballet dancer Victor Aleksandrov, he is drawn to the sexy man. The two share an incredible evening together, as well as some flirtatious texting, but Isaiah knows that is all it will ever be. Isaiah lost his husband three years ago and that was the love of his lifetime. He is not prepared to deal with pain and loss once again, so he would rather keep things casual.
Victor is an outspoken advocate for gay rights, particularly in his Russian homeland where gays are being persecuted and disappearing. He has applied for political asylum in the U.S., but when that is denied, he is looking at being sent back to Russia where surely his life will be in danger for his public statements. Isaiah offers to help by getting married so Victor can stay in America; it will only be a marriage of convenience, but it will save Victor’s life.
Keeping his distance from his incredible new husband isn’t easy, however. The attraction still burns fiercely between them, and on top of that, Isaiah genuinely likes Victor and thinks he is a great person. Victor gets along well with Isaiah’s son, and it would be so easy to let himself begin to fall for someone again. For his part, Victor craves a home and a family, not to mention Isaiah. Being with the man as a real husband is everything Victor could want, yet Isaiah is keeping him at a distance. Victor hopes things will change, but despite at times sending mixed signals, the bottom line is that Isaiah does not want to fall in love again, and the only way to prevent that is to not get close to Victor. But Victor can’t continue on the way things are; it is too hard for his heart to be falling for Isaiah without his feelings returned. Now Isaiah must decide if he is going to take a second chance on love with the man who is quickly stealing his heart, or if he is going to let his fears cause him to lose it all.
His Convenient Husband is the first book in the new Love and Sports series by Robin Covington. I am familiar with the author and since she appears to have written primarily (exclusively?) m/f romance up until now, I was really excited to give this one a try. And I am happy to say I totally loved Isaiah and Victor’s story.
So this is obviously a “marriage of convenience” story, a popular old school romance trope. It is one I like, but it can drift a little too tropey and over the top, so I was curious to see how Covington would handle it here. I am really impressed with the depth she gives this book and the way she elevates this common trope into something deeper and really nicely developed. First, the reasons Victor can’t go home are serious ones; he is an outspoken advocate for gay rights and critical of his home country for their abuse of the GLBT community. He is literally facing a life threatening situation if he returns home. These kinds of human rights violations are a critical issue in many parts of the world right now and Covington treats this issue with the depth that it deserves. Even more, Victor speaking out publicly is an issue that carries throughout the story, as it comes into play both with regards to Isaiah’s job, as well as with his son.
The chemistry between Victor and Isaiah is intense from the very start, and that is what really elevated this story for me. You can just feel the tension crackle, the incredible draw these men have for one another. It is what kept the story sparking even as Isaiah pushes Victor away. The guys agree to keep things just as friends, but both know that if they even take baby steps toward a relationship, or even more sex, it will be impossible to ignore the pull between them. And as a reader, I could really feel that draw and it helped me to understand why Isaiah insists on keeping his distance. I think some readers may find themselves frustrated with him for his hot and cold attitude. It is clear Isaiah wants Victor badly, and more than that, cares for him. So while most of the time he keeps things at the friend level, at times he slips, giving Victor some mixed messages that can be frustrating. But all the while, I could just feel the connection between them and that helped go a long way for me in accepting Isaiah’s actions.
I do think there were areas that were given a bit of a gloss over. First off, resolving Victor’s immigration issues is as simple as getting married. No one ever looks into the marriage, immigration officials never come by to check on them, or anything else. Given that Victor is a high profile dissident who is facing deportation back home, and then suddenly marries a well-known NFL player he just met, it seems highly unlikely that this wouldn’t attract some sort of government oversight, but it is a total non-issue. I also would have a loved a bit more insight into life as a dancer and a pro football player. Though we see a bit of the dancing, Isaiah’s job is pretty much on paper only. For a job that is so physically demanding and time consuming, I’d like to have seen a little more of that worked in. There are also some issues with regard to Isaiah’s job and how Victor impacts it that get touched on, but not really fully developed.
All that said, I thought this story was excellent and very entertaining. I loved Isaiah and Victor together, and found them sweet and incredibly sexy. I think the story overall has a nice depth and tackles some interesting issues, beyond the relationship itself, which is amazing. I really enjoyed Covington’s writing and I am very excited to see more from this series.