Title: His Convenient Husband
Author: Robin Covington
Series: Love and Sports
Genre: M/M Contemporary
Length: Short novel
Available: 9th Oct
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.
Source: ARC from Entangled: Indulgence via NetGalley
I don’t normally talk about covers, but I have to mention this one. Because not only do we have a black male lead on the cover, but there’s that pronoun in the title. I saw the two paired together and immediately wanted to read it, not even caring particularly what it was about. Then I read that Isaiah is an NFL player and want transfered to need.
Let me say that my knowledge of the NFL wouldn’t fill a thimble. I’m British, so my exposure to US sports is pretty minimal. I do like sport and over here there are a growing number of professional sportsmen and women who are out, but none of them are in top level football (soccer). Although attitudes towards sexuality are changing and there are plenty of LGBT supporters clubs now, the shadow cast by Justin Fashanu’s tragic story is long, so I was interested to see how such a character would be represented in another high profile sport that praises masculinity so very highly.
But first let’s talk about characters. Because I loved Victor, the outspoken Russian ballet dancer who has never done a thing to hide who he is, and refuses to be silent about the abuses in his home country – particularly Chechnya, where he is originally from. He’s not the sort who goes looking for conflict, but neither will he back down from a fight or not make use of the platform he’s been given. I admired that about him, almost as much as I loved his more vulnerable side as a man who has never truly known family or love and longs for a real home of his own.
It’s that side that appeals so strongly to Isaiah, even as he tries to keep his distance because of the danger it poses to his heart. I liked Isaiah in general, he’s a good man, trying to do the best he can by the people he loves – particularly his son Evan – but at the same time I really, really hated the way he treats Victor. It’s a story told many times, of a person thinking they can protect their heart from future pain by never falling in love again. Except, of course, it’s not quite as easy as that and his reasons for keeping Victor at arms length were always pretty weak.
In fact Isaiah is pretty selfish when it comes to Victor and downright hurtful at times. He pushes him away and draws him in and says the nastiest things, because reasons! None of which were good enough and made me really dislike him in the second half of the book. I was also astonished at how naive he was regarding Victor’s outspokenness and how it related to Evan. I loved Evan. He’s strong and different, with gender-bending ways and a firm belief in who he is and the world he wishes he could live in. He’s great and I loved his relationship with both Isaiah and Victor. But at the same time, how could Isaiah be so naive about exposing Evan to bad stuff in the world? His son was very much himself long before Victor came along.
I’m also sceptical that Isaiah never experienced any sort of push back or homophobic abuse from his team or the fans before Victor. The man is out, quietly perhaps, but he was married to another man and didn’t exactly hide it. The idea that it’s Victor who causes tensions and problems to emerge where none had ever been before was just a bit too unbelievable for me. Then again, maybe that’s because I’m more familiar with UK football crowds and how toxic they can be.
On the whole, though, this is mostly enjoyable. There’s a lot of angst going on, but it’s fairly tepid with small conflict (legalities, what legalities?) and fast turns-around. It might have been nice if Isaiah hadn’t treated Victor so poorly at times, or if Victor had made Isaiah work a little harder for forgiveness, but the two of them together are both hot and sweet and I loved the family unit they formed with Evan and Isaiah’s mother. In fact it’s a pretty familiar marriage-of-convenience trope tale, just with added diversity and LGBT activism. It might not have quite lived up to my initial excitement, but I’d be interested to see where this series heads next.
His Convenient Husband is out 9th October.
Visit Robin Covington for more details.