Saturday, December 16, 2017

Operation Green Card by G.B. Gordon

Arkady Izmaylov is a family man. He’s also gay. In Russia. His sister Natalya has been telling him to get out for years, but it’s only after an attack in the street that he finally concedes and says yes to her desperate plan of him marrying a stranger for a green card.

Jason Cooley was taught from birth that he’s no good to anyone. Then the military taught him he was good enough to save other lives, but that purpose got amputated along with his leg. He’s now working security at Wolf’s Landing and sending monthly checks to his ex for their daughter’s education. When Natalya asks him to marry her brother, Jason knows right away he’ll do it more for the mission than the money she’s offering. But when he actually meets Arkady, his mission turns complicated.

Jason quickly discovers he’s not as straight as he thought. He’s also the man of Arkady’s dreams. Arkady must convince Jason that he’s worth loving, and that Arkady won’t disappear from his life like everyone else. Because Arkady has always wanted a family of his own, and he’s not letting go of this one.

The Bluewater Bay stories can be read in any order — jump in wherever you'd like!

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Book 21
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Riptide Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Their fake Green Card wedding saves Arkady from homophobic abuse in Russia and allows Jason to pay his daughter’s school fees. But their pragmatic scheming falls apart when their emotions get involved.

Arkady’s situation is bleak. He has lost his job and his life is at risk in Russia. At the start, he is a complicated, damaged man whose fear is palpable. I’m not sure there is enough continuity with his character. I feel like his transition to American life is far too easy and he almost instantly loses his identity as a Russian and a lit professor. I’ve been an expat for a long time and I don’t know anyone, anywhere who has adapted to a new culture so quickly or easily. He uses an American vernacular immediately and becomes quite a bland character by the midpoint.

Jason also had my interest at the start. He’s an intense veteran who keeps his distance from people and keeps his emotions tightly locked away. But again, he also becomes quite bland by the midpoint and we don’t see him work through his issues before he is able to commit to a lifetime with Arkady. We’re given hints about his military experiences at the start, but this isn’t ever explored later in the story.

Neither Jason nor Arkady is a talker. They are both former soldiers who have learned to hide themselves behind protective silence. This makes for great broody Alpha characters, but it doesn’t necessarily make for an easy romantic connection. We learn about the men and their relationship from their own (fairly limited) inner monologues and from other characters’ insights and observations. The problem is the timeframe. It’s hard to believe that these two apparently know and love each other after only a few days together when the don’t seem to manage talking to each other very well.

I’m a little bit conflicted about this story. In some ways, it all happens too fast and I struggled to understand how the lust connection between Arkady and Jason would translate into a lifetime commitment. On the other hand, the whole point of this story is their whirlwind fake romance unexpectedly becoming something real. I want to believe in the magic but I’m not sure I’m completely convinced.

Avid Reader☆☆☆
M/M Romance
Triggers: Homophobia

Hmmm... where to start? I didn't really connect at all with either of these characters. It felt super rushed and stunted all at the same time.

Arkady is living a life he wishes he wasn't. He lost his job due to his sexual orientation and is struggling to make ends meet. He knows that he needs a change, but he is not too sure how or where that change is going to happen. When his sister calls with a possible solution, Arkady thinks about it briefly and then jumps.

Jason is an ex-soldier who had an injury that left him feeling a little angry. He lost a lot in the war and hasn't really been interested in a lot since then. He works himself to death and sometimes finds time to hang out with co-workers, but overall, he's a loner. Despite having a daughter from a previous hookup, he doesn't really have a lot to do with his family. He does, however, want to help his daughter attend a school for the gifted, so he wants more hours and to work even more. When a co-worker approaches him with a solution to his money issues, he warily accepts the offer.

These two have almost no chemistry. It is a struggle because they also are not very talkative and for the most part, we infer a lot in this story. Arkady and Jason's relationship is supposed to be a whirlwind relationship so that Arkady can stay, but this lacked a lot of development for me.

Overall, this was just a "meh" story.

Operation Green Card is a bit contrived. It gives us a fake marriage of a gay guy with a supposedly straight man. But once you get past that it is a good story, although not always easy. Jason is difficult and closed off. Even when the story is being told from Jason's point of view I felt like I wasn't getting to know him very well. In fact, I felt I learned more about him through Arkady's eyes.

Getting Jason and Arkady from a fake couple to friends to friends with occasional benefits to a genuine couple was tough on my heart at times. Jason has a very low opinion of himself and is so afraid of being hurt that he makes it hard for Arkady. And Arkady is open, friendly, and so brave, having left his life in Russia behind to start over in the US, I thought he didn't deserve the crap Jason was dishing out.

Arkady and Jason's struggles are worth it and ultimately, their story is quite beautiful and it left me happy in the end.

Oddly enough, Operation Green Card is the second green card marriage book I’ve read this weekend, with the other being a M/F romance. But despite sharing a trope, the stories were nothing alike and there was no déjà vu feeling, thankfully. And fortunately for me, I found the author’s tale of a fake relationship becoming real to be a delightful read. My apologies for my rather disjointed review.

As a fan of the Bluewater Bay series whose schedule has prevented me from reading the last few releases, I was pleased to get to curl up with Gordon’s latest contribution. My pleasure increased once Natalya entered the picture and pitched her rather desperate idea for getting her brother safely out of Russia and to America before his homosexuality got him killed. Natalya’s character is one I’ve enjoyed seeing in several stories in the series and I could sympathize with her fear for her brother’s life. It made her proposal to Jason understandable, just as Jason’s desire to help others – first his daughter and later Natalya’s brother – makes his eventual acceptance of her proposal believable.

I appreciated that Gordon included Jason’s memories from his time in the service to show that his attraction to Arkady wasn’t a new facet to his personality. Showing his past attractions to men made Jason’s decision to make their marriage “real” a natural progression. But a natural progression doesn’t necessarily mean a smooth one, and Jason’s poor self-worth and fear of loved ones deserting him means that Arkady has to fight Jason for their future together. Thankfully, Arkady has the same persistent spirit his sister does and is willing to take the hits necessary to win his man.

I also liked how the author used the couple’s problems as a way for Arkady to develop his own identity outside of the marriage. Rather than being relegated to the position of house spouse, Arkady formed friendships with other Russian immigrants, tutored a new friend’s daughter, and made a business contact that gave him the opportunity to push Jason into a new career – one that had the potential to improve Jason’s vision of himself. More importantly, Arkady’s natural ease when interacting with Jason’s daughter was heartwarming to see and painted a picture of a future they could have as a family, a picture that Jason really needed to see. I enjoyed my return to Bluewater Bay, catching up with old friends and meeting new ones, and Operation Green Card was an entertaining addition to the series.

G.B. Gordon worked as a packer, landscaper, waiter, and coach before going back to school to major in linguistics and, at 35, switch to less backbreaking monetary pursuits like translating, editing, and writing.

Having lived in various parts of the world, Gordon is now happily ensconced in suburban Ontario with the best of all husbands.

Connect with G.B.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Operation Green Card (Bluewater Bay #21) by G.B. Gordon to read and review.

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