Mission Possible: OPERATION GREEN CARD-Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for a new contemporary M/M romance from GB Gordon. OPERATION GREEN CARD is a new book in the Bluewater Bay universe–which is loosely connected to the other books in the series (including WHEN TO HOLD THEM also by this author) but fully enjoyable as a standalone. I’ve loved other GB Gordon books, SANTUARIO and THE OTHER SIDE OF WINTER, so I was excited to read this one!

Check out my review below and head out to a pal’s blog to enter the $10 GC giveaway!
About the book:
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.

My Review:
Jason Cooley is a war veteran and amputee. He lost his lower leg and foot in his last rescue mission as an Army Ranger. It crushed the fledgling sense of purpose he’d gained from joining the armed services, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, father and late mother–who was killed in action when Jason was two. His father had little to do with him from then on, and he was raised in the love-bereft home of his mother’s parents, who treated him as a burden. He joined up straight out of high school, and now works as a security guard on the set of Wolf’s Landing, a long-running TV show filmed in his home town of Bluewater Bay. He still lives in that childhood home, though his grandparents are gone, and it’s cramped and run-down. Jason has a five year old daughter, Lily, conceived literally on the eve of his deployment, with his high school bestie, but they were never truly romantically linked. She’s married and her hard-working husband has formally adopted Lily. Jason sends whatever money he can to support Lily, but he’s not really involved in her life; he’s sure that’s for the best. Only, even after working double shifts, and hardly spending any money on himself, Jason still can’t afford the gifted school Lily’s being recommended for enrollment.

Arkady is living on borrowed time. The situation in Russia is grave, with men accused of homosexuality being literally disappeared to prison or shallow graves. No matter how circumspect he is about his sexuality, he’s a target. He’s been attacked before, and saw his best friend murdered years ago for their “crime”. His sister, Natalya, has been trying to get him a job in security–or whatever–at Wolf’s Landing, but the work visa is not coming. Hearing that Jason needs money, Natalya proposes a solution that could benefit her beloved brother: green card marriage.

The idea seems preposterous on its face, but the more Jason ruminates, the more he envisions this scheme as a new mission in his life. He can pay for Lily’s school, and save Arkady from a death sentence. It appeals to his latent hero complex, and it’s not as if he’s never shared intimacy with a man; it was a down-low practice on some of his deployments. When he says he’s down, Arkady makes plans for a “trip” to visit Natalya. His whole family knows this is code for his defection. Arkady had thought he would never have a loving relationship or family, but coming to the States ignites these desires. He finds Jason incredibly attractive, and that feeling, well, it’s mutual. Jason is stunned at Arkady’s masculine beauty and his growing desire for his “roomie” is confusing. They have a real role to play in convincing all their witnesses that they are having a whirlwind romance, but neither of them expected to get so caught up in it themselves.

Jason’s frustrated that Arkady might not even care about him beyond getting his paperwork managed, and Arkady’s heart is so open to Jason that whenever he perceives Jason pulling back, it hurts, and hurts bad. They do find a way to become intimate, and again, the reality is far brighter than the fantasy—but it crashes and burns when they adhere to the idea that this is a temporary situation, to simply get Arkady’s permanent residency card. For both men, this relationship has become important, and breaking up is unthinkable, so they guard themselves against further vulnerability, until they can’t bear it any longer and the honesty bursts forth.

I loved the tenderness and commitment each man showed for each other’s well-being. It was so fun to watch this marriage of convenience to grow into a passionate romance. Arkady’s joy over building a real family, with Lily and her parents, is immeasurable. The HEA is fantastic! And yummy sexytimes as Jason and Arkady learn to share themselves more and more. Expect a wedding that’s somewhat bittersweet, and a love that is built to last.

Interested? You can find OPERATION GREEN CARD on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

****GIVEAWAY****

Go Over to my pals at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words to leave a comment and be entered to win a $10 Riptide book credit!
Good luck and thanks for popping in!

About the Author:
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.

You can reach GB online here: website, Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook.

Learning WHEN TO HOLD THEM–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for a new contemporary M/M romance from GB Gordon. WHEN TO HOLD THEM is a book in the Bluewater Bay universe–which is loosely connected to the other books in the series (STARSTRUCK, LONE WOLF, HELL ON WHEELS, THE BURNT TOAST B & B, and WEDDING FAVORS)  but fully enjoyable as a standalone. I’ve loved other GB Gordon books, SANTUARIO and THE OTHER SIDE OF WINTER, so I was excited to read this one!

When to Hold Them (Bluewater Bay, #9)About the book:

Doran Callaghan doesn’t know when to fold ’em. His gambling has landed him in debt and in jail, and now it’s got him stuck in the sticks in a reintegration program. He wants to turn his life around, but old habits come knocking, and some creditors are harder to shake than others.

Xavier Wagner cares more about the National Park he works in than the people around it, until a stranger awakens desires he didn’t know he had. Doran’s natural submissiveness turns Xavier’s ideas of how to treat a lover upside down. But Doran doesn’t seem to know about boundaries — or even to have any — and Xavier’s not sure that Doran will say no if he needs to. Which means someone’s going to get hurt.

While Xavier struggles with his principles, Doran’s past comes calling. Trusting each other is suddenly a matter of life or death, but Doran has to decide whether counting on Xavier — or himself — is a gamble he’s willing to take.

My Review:
Doran is 22 y/o man with a gambling addiction. He ran up some substantial debt to a card shark, and then embezzled money from his uncle’s clients in order to pay it back. This was doubly hard to do as Doran respects his uncle greatly–he took Doran in after his mother disowned him for being gay. Doran tries to comply with his parole agreement, attending GA sessions and working at his job in the tourism office redesigning the Bluewater Bay website and travel brochures. He sets aside some of his weekly allowance to repaying his uncle, but the urge to gamble is strong. In fact, the only urge that even compares is Doran’s obsession with catching sight of a local forest ranger whose truck appears at the gas station across the street from his office every Sunday afternoon.

One Sunday Doran’s too overwhelmed to simply observe–he enters the gas station to buy his lunch at the same time Officer Xavier Wagner is chatting up the attendant. And, a few days later, Doran can’t help sneaking a peek inside Xavier’s truck. It’s a miracle to him that Xavier is polite.

Xavier is a man between worlds. Son of a German emigre and a black woman, he’s not “black enough,” and he’s not “straight enough” for his mother’s conservative church. He lives in a cabin in the woods, preferring solitude–though he’d make an exception to bringing home the man-child he caught snooping in his truck. The desires that awaken when he’s near Doran almost scare Xavier–he wants to have him, to own him, and Doran is (even more frightening) into it.

Xavier doesn’t tolerate secrets or lies, so he’s put off when Doran’s evasive about his personal history. Doran’s so anxious to not be a cast off that he comes to terms with his inner steel, and stands up for himself, which was great to see. The dynamic that is developing here is one of limited D/s with many hints at it going further as more trust develops. The gambling addiction made for a nice character development with Doran–his ability to be so “all in” with Xavier, his impulsiveness, his remorse and “getting it” about chasing the thrill. All of those rounded Doran out nicely.

I had wanted a bit more steam. The sexytimes were nice, but felt whitewashed and ephemeral, removing me from the players which was mildly disappointing. Still the mountainside hunt was an interesting plot point. I appreciated how Xavier took great care of Doran, and left the story feeling as if these two were going to make it long-term. Yay!

Interested? You can find WHEN TO HOLD THEM on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
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.

You can reach GB online here: website, Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook.

Big Changes In THE OTHER SIDE OF WINTER–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m reviewing THE OTHER SIDE OF WINTER by GB Gordon. This is a dystopian M/M mystery romance that keeps the reader on edge. It is the sequel to SANTUARIO, which I really enjoyed–despite it being VERY light on the romance. WINTER has not only more romance, but more story–and readers of the series (myself included) are already clamoring for a third book.

The Other Side of Winter (Santuario, #2)About the book:
Not all wounds are visible.

Skanian investigator Bengt fell in love with fellow policeman Alex Rukow in a week. But that was a year ago, and they’ve been apart ever since. Then Alex escapes the corrupt and destitute island nation of Santuario and comes to live with Bengt. Happy ever after . . .?

Alex’s lifelong dream of leaving Santuario has come true at last. But he finds himself adrift in a society he doesn’t understand. Worse, past nightmares come back to haunt him, and after so many years of suspicion and self-reliance, it’s harder than he imagined to trust someone else.

Bengt just wants Alex to share his comfortable life. But the more he tries to give, the more Alex pulls away. Their physical connection couldn’t be better, but Bengt can’t seem to get through to his difficult, taciturn lover outside the bedroom. Meanwhile, he has his own demons to confront—not to mention a serial killer on the loose.

Bengt and Alex must dig deep for the courage to face their pasts, but it may be too late to save their relationship or their lives.

My Review:
This is the second book in a series, and it is best to read them in order.

Alex is a Santuarian, and a refugee to Jarvegur where he reunites with Bengt, a Skanian cop. Alex and Bengt spent one tense week working on a murder investigation a year ago, where Alex finally acknowledged his attraction to Bengt on their last night together. In Skanian society (Bengt’s worlds) there is no stigma associated with same-sex couples, but in Santuario, the island of Alex’s birth and where he lived his first 30 years, being gay was forbidden and likely lethal.

In Jarvegor, however, Bengt is anxious to bring Alex into his life in every way possible. Neither Bengt nor Alex truly understands how to live as a couple, however. Alex had had a REALLY hard life, his mother and stepfather were murdered when he was young and he was repeatedly beaten by his biological dad. So, he grew up knowing he had to make his own way, take care of his own needs, and he is ill accustomed to anyone caring for him. He’s frustrated that assimilation into Skanian society takes so long, and he has no means to find a job without his “green card” being processed, so Bengt is providing for all his physical needs–real and assumed. Plus, one of Bengt’s acquaintances makes it clear that, if Alex ever tired of Bengt, he’d gratefully pay Alex’s way in exchange for his sexual services, leaving proud, smart Alex feeling like a prostitute.

Bengt, for his part, is overjoyed to have Alex in his life. He stops working long hours, anxious to come home to his man. They seem to build a rapport, but Bengt can feel that Alex is holding back. He knows he should tread lightly, but he can’t seem to–he’s head-over-heels.

Alex is admitted to the police training school, and must move out to the dorms, where he begins to make friends outside of Bengt’s sphere. Returning home on weekends is harder than Alex imagined–he feels like such a freeloader, and so ashamed, but he can’t reveal his vulnerability because with that comes all Alex’s other self-esteem issues. He still can’t imagine what beautiful, esteemed, successful, wealthy Bengt finds appealing in a destitute refugee, and there is some self sabotage, as well as general misunderstanding that leads to a break up.

Still, Alex’s training at the academy digs up a cold case that is similar to an active one which has Bengt stymied. Their meetings, to discuss leads and follow up, are difficult. Bengt wants to reconnect, and Alex is afraid to rely on Bengt. There is a lot of separation and soul-searching (on both parts) as the case unwinds. Alex hits rock bottom, and reaches out (FINALLY!) for the help he needs. He finds the purpose that has been missing from his life, and begins to feel worthy of love, and Bengt.

The writing here is really superb. The sense of disconnection of an immigrant, and a refugee, is deftly written. I think may would expect Alex to joyfully embrace his good turn in life, but that’s not always possible when life has been SO difficult. One can’t just jettison a lifetime of behaviors and experiences of scraping and bowing and barely surviving, it’s practically PTSD, and Alex needs (and gets) the professional help to survive in this new and shiny life.

I think the mystery was well drawn and the book had a lot more going on that a romance, though it was there. I really feel connected to Bengt and Alex after this book, and hope that the planned sequels come to pass.

Interested? You can find THE OTHER SIDE OF WINTER on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

Santuario (Santuario, #1)The first book in this series, SANTUARIO, provides the back story behind Bengt and Alex meeting a year before. Bengt traveled to the arid island of SANTUARIO to investigate a murder–only to find another dead body and a conspiracy no one wants solved. I liked it bunches, lots of great introspection and action, but there is, alas, very little romance. Alex’s home is hostile to same-sex couplings, and he is nearly stunned by Bengt being openly attracted only to men. It is quite a tight character study as well as a compelling mystery.

You can check out my complete review here.

About the Author:
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.

You can reach GB online here: website, Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook.