Length: 260 pages
Cover Design: Garrett Leigh @ Black Jazz Design
Will Jason’s third time as a best man lead to first-time love for Vanya?
After fleeing violence in Moscow, student teacher Vanya Petrov winds up lonely in a run-down London hostel. At least visiting the Bond Street store where his roommate works lets him practice his English, but as Vanya's vocabulary expands, so does his isolation, especially when he sees happy couples planning their perfect weddings.
According to Jason Balfour, weddings are a waste of time and money. After all, he’s been best man for his brother twice already. Saying that a third marriage will end in divorce too leads to an angry ultimatum: to save his relationship with his brother, Jason must meet his fiancée, at last, and make a good first impression.
Jason’s need to dress to impress brings him and Vanya together. Language is no barrier to falling in love with the young and fragile Russian, and neither is their age difference. But Vanya’s bruised soul carries secrets that could rip them apart. As the wedding draws near, Vanya must confess, and soon, or risk losing Jason—his own best man in Britain.
Review 4 Stars
I'm not normally a fan of present tense in novels, but it's a testament to the author's skill that after a while I didn't notice and got lost in the story and characters.
Vanya is lonely and depressed living in a horrible hostel while he waits to see if his request for asylum will ever be granted. And until he knows, Vanya isn't allowed a job in the UK. His room mate has almost saved enough for them to get a proper flat on their own, with Kaspar's girlfriend Anna. But someone in the hostel steals all their money and Anna is attacked in her room and none of them feel safe there any longer.
Jason Balfour owns a building design company that takes old, neglected buildings and restores them. He's sworn off love after being messed about so much by his ex and thinks his brother is mad for wanting to get married for a third time. Andrew wants Jason as his best man, but Jason has so far even refused to meet his fiancé, Chantel. At Andrew's insistence, Jason is to come and meet her and make a good impression, which leads Jason to the department store where Kaspar works, and Vanya is visiting his friend at work.
Jason mistakenly believes that Vanya is a personal shopper and insists on paying him to help Jason find a new look before he meets Chantel. Vanya declines at first, but he knows they need money if they are ever to get somewhere safer to live. They soon start falling for each other and Vanya will no longer accept any money from Jason, but can a relationship last that's been built on deceit? Vanya loves him, but he's afraid that telling him the truth might make him lose Jason forever. So many times he tries to speak up, but so many times he can't. And then it is taken out of his hands as Jason finds out everything.
Hurt and betrayed, Jason cuts off all ties and Vanya is left fighting for his man, for he can't lose Jason, not now, not ever. But is it already too late?
The story flowed well, with exquisite writing, at times quite poetic and lyrical. Vanya and Jason are both well-drawn characters, and so are the side ones. There are no cardboard cut-outs here and you really get a feel for everyone and their world. From the grotty hostel where food and money get stolen with regularity to Jason's old family home in the Cotswolds to the hustle and bustle of London. The author has really caught the mood of each setting, and Vanya's and Jason places within them.
I enjoyed the book very much, but there were was something that didn't sit well with me. Vanya is twenty-two, but a couple of times Jason had thoughts that the young man was 'barely legal'. Really? He's a grown man, not a teenager and it jarred me out of the story somewhat. Yes, there is an age difference, but both parties are adults and know that they love each other. Nothing wrong with that. It just seemed a weird thing for Jason to focus on, especially since he's British and the age of consent in the UK is sixteen, so in no universe could a twenty-two old be considered barely legal anyway. It irked me.
But overall a good, solid read with characters you can't help rooting for.
Injury curtailed her enjoyment of outdoor pursuits, so writing fiction now fills her free time. Love, loss, and redemption shape her romance stories, and her characters are flawed in ways that makes them live and breathe.
When not people watching, or wrangling her own boy band of teen sons, she spends time staring at the sea from her kitchen window. If you see her, don't disturb her—she’s probably thinking up new plots.
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