Isn't It Bromantic?
So this is the Russian’s book.
When I read the first two books in Lyssa Kay Adams’ The Bromance Book Club series, the humor involving this guy quickly wore out its welcome. I felt it was crass and narrow-minded for the only foreigner in the gang to not even have a name and to be the comic relief because of his gluten allergy. But then I saw that he was getting his own book, and for the most part, Isn’t It Bromantic? is a lovely story for this guy. Readers wanting heroes who are gentle giants and cinnamon rolls, just stop here and put this book on your list.
One of the things I liked immediately is that this story begins with hockey player Vladislav Konnikov already married to his childhood best friend Elena, although they’re all but estranged. He’s never told anyone about her. But at a friend’s wedding, she shows up, looking beautiful, and then pulls his heart straight out of his chest by telling him she’s going back to Russia.
Vlad is devastated. He’s been in love with Elena for the six years of their marriage and even before it, but they’ve been separated partly because she’s been studying journalism in Chicago and partly because he’s been trying to give her all the space she wants. Meanwhile, Elena likewise cares about Vlad. But she believes theirs is a marriage of convenience heavily slanted towards one person’s convenience – hers. She was orphaned young when her father, a journalist so involved in his career he barely noticed her, was murdered.
But after Vlad became a hockey player in the States, he found out about her situation, and offered to marry her so that she could have a chance at a better life. Elena has never forgotten what happened to her father though, and she hopes to discover who killed him, not to mention finish his investigation into sex trafficking. Hence her plan to return to Russia.
Vlad, being Vlad, steps back and allows her to do what’s right for her -which Elena interprets as his not needing her in his life. But then a collision on the ice leads to him breaking his leg, and Elena realizes he’ll need someone to take care of him. This is her chance to repay him for everything he’s done for her. For the first time in their marriage, they now live in the same house and discover new things about each other – such as the fact that they’re both desperately attracted to each other but don’t want to take any more risks.
There’s a lot to enjoy in this story. Vlad is a romantic who’s remained a virgin because… well, there’s only one woman he wants, and the scene where he finally blurts this out to the book club is great. I enjoyed the descriptions of all the Russian dishes that Elena cooks, and there are some hilarious moments, one of them involving a clandestine cheese store owned by an eccentric man who’s paranoid about “Big Dairy”. Then, of course, there are the romance novels. This time it’s a manuscript Vlad is secretly writing, and the question is whether he can use his own experiences to give his characters an HEA.
So why doesn’t this book get an A? A few reasons. The first is the number of secondary characters. As well as Malcolm, Mack, Noah, Colton and Gavin from the book club, there are Claud, Linda, Andrea and Michelle, widows and divorcées who are Vlad’s neighbors. There wasn’t room for all these characters to have a personality (Linda, for instance, does nothing but protest every time Claud says something rude), and they kept shouldering their way into the story. If you’re not keen on romances where secondary characters push the hero and heroine together, best avoid this one.
The second problem was the sex trafficking network. The plotline where Elena tries to expose this is not well-integrated with the laid-back, jokey main story, and it felt jarring to go from one to the other. Also, my recollections of Elena in the story are mostly her cooking, talking to the other women, and trying to overcome her nervousness with Vlad, so the quick wrap-up of the sex trafficking plot felt unrealistic.
Finally, while Vlad was a sweetheart, I wasn’t very keen on Elena, who does a yo-yo impression in the story. She’s returning to Russia – scratch that, she’s staying. But Vlad doesn’t need her, so she’s gone – wait, no, she’s at Michelle’s house. This time for real, though, she’s leaving. And at one point, she punches him thrice. This is presented as frustrated sexual tension building up to a kiss, but if it’s wrong for men to slam their fists into women, why is the reverse acceptable?
If you can overlook these issues, though, Isn’t it Bromantic? will be worth your time. I read it on my commute to work, and often had a smile under my mask. Readers already hooked on this series will find this a great next instalment, and readers who haven’t read the other books could jump in here with little difficulty. And I really enjoyed all those descriptions of Russian food.