Elena Konnikova has lived her entire adult life in the shadows. As the daughter of a Russian journalist who mysteriously disappeared, she escaped danger the only way she knew how: She married her childhood friend, Vladimir, and moved to the United States, where he is a professional hockey player in Nashville.
Vlad, aka the Russian, thought he could be content with his marriage of convenience. But it’s become too difficult to continue in a one-sided relationship. He joined the Bromance Book Club to learn how to make his wife love him, but all he’s learned is that he deserves more. He’s ready to create his own sweeping romance—both on and off the page.
The bros are unwilling to let Vlad forgo true love—and this time they’re not operating solo. They join forces with Vlad’s neighbors, a group of meddling widows who call themselves the Loners. But just when things finally look promising, Elena’s past life intrudes and their happily ever after is cast into doubt.
I’ve been waiting for this book because this is one of the very few contemporary series I’m still reading, and I was frankly disappointed not to get the advance copy. Not that it stopped me because I got it soon after release and it felt like the perfect one for my august readathon prompt.
And this turned out to be as fun as I expected. When the author mentioned in the acknowledgements that she didn’t plan on writing a book for the Russian, I was surprised because he truly has been a fan favorite since the beginning. But I’m glad she did write this book because it was so much fun. Childhood best friends to lovers is my favorite trope and it was nice to find it in a book after a long time. But it was also equally angsty because there were so many misunderstandings and self-worth issues, but thankfully everything got resolved nicely. The whole idea of the hockey playing hero writing a romance novel was so unique, and perfect for the Bromance book club. The author used the process of writing of this book to highlight some of very tropey but wonderful little moments that we find in most romance novels, and also how much this writing process and the story helps in resolving the issues between the main couple in real life. The pacing is perfect, the humor very endearing and the depiction of friendships heartwarming, which made for a happy read.
Vlad is just such a nice guy. We are very used to seeing stereotypical depictions of jocks and American media’s representation of Russian people always skews towards the negative, so it was lovely to see Vlad depicted as just a king, compassionate, emotional man who loves everyone with all his heart, but is unsure if he is worthy of receiving the same. Elena on the other hand has gone through a lot in her life and is chasing the void left by her journalist father, wants the love of her best friend and husband but also doesn’t want to be a burden on him. Both of them stay away from each other despite the love they have, and it was nice to see them fight their vulnerabilities and conflicting feelings to finally get to be with each other.
The book club is always a delight and I thought they were amazing here as well, helping and pestering Vlad to open up about his problems as well as nudging him on his writing journey. The Loners is another group of women who may not have a man in their lives but are full of cutting insights about relationships. And then there’s another special appearance whose name I don’t wanna spoil, but adds a lot of intrigue and hilarity to the proceedings.
In the end, I was thoroughly entertained while reading the book and I’m glad this series has been equally fun since the beginning. While the various conversations in the book about romance and masculinity and body shaming may feel a tad bit superficial, but I think even such normal talks can help dispel some of the myths and stereotypes associated. I don’t know if this series is gonna continue, but if it does, I know I’ll be ready to read.