Gold Digger – Aleksandr Voinov
Not all that glitters is gold.
Nikolai Krasnorada leads the life of a corporate nomad. Working for a gold explorations company, he’s never put down roots, and he likes it that way. Roots can be dangerous, as everyone from his “man-hating” sister to his manipulative mother to his war-traumatized father has proven.
But when his CEO sends him to Toronto to strike a deal with LeBeau Mining, Nikolai meets Henri LeBeau, crown prince to the resources conglomerate and inveterate flirt. Sparks fly immediately, despite the business deal that threatens to go sour and Nikolai’s own reluctance to give Henri false hope about him being Mr. Right. He’s barely come to terms with his bisexuality, and getting involved with Henri would get messy.
When LeBeau Mining launches a hostile takeover bid, Nikolai and Henri find themselves on opposite sides of the negotiating table. But fortunately – or perhaps unfortunately – for Nikolai, Henri’s not nearly as interested in his company as he is in his heart.
Because I’m the type to nitpick on book covers, I’d like to put it out there that the Italian cover is so much better
Also it took me halfway through the book to realize that the Vadim mentioned here, Nikolai’s father and ex-spetnaz, is the Vadim in the epic Special Forces saga (I must have missed the part that says it’s a spinoff). Holy hell! This man’s a legend!! But as much as I love Aleksandr Voinov’s books, I don’t think I have the courage nor the patience to read something dark with more than 2000 pages. Maybe audiobook, please?
Aleksandr Voinov doesn’t do cute and fluffy the way it is typically done. In fact his writing is usually associated with the words “smart”, “dark”, “sensual”, “masculine”, and “powerful”. However, for Gold Digger, there’s a line that describes how he writes the story
Henri’s agitation was odd and endearing, so very him, and Nikolai found himself smiling. “Cute” wasn’t a word for Henri, but damn, he was a manly version of that.
Manly version of cute. This is how the story certainly feels and Henri and Nikolai both fit the bill.
Henri is endearingly open and honest about what he wants, almost to the point of being pushy but he’s not a manipulative asshole and he never goes beyond Nikolai’s boundaries. I feel like he has this streak of crazy in him and it would have been fun had it been unleashed but the story underplayed this side of him. He was, for the most part, a flirtatious, easy going but driven guy.
Nikolai is a man struggling to get his bearings after being talked to getting a blowjob by Henri and discovered he liked it. To make things more complicated he was attracted to Henri even though he knew until now he was straight and Henri is on the enemy’s side. Him trying to wrap his head as to what is going on between him and Henri is cute. They had great chemistry and I enjoyed the banter. My complaint here is that the development of their relationship happened in the span of their first meeting with the LeBeaus up to the time they met again to talk about the take-over which is like one week? two weeks? I don’t think it even took a month and here they were, already talking about selling Henri’s condo and settling in Armenia or Georgia. That’s pretty fast for a man who just discovered he is bisexual.
Nikolai is loyal to Cybele, the company he is working for and his bestfriend, Ruslan Polonin, who is the CEO. They try to avoid a hostile takeover from LBM, the company Henri works for. This part alone is enough to keep my attention. I have always been interesting in how these high flying corporate types do business and nobody writes financial thrillers like Voinov.
Nikolai’s relationship with his family, particularly with his father, Vadim, was also a major plot point. Nikolai has always felt like an outsider in his family and the revelations by his sister, Anya, only proved the point. Vadim, being a former soldier has to deal with a dark past and mental trauma. Father and son are not emotional touchy feely types but when they laid some important issues out it was a very touching emotional moment albeit in a stoic military way. Would have wanted to meet Dan though. Where is Vadim’s husband in all this?
Overall, I really liked the feel of the story. It not as dark and heavy as is typically the case with the author but it still feels sophisticated and understated. The corporate drama was engaging. The romance was lighthearted and sweet.The characters were likable people except Anya who is a vindictive bitch. Gold Digger works well as a standalone but it will make you very curious about Vadim. I’m looking forward to a sequel and maybe someday, I will have it in me to read Special Forces.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
Return on Investment – Aleksandr Voinov
Martin David, an eager but inexperienced financial analyst, is the newest member of the investment team at Skeiron Capital Partners in London. His boss is an avowed financial genius, but he’s also overbearing and intense. Despite his erratic behaviour, Martin can’t help being drawn to him both professionally and personally.
Too bad his boss doesn’t seem to feel the same. In a firm where pedigree and connections mean far more than Martin’s newly-minted business degree, Martin feels desperately inadequate—at least until he meets the enigmatic investment manager Alec Berger, who promises to help Martin establish himself in the financial community. Martin is so charmed by Alec’s sophistication and wit that he gives him data that should have stayed confidential.
Then the financial crisis hits. Banks burn, companies teeter on the brink, and Skeiron’s survival is at stake. Martin is pushed into the middle of the fight for Skeiron—against both the tanking economy and a ruthless enemy who’s stepped out of the shadows to collect the spoils.
Return on Investment is the new gay financial thriller from EPIC Award winner and Lambda Award finalist Aleksandr Voinov.
This book comes with a warning. According to author, Aleksandr Voinov:
Just a PSA – this is not a traditional romance, m/m or other. I’d describe it as part coming-of-age, part financial thriller (yes, quite a few scenes involving the office, deals, finance talk, etc), and love story. The love story is not the main thing going on, and the main character spends quite a bit of time/quite a few nights with other people.
Duly noted. And with that, I had to tread carefully and keep an open mind lest my biases get the better of me.
One of my guilty pleasures is reading about rich people. Not the Hollywood celebrity or rock star kind of rich but the upper 1% old rich kind of rich. And nothing says old rich as that scene where Alec was enlightening Martin to the merits of bespoke shaving equipment. Apparently, fancy Gillette triple blades has nothing on Sheffield steel single blade razors with handles in production since 1930s.
Return on Investment has three main players, Alec Berger, the consummate charmer whose job title I forgot (broker?, investment manager?), Martin David, the young and slightly naive number cruncher and Francis de Bracy, Martin’s workaholic boss with whom he had a crush on. Voinov did a very convincing job with Alec’s character, he actually got me thinking that hey, Alec seems alright, nice even. I was as gullible as Martin. I liked Martin, he seems genuinely nice, he gets along with everyone and he had it bad for his boss. I wasn’t comfortable with Martin sleeping with other people since he likes Francis but I guess that is more realistic than expecting a healthy, active gay guy to live a celibate life. Francis is an enigmatic, overbearing financial genius who is also, very, very unexpectedly, a religious/spiritual man. Even if the book is from Martin’s POV, he dominated the books and right up to the end, we know very little of Francis de Bracy apart from his work. I heard book 2 would remedy that.
Is there a love triangle? Well, Martin did sleep with a lot of people, each helping him little by little to become the man he is. Martin’s time with Alec was physical, hedonistic. In contrast, the connection between Martin and Francis was on a purer, more spiritual level. I felt it was a very understated romance, understated in a way the truly elite is understated.
“Can I want you?” Martin asked—a thought spoken aloud.
The reader, like Martin, is then left craving for an ounce of affection, a tiny nod of acknowledgement from the mighty Francis de Bracy until that big moment when Martin could no longer take it. Of course, Francis true to form, the reply was strictly business
Francis stood close without touching, simply holding his gaze, but Martin maintained eye contact, even if it made him breathless. “I need to know whether you’ll be with or against me.”
“About what? The restructuring?”
“That, too.” Francis didn’t explain further, merely stood there, magnetic, towering. “I need a commitment from you.”
“I am committed. I’ve been fucking committed all this time. I was there sorting out your companies; I started a fight in a hotel for you. I’ve been here. Waiting.” Martin struggled to breathe or to swallow. “Waiting for Francis de Bracy to be there and touch me like you did and maybe even stay around after fucking me. All this time I wanted to be worth it, wanted to be more than the stupid kid you’re teaching how to work hard, and then harder still, until I have no life left and can’t think of anything else but whether I’m good enough for you. It bloody hurts, Francis. It bloody fucking hurts wanting you so much, but loving you is even worse, because I have no idea how to deal with that. All the fucking time I want you to be there and I want to hold you and I’m fucking scared to touch you because you could give me that famous de Bracy stare that makes me into nothing. I cease to exist. I just do. I’m not even there, but I can’t help it. All I can do is to wait and hope and deal with that pain. That’s it. That’s my commitment. Is that worth anything?”
“It’s worth a Partnership in my firm.” Francis said it with a little smile that would have been infuriating if it had not been so tender.
I don’t know what to make of the book. It’s was certainly not romance focused, most of it were talks about equity, hedges and other financial jargon I couldn’t understand (nor could I explain what it is about, something to do with banks dying and hostile takeovers which is as nasty as it sounds) but I kept on listening anyway. I was riveted to the story and if that’s not a testament to how good a story teller Aleksandr Voinov is, I don’t know what is.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits