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