Reviewed by Tori (Vicki)
TITLE: Operation Green Card
SERIES: Bluewater Bay #21
AUTHOR: B.J. Gordon
PUBLISHER: Riptide Publishing
LENGTH: 217 pages
RELEASE DATE: December 11th, 2017
Arkady Izmaylov is a family man. He’s also gay. In Russia. His sister Natalya has been telling him to get out for years, but it’s only after an attack in the street that he finally concedes and says yes to her desperate plan of him marrying a stranger for a green card.
Jason Cooley was taught from birth that he’s no good to anyone. Then the military taught him he was good enough to save other lives, but that purpose got amputated along with his leg. He’s now working security at Wolf’s Landing and sending monthly checks to his ex for their daughter’s education. When Natalya asks him to marry her brother, Jason knows right away he’ll do it more for the mission than the money she’s offering. But when he actually meets Arkady, his mission turns complicated.
Jason quickly discovers he’s not as straight as he thought. He’s also the man of Arkady’s dreams. Arkady must convince Jason that he’s worth loving, and that Arkady won’t disappear from his life like everyone else. Because Arkady has always wanted a family of his own, and he’s not letting go of this one.
Jason is a loner, his only real connection in life was his military service which ended when he was wounded and lost his leg. He has a daughter that he has very little contact with. His parents were horrible, and he was raised by his grandparents. His lonely, quiet, unhappy with work, unhappy with his home. Arkady is living in Russia when we first meet him, in danger for his life due to his sexuality, and working as an electrician after losing his university job, also due to his sexuality. He works for his cousin as an electrician, but it’s not what he wants to do. His sister Natalya has been trying to figure out how to get him out of Russia and to the US, hoping to get him a job on the set of Wolf’s Landing, where she works. That hasn’t panned out, but she has a new idea. A fake marriage to get a green card. Arkady is desperate enough to give it a try. Jason is the somewhat willing volunteer, after Natalya says Arkady will pay him to be his fake husband, and Jason needs cash to pay for his daughter’s private school.
After a bit of work, Arkady arrives in Seattle and is met by Natalya and Jason, and the fake dating begins. As the two get to know each other, Jason realizes he’s not as straight as he thought he was, and finds himself attracted to Arkady. Who begins to feel some attraction back! The story progresses as you would expect, with the fake romance turning in to a real one.
Now I love a wounded character and Jason is certainly that. Unfortunately he’s on the edge of unlikable. Or at least unknowable. We don’t get enough of his background to really understand why he’s as cold as he is. He’s got this great kid that he has no contact with, but I didn’t understand why. Her mom clearly has no issues with him being in Lily’s life, and encourages him to come around. He has family issues, but not enough details are revealed about that to understand why he’s so anti-family. Yes, we are told what happened to his mother and father, but I missed the grandparent issue. He’s stagnating at work, but I didn’t understand why. He has no friends, or connections with anyone but his carpool buddy, but again, not much is said about why he’s so unfriendly. Little glimpses come out showing the potential for him to be awesome, he’s strong, protective, and intelligent, and I wanted so much more for him. I did come to like him, but it was a struggle for me.
Arkady was much more likable from the start. He has his own issues, he lost a close friend in a horrific way, and has some emotional trauma from that. He is desperate for love and connection, and as the story developed I could see him struggling to find that. He gets in to the local Russian community and gets some of what he needs there, but every time he reaches out to Jason he is disappointed. But he keeps trying! He’s the one that really pushes the fake romance part, and the fake wedding, then tries to help Jason on his house repeatedly only to keep getting shut down. I liked him a lot and was happy when good things happen to him!
I had some issues with the plot, aside from Jason being so odd. I didn’t feel it was realistic from the proposal on. No one questions anything. Jason has shown no signs of attraction to men before, no one he knows or works with questions it. His baby mama never asks what’s up, they just all show up at the wedding like it’s no big deal. At one point they are using a wedding planner and talking about attendants, and Jason says he’ll ask his carpool friend to be his best man. Someone he only knows in passing is asked to be the best man at a wedding and nothing more is said… Suddenly in two weeks they have this big wedding with suits, and guests, catering, a cake, a photographer, totally unrealistic, and unnecessary. Who paid for it? Why not just go to the courthouse? It was all just too smooth and easy. The same with the whole immigration process. Now admittedly I know nothing about how to get a green card, but it was all so easy. Seems like it should have been harder.
The author didn’t really get the feeling of the area right, which is a personal issue for me since my family has lived in Port Angeles for over 50 years. Probably no one else would notice, but some of the authors in this series have made an effort and their books felt like they could have been set in Washington, this one not so much. Other than one scene set on a ferry, this could have taken place anywhere.
So I have mixed feelings about this book. I had a hard time seeing the romantic connection between Jason and Arkady, although the physical connection at times was very clear. The writing was ok, but I had issues with the underlying story, which made it hard for me to really get in to it. Arkady is what really kept my interest, I liked him and his struggle to find a home and love. Jason was alright, I do like a dark and broody man, but I had a hard time with him. I’m going with an average rating, since I am in the middle of the road with this book. I mostly liked it, and I did like the ending. The sex was pretty good too!
This book could easily be read as a stand alone, not much from past books is mentioned, other than Arkady’s sister, but you don’t really need to know her story to understand this one. If you have read the others, I’d read this one too!