Enforcing Emory, Mickie B. Ashling
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Contemporary, Family Drama, Homophobia, New Adult, OFY, Romance, Sports (Figure Skating, Hockey)
Olympic figure skater Emory Lowe falls in lust the moment he lays eyes on his new neighbor, hockey player Nikolai Vetrov. On the surface, Nik is a typical badass enforcer, intimidating and dangerous, on and off the ice. The only son of Ukrainian immigrants, Nik has been groomed from childhood to fulfill his father’s dreams of seeing him in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Igor guides his son toward that goal with a controlling—and abusive—hand, steering him clear of anyone who might ruin his chances.
Although Emory is the US National Figure Skating champion, he’s in-your-face gay, and his audacious persona rubs Nik and his family the wrong way. Raised by supportive and loving parents, Emory is Nik’s polar opposite in every way but one—his desire to succeed. Underneath the fluff and glitter beats the heart of a fierce competitor, and this side of Emory’s personality begins to close the distance between the two athletes.
While the attraction is one-sided in the beginning, Nik finds himself responding to Emory’s flirting. But before the incongruous pair have a chance at any sort of relationship, they must survive the pressures of career, separation, and most importantly, Igor’s ruthless homophobia.
Emory Lowe, eighteen, is a figure skater. He’s just won Nationals and is only a few weeks away from the Olympics in Sochi. He’s openly gay and very flamboyant in his routines and has never given a damn what anybody thought about it. He has parents and siblings who’ve supported him from day one – both financially and emotionally.
Nikolai, twenty, is an up-and-coming hockey player, originally from Ukraine. The family moved from their homeland to Canada in order for Nik to pursue his sport. When he’s offered a chance to play for a team in Chicago, Nik’s family sets him up in an apartment before going back to Canada, where Igor (Nik’s father) works to support the family. Everything the entire family does is solely based on seeing ‘the only son’ be successful on the ice. Whether or not it’s Nik’s dream remains to be seen as the story plays out. Igor controls every single aspect of his son’s life and the reader will wonder from early on if all of Nik’s career moves are for him or for Igor. I’ll come back to Igor.
Emory – who is out and proud – falls into instant lust when he sees the man moving into the apartment building across the street from where he lives with his family. There’s a quick introduction that doesn’t go well, thanks to Emory’s father, Tom. Tom is set in his ways and doesn’t take too kindly to the “Russians” moving into his neighborhood. Yes, he knows that Ukrainians aren’t Russian, but he is still kind of an ass because he’s not overly fond of those “foreigners” moving to America. His “Russian” comments are mostly to get a rise out of Nikolai – and they do. While he may be 100% accepting of his gay son, he’s not overly thrilled when said gay son makes his lust for the new neighbor known. But Nikolai is straight, so no worries, right? Yeah, well, not quite. He may be engaged to a girl back in Canada (a girl Igor picked out for him), but what about those feelings he has for his new neighbor?
A friendship of sorts starts between the two men and it doesn’t take long (at all) before it’s more than just friendly hanging out. A sexual relationship happens rather quickly, with Nik constantly reminding Emory that he’s not gay. I’m not saying that Emory doesn’t get some satisfaction out of each encounter. Nik may not be gay, but he does make sure that Emory is taken care of as well. Throw in the fact that his father would likely kill him (seriously) if his relationship with Emory comes out, and this makes for quite a bit of back and forth between the two guys. Emory has never been in the closet and it doesn’t look like Nikolai will ever come out of his. So, what to do? The decision is put on hold when Emory and his father have to leave for Sochi. Nikolai tries to warn him of the dangers of being an openly gay man in a very homophobic country, but Emory is who he is, everyone else be damned.
I’m sure a lot of readers might get a bit frustrated with Nik actually telling Emory to “tone down the gayness” a bit. He should be allowed to be who he is, right? Nik isn’t being a jerk by telling Emory to tone it down. He’s doing it in hopes of possibly saving him. There were threats made to Nik by Igor in regards to Emory and Nik knows his father’s threats are to always be taken seriously.
Unfortunately, in this case, they weren’t taken seriously enough.
There’s not a whole lot I can say about that that won’t give the story away.
When Emory gets home from competing in the Olympics, his relationship with Nik starts moving quickly. The first half of the book was a bit much. In the second half, it picked up and everything started really coming together. When I say “a bit much,” I’m referring to Nikolai’s father and even Emory’s. Don’t get me wrong, Tom (Emory’s dad) is a wonderful father and worked hard to make sure his son was given every opportunity to improve his craft – and move forward with it – and he did it without question. My issue with Tom was that early on (the first half) he came across as a racist bigot. He wasn’t homophobic by any means, but he made a few comments about Nik’s heritage that didn’t endear him to me in any way early on. Even as good as he turned out to be later, I still kept going back to his nasty words when Nik moved in across the street.
Then there’s Igor. His hatefulness didn’t go away even for a second in this book. When he got wind that there might be more than friendship between his son and Emory, he got nasty. The names he called Emory, the things he did to ensure Nik stayed away from him… I have no words. He was one of the worst parents I’ve ever seen in a book and I’ve read a hell of a lot of books. Not only was he horrible in regards to Emory and gay people in general, but he was physically and emotionally abusive to his only son.
Also, during the first half of the book, I found Nik’s “I’m not gay” spiel to be a bit tiring. That changes later and he comes to accept that he is who he is and he becomes proud of it. I never got overly frustrated with it because he had been groomed to marry a woman “with big, childbearing hips” and that was all he knew. He didn’t dare even consider being with a man. This is as a result of his upbringing.
If Nik was straight, Emory would eat his jockstrap.
Not only does Nikolai have to deal with the wrath of his father if he comes out as gay, but he also risks losing everything he’s ever worked for if his new team isn’t gay friendly. With Emory being a celebrity in the public eye, does he risk a relationship with him knowing one photo or video would be all it would take to lose everything he’s ever worked for? Sure, in a perfect world no one would blink if a gay athlete came out, but sadly we don’t live in a perfect world. Nik knows he loves Emory – of that, there’s no doubt – but how far is he willing to go for the other man?
I loved Emory from the very first page. He’s out, he’s flamboyant, and he’s not ashamed of who he is. While I liked Nik well enough in the beginning, I didn’t get a good feel for him until he finally not only did the right thing, but did it in a pretty big way. That made up for all the other stuff. The only issue I really had with Emory was something he did during a very important part of the book. I can’t give details (it’s a big part of the story), but it was one of those things he did that could’ve ended a lot worse than it did. Sorry to be so cryptic. You’ll have to read the book to see what I mean.
While some may say that this is a gay-for-you story, I have to disagree. I see it as an out-for-you thing with Nik. In a couple of sections it’s noted that he had fantasized about sex with both men and women and he had also noticed other men in locker rooms over the years. I only mention this because I’m not a fan of gay-for-you stories. Out-for-you, I get. I don’t necessarily find the gay-for-you stories believable.
Overall, a very nice love story. There were a few things that were a bit over the top, but not so bad where I didn’t enjoy the story. There’s a bit of mystery and danger and violence that I found to be written well, even if (as I said) parts were a bit over the top. Everything eventually comes together nicely and that made up for the other stuff. I’ve always enjoyed watching figure skating and hockey so it was interesting to see both in the same story.
This book was provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.