Title: Be My Best Man
Author: Con Riley
Publisher: Self-Published/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 316 Pages
At a Glance: Con Riley’s books are the comfort food for my romance loving soul, and she dishes out another heart-warmer in Be My Best Man.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Will Jason’s third time as a best man lead to first-time love for Vanya?
After fleeing violence in Moscow, student teacher Vanya Petrov winds up lonely in a run-down London hostel. At least visiting the Bond Street store where his roommate works lets him practice his English, but as Vanya’s vocabulary expands, so does his isolation, especially when he sees happy couples planning their perfect weddings.
According to Jason Balfour, weddings are a waste of time and money. After all, he’s been best man for his brother twice already. Saying that a third marriage will end in divorce too leads to an angry ultimatum: to save his relationship with his brother, Jason must meet his fiancée, at last, and make a good first impression.
Jason’s need to dress to impress brings him and Vanya together. Language is no barrier to falling in love with the young and fragile Russian, and neither is their age difference. But Vanya’s bruised soul carries secrets that could rip them apart. As the wedding draws near, Vanya must confess, and soon, or risk losing Jason—his own best man in Britain.
Review: Yet again, author Con Riley has penned a gorgeous love story in Be My Best Man, a May/December romance between a young Russian seeking asylum in England, and a man whose once bitten, twice shy outlook on relationships has left him soured on the very idea of being with anyone long-term.
One of the things I always, always love about Riley’s novels is their maturity, not necessarily that the characters consistently behave in the most rational or common-sense ways but that the narrative doesn’t delve into unnecessary histrionics or rely on the overt manipulation of readers’ sensibilities to tell the story; this novel doesn’t club you over the head and drag you through a morass of unnecessary drama, nor does it ask you to suspend disbelief to buy into it. These characters are simply human.
It’s a nifty trick to tell a complicated story and yet make it feel so quiet and uncluttered and natural. The dialogue reveals the characters and tells their story, as well, and they evolve organically while their circumstances lend a sense of realism to the problems they’re facing. The bonds of friendship and family figures prominently, and this serves as an important layer in Vanya and Jason’s story, through Jason’s brother and his fiancée as well as the closest thing to a family Vanya now has, friends Kaspar and Anna.
Vanya’s status in England provides the primary conflict, and the stress of being a cog in the immigration machine weighs heavily. If he’s denied asylum, he could be forced to return to Russia. Until he’s granted asylum, it’s illegal for him to earn money. It’s the reason he left Russia in the first place, though, that delivers the emotional blow to readers, and the way he meets Jason is a huge risk on Vanya’s part—meaning that without a reason to trust Jason with the truth, Vanya begins their meeting by misleading him, and then continues to lie to Jason by omission; never with the intent to scam him but because Vanya needs to practice and improve his English to better his chances of being approved to stay. But then, there’s just something about Jason that draws Vanya in.
Every single moment of watching Vanya and Jason grow closer is beautiful, and I love how their difference in age was the least of the obstacles in their getting together. So much of this is owed to Vanya, to his experiences and dreams, his seeing Jason’s heart and character rather than focusing on the way time has marked Jason’s features and grayed his hair. I also love that their relationship isn’t rushed in the least. For things to have moved too quickly would have been disingenuous to their entire relationship and the things Vanya is keeping from Jason. Not to mention the fact that I wouldn’t have had the wonderful opportunity to play witness to the way the title is the heart of the story.
The friction between Jason and his foster brother, Andrew, and Andrew’s soon-to-be third wife, Chantel, was such a clever and sweet method of helping to build Jason’s character and assist in his evolution from cynic to romantic idealist. In a handy and realistic way, it’s also the wedding planning that becomes a critical turning point for Vanya, and dovetailing with that, for Kaspar and Anna as well. Everything about their storyline is so topical, whether in England or the US, and people seeking refuge on foreign soil. It was a powerful testament to the hopes of good people working towards the dream of a better life.
And then came the tears. Oh no, Con Riley does not spare readers all the tears before the end of Be My Best Man, and I love, love, loved the way things came to a head even as it was horrible too, and then as the conflict is resolved…well, the words. The conversation Vanya couldn’t risk having with Jason in the beginning, and then kept getting diverted and derailed along the way, finally happens. And it’s every bit as devastating as I expected it to be when the truth met the light. The best thing to follow an emotional storm in any story, though, is the calm that eventually follows. Jason and Vanya’s calm is just so lovely.
Be My Best Man was the perfect book at the perfect time. And on a completely irrelevant note, if you have a hard time picturing characters in your head, or worse, when the cover model looks nothing at all like the character is described in the book—that is Vanya Petrov to a beautiful T.
You can buy Be My Best Man here: