As a fan of sports-themed romances and the m/m genre, this book doubles my pleasure as it tells the compelling story of societal prejudice, familial obligations, and being true to yourself. Keep reading to get a tantalizing taste of Enforcing Emory by Ms. Ashling, along with my impressions of it, and then add it to your bookshelf. In celebration of its release make sure to fill out the form below for the chance to win a $20 Dreamspinner Press GC, 1 of 5 copies of this book OR an audio copy of Firehorse!
Jody, thank you so much for allowing me to share an exclusive excerpt of my new release Enforcing Emory with your readers. This is a new pairing in an exciting new universe so no catching up necessary. I bring prizes your readers can win by throwing their names in the Rafflecopter widget. I hope you enjoy this snippet of Nik and Emory.
Olympic figure skater Emory Lowe falls in lust the moment he lays eyes on his new neighbor, hockey player Nikolai (Nik) 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 was one-sided in the beginning, Nik finds himself responding to Emory’s flirting. 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.
“Is it still snowing?” Emory wondered.
“Coming down hard.”
“Christ, it better stop soon or my flight to Connecticut will be canceled.”
“When do you fly out?” Nik asked.
“Day after tomorrow.”
“What kind of training goes into an Olympic performance?”
Emory rolled his eyes. “Four hours on the ice in the morning, rest for lunch, one hour of ballet in the afternoon, rest for a couple of hours, then two more on the ice before dinner. I can swim, do yoga, or run during rest periods if I’m not that tired.”
“That’s a shitty schedule.”
“It’s grueling, and I heard that Yuri doesn’t give us any slack.”
“It’ll be worth it when you’ve got the gold draped around your neck,” Nik said encouragingly.
“We’ll see,” Emory said flatly.
“You don’t sound very optimistic,” Nik noted.
“I hate to pull the discrimination card, because I know I’m good enough to place first, but I’ve been told time and again that judges overlook my skills and focus on the sequins.”
“Then why do it?”
Emory glared. “Because I was born this way.”
“Don’t fucking quote that Gaga bitch.”
“She’s not a bitch!”
“Whatever,” Nik said in exasperation. “Shed the girly shit and go win the gold like the man you are.”
“I’m still a man when I wear pink and feather boas.”
“Most people can’t get past that,” Nik said honestly. “I know I was turned off until I really watched your performance and saw how good you are.”
“You think I’m good?” Emory asked shyly.
“I want to hear you say it again,” Emory pleaded.
MY IMPRESSIONS OF THIS BOOK:
With a premise both compelling and timely comes this m/m romance of opposites attracting. From very different personalities to very different upbringings, the romance between Russian hockey player Nik and flashy American ice skater Emory is one full of ups and downs along with danger from outside forces. Through it all readers will be drawn to the ever optimistic Em while tearing up over the constant degradation heaped on Nik by those who should love him unconditionally. It all adds up to an intensely emotional tale of self-discovery, societal issues, and familial expectations that kept me fully immersed in its highs and lows from the first page to the last.
Emory is an immensely talented ice skater whose talent has always been overshadowed by his theatrics. These theatrics are a deep-rooted part of him as he's an out and proud young man on the road to the Olympics. Though staying focused is very important at this time, meeting his new neighbor has him easily distracted and embarking on a relationship that will profoundly change him, his family, and his new love. With parents that have always protected him from the harshness that prejudice creates, it's while attending the Olympics that he comes face to face with hatred which bruises his strong sense of self leaving him to find himself once again. By his side during this trying time is his closeted lover Nik who, with all his familial baggage, adds to his confusion but binds that even closer together as love does conquer all. Emory's a delightful character quick with a smile and long on dramatics. You can't help but be charmed by him even when frustrated by his over-the-top theatrics that continually put him in danger. His strong will is to be admired and every scene he was in put a smile on my face as his exuberance and joy in being himself is infectious.
Whereas Emory is a bundle of joy, Nik is darker and full of self-doubts. His life has never truly been his own as his father Igor controlled every aspect of it, including his thoughts and his plans for the future. Nik was never allowed to step out of line as physical and verbal abuse was the price to pay for defiance. At the start of the story Nik's views are tainted by his father's which had him spewing lots of racial slurs. Getting to know Emory though, and growing closer to him, gave Nik the strength to finally stand up for himself and start living his life by his own rules. It's a difficult journey of self-discovery as new feelings arise in him, his father's rage takes a more dangerous turn, and his increasing fears regarding how society will view him as he desperately wants to succeed in hockey eat away at him. It's an emotionally draining journey that's dark at times but ultimately uplifting. With Emory by his side he feels a sense of peace and support from Em and his family that he's never known before that gives him the impetus to embrace who and what he wants out of life. It's a cheer-inducing moment as he finally stands up for himself and it felt like a weight had been lifted off him as well as readers.
Em is a larger than life character, and while I liked Nik, he paled in comparison whenever Em was near. Their romance started off a bit aggressively as Em's flirtations were a bit energetic which made Nik's uncertainty understandable. Their connection soon morphed into friends then lovers in a sweet and sensual journey of discovery with Em supporting Nik every step of the way. With all the turmoil in their lives I was delighted with the Lowe family and their unerring support of Em and then Nik. Tim Lowe is the perfect father with his sage advice and humorous talks regarding relationships. He treated Nik as a son which was an endearing act after everything Nik had gone through. The scenes revolving around the sports of ice skating and hockey were vividly and accurately depicted and left my pulse pounding with their intensity. The only thing to mar my enjoyment of this story was the over-the-top antics of Igor. With an act reminiscent of the Tanya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan debacle the storyline became a bit soap opera-ish with Igor's increasing hatred growing more out of control and distracting to the romance and message of the story. On a whole though I found this a memorable read with its themes of acceptance, support, and love and recommend it to readers wanting an empowering yet romanctic tale where love conquers all.
My rating for this is a B+
*I got this book from the author for review in exchange for my honest opinion.
Mickie B. Ashling is the alter-ego of a multifaceted woman raised by a single mother who preferred reading over other forms of entertainment. She found a kindred spirit in her oldest child and encouraged her with a steady supply of dog-eared paperbacks. Romance was the preferred genre, and historical romances topped her favorites list.
By the time Mickie discovered her own talent for writing, real life had intruded, and the business of earning a living and raising four sons took priority. With the advent of e-publishing and the inevitable emptying nest, dreams were resurrected, and the storyteller was reborn.
She stumbled into the world of men who love men in 2002 and continues to draw inspiration from their ongoing struggle to find equality and happiness in this oftentimes skewed and intolerant world. Her award-winning novels have been called "gut wrenching, daring, and thought provoking." She admits to being an angst queen and making her men work damn hard for their happy endings.
Mickie loves to travel and has lived in the Philippines, Spain, and the Middle East but currently resides in a suburb outside Chicago.
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