Title: Return on Investment
AUTHOR: Aleksandr Voinov
PUBLISHER: 44 Raccoons
YEAR: July 2014
LENGTH: 326 pages
GENRE: M/M contemporary romantic thriller
HEAT LEVEL: Adult only, erotic, some non-con
RATING: BEST BOOK OF 2014
That’s right, no stars for this one. It is, unequivocally, my pick for Best Book of 2014.
There’s been a lot of buzz about his book not fitting in anywhere. Having been on the fringes of the publishing world for a good many years, I can easily see how an editor would be afraid to take a chance on this one. After all, I am an avowed fan of Aleksandr Voinov, and even I had a hard time convincing myself to dig into Return on Investment. I took Economics in college, and found it rated second only to Political Science in its ability to bore me to tears. And it’s hard to argue that Return on Investment isn’t about the economy. It’s right there on the cover, “SEPTEMBER 2008, AND THE BANKS ARE DYING . . .”
It touts itself as a “gay financial thriller,” and it is all of that. But it is also so much more. It enticed me and seduced me. At times, I wanted to reach through the miles separating me from Aleks’ home in England and simply give him a hug. There are scenes in this book that must have been harrowing to write. But, oh, the reward for giving it a chance! Looking back, I feel so stupid for not trusting Aleks to tell a story that I want to read. I really should know better by now.
From page one, I was riveted. If I had one wish as an aspiring writer, it would be to mind-meld with Aleks and download his talent for pacing a novel straight into my brain. There are no guns, no car chases, no explosions that weren’t of a sexual nature, and the only running is done under the supervision of a personal trainer, but this book is no less thrilling for not having any of those “Bond” moments. And that is all down to the skill of Aleksandr Voinov. I have said it before, and I have no doubt that I’ll be saying it in the future: Aleksandr Voinov is one of the most talented writers in modern fiction. His understanding and sheer mastery of plotting, characterization, narrative, pacing, and all of the other bells and whistles of writing, are breathtaking. I’ve seen a candid shot of him editing a friend’s manuscript, and the force of his concentration is fierce to behold. And scary – very scary.
This book was not what I thought it would be when I read the blurb, or even when I read the sample chapter. It wasn’t what I thought it would be when I was halfway through it, and wondering how the Prologue was going to play into Martin’s story, since most of the book is from his viewpoint, while the Prologue is written from Francis’ POV. The ending was nothing I would have guessed, yet it was exactly what it needed to be.
So many of the characters in this book were not what they appeared to be on the surface, and that’s precisely how the financial world works. Nothing it as it seems to be, no one is as they present themselves. It’s all tissue paper and lies, and yet, it’s all so crucially important to day-to-day life.
I learned a great deal about events I lived through, seen from across the pond and from a European point of view. Reading the Author’s Notes at the end of the book was enlightening. Return on Investment was rejected by a publisher of gay literature, by gay romance publishers, and by a literary agent, who recommended more drama to make it into a proper thriller. I think Aleks made the right choice in publishing it himself. He was able to keep it true to his original vision, and I can say without reservation that it would have been a tragedy to alter this book in any way. And while we’re on the subject of self-publishing, I just want to say that the formatting in this book is more attractive than that of many I’ve read from more established publishing houses.
You’ll notice that I categorized this book as a M/M contemporary romantic thriller. It has many romantic elements, but it is not strictly a romance. If you’re seeking hearts and flowers and feel-good moments with rainbows and kittens, you’d do best to look elsewhere. This book is raw and harsh and glittering with transient wealth, littered with villains and ne’er-do-wells, everymen and heroes. It is its own entity, in a class by itself, and a brilliant piece of literature.
I’m not going to rob you of the pleasure of discovering how things turn out in Return on Investment. I purchased my copy through the Kindle app on my tablet. At that time, and at the time of this review, the book was available on the KindleUnlimited service. I was tempted by this for about half a minute – until I learned that I wouldn’t actually own the book, and it could be removed from the service at any moment, at which time I would lose my access to the book. Hell with that! I’m glad I own my copy. You should purchase your own rather than run the risk of losing this gem. Just remember what I said about rainbows and kittens. Voinov is usually dark, but that’s okay. I like the dark just fine. We’re old friends.