Review: Mean Machine by Aleksandr Voinov
For a boxer ravaged by guilt and in deep denial of his desires, a fight beyond the ring might yield his greatest prize. In a dystopian UK devastated by austerity and ruled by corporate interests, Brooklyn Marshall was a happily married London police officer—until an accident resulted in the death of a protester connected to a powerful family. Now he takes out his anger and pain on his opponents, fighting for the company that took him into stewardship after his conviction and disgrace—and which all but owns him. Wealthy barrister Nathaniel Bishop fulfills his dream of a family when he adopts a daughter. He can’t resist researching her allegedly violent criminal father, but Brook isn’t at all what he expects. He’s fascinating… and maybe worthy of redemption. Through legal sleight of hand, Nathaniel thinks he can overturn Brook’s conviction. Brook has learned the hard way not to trust anyone, let alone a privileged man who’s purchased his “time.” But as they get to know each other, he allows himself to hope. With his fights getting deadlier, hope might be the only thing to carry Brook through.
Dear Aleksandr Voinov,
I had certain expectations when I bought this book, but let’s just say it surpassed my expectations a great deal. Yes, the settings are dark but very realistic . I actually think that it was very cleverly done how dystopian aspects of the settings were tied into very real things which were/are happening in Britain and around the world. I at some point had to stop and ask myself am I sure that stewardship is not real yet where I am ? Because a lot of economic reasons which may lead into it certainly are very much present in our society already.
Yes, stewardship is a slavery in more ways than it is not ( technically you can get out of it, but realistically – not so much unless somebody helps you ), but power imbalance between the two men which exists in the beginning is done away with early enough in the book. Actually, I should say the most significant aspect of that power imbalance is gone, because of course there are some subtle imbalances which stay for longer, but it would have been unrealistic for them to become on completely equal footing too quickly after everything Brooklyn went through and everything that he had to achieve to come back as equal to Nathaniel at the end .
The book has a lot of technical details about boxing. I watched some boxing when I was younger but stopped because for me it became too violent. It does not mean I stopped liking the sport, it is just the more I had read about the injuries and consequences, I could not deal with it, but if it makes sense I still miss watching it sometimes. I am not sure if I am making sense, but it is what it is.
To get back to the book, I never knew a lot about the sport, but the boxing parts are written with the great deal of authority. Author says at the end that he researched a lot about boxing (he specifies what he read, I am basically summarizing) and it showed throughout the book. I guess those parts were exciting to read. Some of these parts were also violent, but again I did not feel as if it was a sensationalistic violence. It felt real to me, as if it could happen in the ring. The book does not even have chapters, instead they are called rounds and the book has 12 rounds, so I guess it is structured like a boxing match.
The romance story line was lovely. There was nothing more I could ask for. As I said, the most obvious aspect of power imbalance was resolved early enough in the book, I think somewhere around 46 percent of the story on my kindle ) and even if it was not there, it was not played out for kicks so to speak. Nathaniel and Brooklyn just clicked for me and the reasons for tension made perfect sense and how it was resolved made perfect sense. I often dislike what I call a mandatory break up between the characters simply because the reasons for it just don’t make sense and when the characters are staying away from each other for a while, often it makes even less sense and in this book it all made sense.
I have always enjoyed this author’s writing style and this book was no exception.
“Slide of skin on skin, brushing of lips, and the odd sense of peace and fulfillment right there, right now. Part of Brooklyn wanted Nathaniel to look away, because it was damn near too intense to stare at him like this, but another part of him realised the man’s hunger for him wasn’t merely sexual. But he’d known that, right?”
Sex scenes were smoking hot too (not too many, but really just enough for me), but there is a warning of the kind which I am issuing in connection with the sex scenes, because I had a little sideline squick and in case somebody else does too, I have decided to warn.
In the second part of the book our guys broke up which made perfect sense for me – Brooklyn had to relearn how to be completely independent and stay on his own two feet, so I was all for it.
SPOILEREND OF SPOILER
Spoiler (Squick): ShowWhile they are not together Brooklyn has a relaxation night with two other boxers – it is nothing more than fun with friends for him and same for them. It was a smoking hot scene for me and I was all for Brooklyn getting rid of the stress between fights and these guys were lovely characters.
Squick I mentioned? These guys are twins and they are together so if that’s not your thing, you could easily skip the scene and enjoy friendship between them.
That’s the only squick I had and so not to end with it I wanted to mention that another character I enjoyed is Hazel, Nathaniel’s adoptive daughter and as Brooklyn learns his daughter as well. As a rule I don’t mind kids in romance stories ( I know it is not fully a romance, but it has a very significant romantic story front and center ), but sometimes writers write kids as a little know- it-all, bossing adults and Hazel was not like that. She was a joy to read about and to see adults interacting with her was fun too.
“Brooklyn couldn’t help but see Nathaniel’s face soften when he held the kid. Something pinched in his chest. Maybe it was about Nathaniel’s full focus resting on the child, maybe it was the extended cuddle and how naturally he picked her up, with her chubby childish arms around his neck but stealing cheeky little glances at Brooklyn from the protection behind Nathaniel’s head, or how Nathaniel smoothed her silky flyaway hair against the breeze from the sea and bent down to pick up the straw hat that had fallen into the sand. Brooklyn was faster—he picked up the hat before Nathaniel reached it and offered it to him.”
Sirius started reading books when she was four and reading and discussing books is still her favorite hobby. One of her very favorite gay romances is Tamara Allen’s Whistling in the Dark. In fact, she loves every book written by Tamara Allen. Amongst her other favorite romance writers are Ginn Hale, Nicole Kimberling, Josephine Myles, Taylor V. Donovan and many others. Sirius’ other favorite genres are scifi, mystery and Russian classics. Sirius also loves travelling, watching movies and long slow walks.→ SiriusPrevious article: REVIEW: Just a Heartbeat Away by Cara Bastone
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