Author: Aster Glenn Gray
Publisher: Amazon/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 334 Pages
Category: Historical (Cold War Era) Romance, Bisexual Romance
At a Glance: There’s so much to recommend this novel—the heart and humor, and the poignancy that comes naturally to a relationship that wasn’t supposed to be, but which builds and endures despite the sorrow and adversity.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: At the height of the Cold War, a Soviet and an American agent fall in love.
Soviet agent Gennady Matskevich is thrilled when he’s assigned to work with American FBI agent Daniel Hawthorne. There’s just one catch: Gennady’s abusive boss wants him to honeytrap his American partner. Gennady doesn’t want to seduce his new American friend for blackmail purposes… but nonetheless, he can’t stop thinking about kissing Daniel.
FBI agent Daniel Hawthorne is delighted to get to know an agent from the mysterious Soviet Union… and determined not to repeat his past mistake of becoming romantically involved with a coworker. But soon, Daniel finds himself falling for Gennady. Can their love survive their countries’ enmity?
Content warning: sexual harassment and assault by a secondary character, period-typical homophobia (probably less homophobia than is strictly historically accurate, but this is a romance novel, not Giovanni’s Room), implied/referenced suicide, messy polyamory.
Review: In the autumn of 1959, a brief truce was called in the Cold War between the US and the USSR, when Nikita Khrushchev became the first Soviet leader to set foot on American soil. In Aster Glenn Gray’s Honeytrap, that delicate truce all but succumbs to what can only be deemed a poorly planned, and worse executed, assassination attempt on the premier’s life. Which, in turn, lays the foundation for what can only be deemed a bittersweet, but ultimately happy, romance between FBI Special Agent Daniel Hawthorne, and his Soviet counterpart, Gennady Matskevich, in this beautiful forced proximity story which gives rise to a decades long love affair that endures despite the less than favorable odds, their loyalty to their respective countries, and their years-long separations.
Gray tells a compelling story filled with all the emotional weight one would expect between two people who are foes feigning allyship. Daniel and Gennady are spies for two diametrically opposed countries, each having been given their orders not only to track down the failed assassin but to dig up anything that might be worthy of blackmailing each other. Of course, given the times and the undeniable friendship that grows between them, it leading to much deeper feelings and closer ties as the months together add up, them both being bisexual (although Gennady doesn’t immediately acknowledge it) in a time of deeply rooted homophobia, gives them both a critical bit of ammunition to use against each other. In fact, Gennady’s vile boss gives him the explicit directive to honeytrap Daniel, which creates further trust issues in their relationship as their investigation proceeds, and eventually ends.
Their forced separation, with little to no communication—from 1959 to the mid-70s—adds the bitter to the sweet of this romance. That they move on from each other, both marrying, Daniel and his wife starting a family, Gennady and his wife’s marriage ultimately not surviving his job and its demands, comes to the fore when Gennady is given another US assignment and he and Daniel have the opportunity to meet again. They didn’t call them the swinging 70s for nothing, and Daniel’s wife, whom I liked despite the little we get to know of her, all but pushes him and Gennady to be together, and Gray handles the polyamory with aplomb. Their long and winding road meets a horrible twist of fate, though, with a seed that had been planted fifteen years before, and brings a complicated and tragic end to what at first blush seemed their new beginning, fostering another decade-plus of separation.
It’s 1992, after the dissolution of the USSR, that Gennady and Daniel, now well into their middle age, meet again in New York City, both free, both still in love, but Gennady understandably cautious after the way things had ended between them all those years before. There wasn’t a moment that Aster Glenn Gray didn’t make it obvious that Daniel and Gennady were meant to be together, though, and as is the promise of the genre, their thirty-year romance endures the ups and downs, trials and tribulations, to come to its ultimate happy beginning.
I loved this book, loved the history and the time-period, which Aster Glenn Gray delivers just enough of to set the tone of the novel without giving an overall history lesson of the decades and events. I loved Gennady and his sense of innocence and wonder, his enthusiasm for American books, and for teaching Daniel the simple things about his life back in the Soviet Union, loved the challenges they faced, and succumbed to, for a time, but finally overcame to be together. There’s so much to recommend this novel—the heart and humor, and the poignancy that comes naturally to a relationship that wasn’t supposed to be, but which builds and endures despite the sorrow and adversity.
You can buy Honeytrap here:
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