The world of romance novels is much larger than male and female couples. There are romances featuring gays, lesbians, and, in the case of Menage on 34th Street, threesomes. This ebook was written by Elise Logan and Emily Ryan-Davis, and recently published by Carina Press, a division of Harlequin. Menage on 34th Street is my first foray away from male/female couples. I have no idea how representative it is of the male/male/female threesome genre.
Kat and Liam have been married for eight years. Liam is bisexual, and Kat’s sexual appetite cannot be satisfied by one man, so they occasionally invite a third man into their bed. Hunter is an old friend of both, but he joined the military when they married, and hasn’t been in touch since then. He’s nominally straight, but once saw Liam and Kat together, which left him jealous of, and attracted, to Liam. The story opens on Christmas Eve. Liam has invited Hunter to visit, told Hunter that Kat is out of town, and told Kat to prepare for a surprise.
The set up has potential: The old flame is always an interesting angle, we’ve got repressed sexuality, there are deceit and trust issues, and during holidays, like vacations, the normal social rules are more easily bent. With all this material, what do we get? Seven lines of dialogue between when the three meet and when sex is proposed. Seven more lines and they are going at it. I’ve seen porn movies that take more time to set up a scene.
I like my romances on the sweet side, simply because I find reading about attraction and love more interesting than reading about sex. So I didn’t really enjoy Menage, because it is mostly about sex. In many forms, including sex between a man and a woman, sex between two men, and sex between two men and a woman, with a few toys thrown in for good measure. I suppose one advantage of this genre is the variety of sex scenes. Three characters opens up a lot more possibilities for who does what to whom, who is involved, and to what degree. The actions and detailed descriptions are undeniably steamy, though the jumps from reality (condoms and lube) to fantasy (three energetic sessions in a couple of hours) are jarring.
During the brief interludes when they are not having sex, the characters chew over some lingering issues from the past and plan a future together. Kat and Liam are tired of one-night stands and would like the stability of a permanent third partner. Hunter is intrigued by the prospect of all his relationship dreams coming true, but he’s a Marine and wants to keep everything closeted for the sake of his career dreams. Kudos to the authors for acknowledging the challenges of an unconventional family, but there’s more to consider than sex. Kat, Liam and Hunter discuss things like public behaviour and respecting sexual boundaries, but the subject of who’s going to make dinner or do dishes never comes up.
It may be a consequence of the genre that Kat is an unusually strong female character, at least when compared to the women in many male/female romances. It’s common for the man to be wealthier, older, and/or more sexually experienced than the woman. While the attraction is often mutual, the man usually initiates and controls the sexual aspect of the relationship. In Menage, Kat and Liam share the typical male role in romances. They both work, and Kat’s sexual pleasures including penetrating her men with toys and a strap-on. They are a wealthier and more sexually experienced couple, seducing Hunter, who is to some extent in the typical female role in romances. However, it’s not fair to force the story into a male/female binary. The three characters are much more equal than the two characters of most romances.
The bulk of the story takes place on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, though the fact of Christmas is barely acknowledged. The sexual adventures come remarkably fast, and the relationship promises insanely fast. Call me old fashioned, but I would have enjoyed the story more if it had moved a little slower. Perhaps if, after a couple of visits and flirty chats to test the waters, the three of them had spent an evening on the couch, cuddling, watching seasonal specials, building desires, and thinking about the possible future. Instead it’s wham, bam, thank you ma’am and sir, thank you sir, thank you sir, thank you gentlemen, and let’s live happily ever after.
As I said, I like my romances sweet, regardless of who is in them. I’m curious now, wondering if there are M/M/F romances that have this equality of partners, but a greater emphasis on romance. There’s so much to read.