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REVIEW: The Gift by Eva Cassel

I'm always looking for good f/f/m and this story was recommended to me by another reader.   The only other Harlequin Spice short I've read, Tonight, My Love, by Tracie Sommers, was very memorable.

The Gift is sexy, unique, and well-written.   It opens with Mia and her husband, Evan, at a cocktail party.   They've been married ten years and still have that spark.   The sex is fantastic because they both like to mix it up and keep things fresh.   I loved the portrayal of their relationship as erotically charged and never complacent.

The Gift by Eva CasselMia enjoys watching Evan flirt with other women.   He does it to arouse her.   It's a game they play, each teasing the other.   After the party, she decides to buy him an erotic massage for his birthday.   While she is ordering the sexual services by phone, the provider (madam?) offers a "couples special."   Mia can be massaged, too, for the same price.

At first, Mia hesitates.   She wants to watch, not join in.   She'd also rather have a male masseur for herself but she chooses a female for Evan.

As a reader who bought this story for the f/f content (which isn't easy to find at a mainstream publisher!), I stumbled over Mia's thought processes.   The last thing I want to read about is a reluctant three-way.   In order for any sex scene to work for me, the participants must be willing.

Luckily, Mia is intrigued by the idea of doubling their pleasure and agrees.   On the night of Evan's birthday, she can hardly contain her excitement.   Evan doesn't know about the surprise, but Mia looks so hot and bothered that he can hardly contain his erection.

Most of this story is sex, and everything below can be considered a spoiler.

[spoiler]The lady masseuses show up.   Not just one, but two erotic experts.

I feel deflated.   This isn't a steamy ménage!   Why is there is a superfluous masseuse?

But I'm already halfway through the story so I go with it.   Mia watches Evan get his erotic massage, which is apparently code for "hand job."   The extra masseuse is in training.   Ha!   Whatever.

After Evan ejaculates all over the main masseuse, who is wearing a sporty outfit (because she's a professional), it's Mia's turn to be stimulated.   We finally see the reason for the second worker-’to penetrate Mia anally with a sex toy while the first one penetrates her vaginally.

If my description sounds clinical, it's because the scene reads like an explicit and well-researched sex manual.   The women reminded me of nurses performing orgasm surgery.   Mia and Evan don't talk to or touch each other during the encounter.   She watches him; he watches her.   Then she's blindfolded, and they can't even make smoldering eye contact anymore.

I think I get what the author was going for.   The couple has made it a habit to separate at social functions, not giving in to the urge to chat or hold hands.   Once they get home, they're all over each other.   Staying apart actually brings them closer together.

I can appreciate the craft of this story, and the author's intent.   Mia's chemistry with Evan is scorching and her arousal is described in lush sensual detail.   But the truth is that the scenario didn't work for me on multiple levels.   Let me break them down.

  1. Evan gets off first.   Wouldn't it have been more exciting if he'd watched Mia and the masseuses while aroused, rather than satiated?
  2. This is an exhibition/voyeur fantasy, not really f/f.   There is no attraction between Mia and the workers.   They are strangers doing a job.   I think I would have preferred some kind of sexual connection.   Basically, if I don't believe the characters would kiss each other, I'm not sure I want to see them engaged in sex acts.
  3. Did I mention the fourth wheel?   Awkward!

On the other hand, the above elements are a matter of personal taste.   The story might work better for a reader who isn't into f/f.   Kissing creates intimacy, and most m/f fans don't want the heroine to have a full-on lesbian encounter.   The extra woman cuts that tension by making a ménage unlikely.   Mia's climax as the finale can be considered female-centric.

[/spoiler]

I was looking for spicy f/f/m and probably wouldn't have been satisfied with anything less.   The Gift turned out to be a different package altogether.

But I can't mark down this story for not being my favorite fantasy any more than I can fail a BDSM for being "too ouchy."   Cassel writes well and I loved the married-not-dead dynamics.     This isn't a throwaway piece.   B

~Jill Sorenson

Guest Reviewer

9 Comments

  1. Samantha
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 17:41:27

    Do you have any suggestions for some good F/F/M books?

    ReplyReply

  2. LVLM
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 18:29:32

    Nice review Jill- however, I’d have to pass on this one. This kind of scenario is easy to find in erotica. Like you though, I prefer a connection between the women. Or at the very least that the woman who is part of the couple experimenting is really into it even if there’s not emotional connection.

    ReplyReply

  3. LVLM
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 18:31:35

    Sorry the editing feature is gone… “no emotional connection,” not, NOT. :)

    ReplyReply

  4. Jill Sorenson
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 19:30:26

    @Samantha: Good f/f/m is so hard to find. The only book I’ve read with a strong romance between all three characters is Kirsten Saell’s Bound by Steel.

    The Sommers story cited above is well written and hot, but pure erotica (no romance) with a shocking ending.

    ReplyReply

  5. Jill Sorenson
    Aug 27, 2010 @ 12:13:40

    @LVLM: Really? I can’t ever find any. Most blurbs and covers don’t hint at any f/f content.

    ReplyReply

  6. Jennifer
    Aug 29, 2010 @ 21:04:28

    Lacey Alexander books usually contain some f/f interaction, although it’s usually a temporary part of the primary m/f relationship.

    Babysitting the Baumgartners has a lot of f/f

    ReplyReply

  7. Jill Sorenson
    Aug 30, 2010 @ 17:49:52

    @Jennifer: I’ve read two Alexander books, with mixed results. I really liked What She Needs, which has a lot of f/f and everything else (it’s what I call a “kitchen sink” erotic romance) but The Bikini Diaries was a total miss for me.

    Thanks for the rec but any erotic book with “babysitting” freaks me out! I really prefer romance over erotica. :)

    ReplyReply

  8. Lynn S.
    Sep 07, 2010 @ 22:14:24

    @Jill Sorenson: Jill, this reply goes to you and Samantha. If you’re look for a good f/f/m, I would recommend La Bonne by Michele De Lully. It’s available as an ebook from Samhain.

    Her work is definitely erotica (I’d label it “thinking womans erotica” – more than just the sum of its parts) but La Bonne is the tamest of her works that I’ve read. I don’t seek out f/f or f/f/m, just not my preference, but this story was well written, enjoyable, and the relationship between all three was fully represented. So much of erotic romance is as you said “kitchen sink” but De Lully is an exception.

    ReplyReply

  9. Jill Sorenson
    Sep 08, 2010 @ 10:47:41

    Thanks Lynn. I’ve heard great things about that author so I will definitely check her out.

    ReplyReply

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