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REVIEW: Trifecta by Kate Sherwood

Dear Ms. Sherwood.

I didn’t really expect to like this book. I love menage stories, especially m/m/m menage. So I read the book because of that, not because I was blown away by the excerpt. I thought the excerpt was too thinky, didn’t have enough dialogue, and the characters looked a bit flat. But I’m VERY glad to have been very wrong about that. I really enjoyed this story, I’m very glad I read it, and I’m very happy to recommend it to DA’s readership.

Mark is a pilot, only recently out of the closet and out of a marriage. He’s living with and in love with Alistair, the man he finally came out of the closet for. But Mark and Alistair have an open relationship: they’re free to fuck around when so moved, especially when Mark’s out of town on one of his long flights. But Mark is grounded at the moment with an ear infection and it’s Alistair who’s out of town at a conference. So Mark picks up Tyler at the local club, has amazing sex with him at the condo…and Alistair walks in.

The next day, of course, Alistair, a vet, meets Tyler at his practice. Tyler is in with a horse with a broken pelvis. One thing leads to another, Tyler buys the horse to avoid it getting euthanized, and then spends a lot of time at the practice. Eventually Alistair and Tyler start an affair, without Mark knowing, Mark and Alistair fight, Mark and Tyler have another night together…and it all gets a little confusing.

The fascinating thing about this book is that the tension keeps switching, but it all seems organic. It is a confusing book when summarized in three sentences, but that confusion doesn’t extend to the reading experience. It’s a menage in which Mark and Alistair are having relationship issues, Mark is trying to rebuild his life after having left his wife of 15 years because he finally came out, and Alistair and Tyler are slowly falling in love. There’s a lot happening, but the book is neither episodic nor overwhelming. It all kind of fits together.

Tyler is a bit of an enigma. He lies very well, he’s got some issues in his past, he’s only 23 (to Mark and Alistair’s 30-something), he’s aimless and ambitionless, but he falls for Alistair and Mark. The reader’s sympathy (or at least mine) is very much with Tyler, because he’s a nice, sweet guy, but I think he would frustrate me in real life. There’s an economic and educational imbalance between him and the other two men that isn’t dealt with at the start of the relationship but that I could see becoming a problem *during* the relationship and that’s not dealt with because, well, the book’s about the start of the relationship. Tyler’s emotional investment in the other two men, while he think they think he’s just a piece of ass, is a little heartbreaking and makes the story totally worth it. Especially since part of what *they* have to realize and fix is that they ARE treating him like a piece of ass:

"Mark?" The voice was uncertain, but Mark recognized it right away. His mind spun into overdrive. What was Tyler doing here?
"Tyler?" There was a pause. Mark could almost feel the man choosing between truth and lie. Mark couldn’t wait for the decision. "Are you here for Alistair?"

He had no idea how Tyler could have found the place, but he must have let something drop in conversation, or maybe Tyler had seen something with the clinic’s name on it when he had been at the apartment. Something, somehow. Tyler was here, so it was a little late to worry about how.

They were almost next to each other now. The barn door had shut out the bright light, making Mark able to see Tyler’s beautiful, conflicted face. "I need him, Tyler. You and me-‘that was one thing. Please don’t get in the way of me and Alistair." Mark knew he was begging. If it was anyone else, he might have been ashamed. But this was Tyler. As inexplicable as it was that the man was here, in Alistair’s barn, Mark still trusted him. Still trusted his intent wasn’t vindictive, no matter how damning the circumstances might seem.

"I don’t-‘I’m n-not-" Tyler stuttered to a halt.

Mark couldn’t begin to understand how Tyler had tracked Alistair down, or what he hoped to accomplish by being here. It seemed absurd to imagine Tyler would think he could tear Mark and Alistair apart; Mark wasn’t sure of the details of the night before, but he was sure they hadn’t talked much, hadn’t said anything that would make Tyler think Mark’s relationship was fragile. Well, nothing other than the fact that Mark had spent the night cuddled with Tyler instead of with Alistair. Mark couldn’t make himself believe Tyler meant to do him harm. There’d been no hint of anything possessive, nothing about Tyler’s behavior to suggest he was likely to become a stalker, or someone who had trouble with boundaries. Still, the evidence was clear; Tyler was in Alistair’s barn.

"I love him, Tyler." It was all Mark had. The only argument he could advance.

Tyler looked startled, then nodded. "Yeah. Okay. That’s important. I shouldn’t get in the way of that." He smiled at Mark, and the expression was such a pure mix of sad and sweet that Mark almost wanted to cry. "You guys-‘you take care of each other, okay?"

I know things work like this in real life sometimes, but things are all solved a little too quickly and a little too easily. Mark’s ex-wife is being a complete bitch, especially when it comes to their daughters…and then she’s not. For good reason, and with the help of Tyler, but still, it felt like it was time to wrap the book up, so the problem needed to get solved. Mark and Alistair have a terrible fight, where they say some awful things to each other…and then they’re fine, united in their search for Tyler after he leaves both of them. And again, when two rational men get together and actually act rationally, rather than like fainting, hysterical 18 year old girls, that’s what happens, but…well, it seemed too perfect.

But that didn’t stop me from investing in the ending. The tension of will-they-or-won’t-they find Tyler at the end of the story was great and the reconciliation was well-done. Despite Mark and Alistair being very alike (in fact, this is why they have an open relationship — they’re both tops), they are still very different characters and it didn’t feel like they were interchangeable when Tyler was interacting with them separately. I loved how the jobs and life situations for all three of the men were an integral part of the story, rather than something they did off-screen. They felt like real people. And while the writing might not have been sparkling — there was a lot of exposition, almost info-dumping amounts of it, and it WAS a very thinky book, to the point of redundancy now and then — it was certainly up to the job of making me care about these men.

Grade: B

Best regards,

-Joan/Sarah F.

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Sarah F. is a literary critic, a college professor, and an avid reader of romance -- and is thrilled that these are no longer mutually exclusive. Her academic specialization is Romantic-era British women novelists, especially Jane Austen, but she is contributing to the exciting re-visioning of academic criticism of popular romance fiction. Sarah is a contributor to the academic blog about romance, Teach Me Tonight, the winner of the 2008-2009 RWA Academic Research Grant, and the founder and President of the International Association of the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR). Sarah mainly reviews BDSM romance and gay male romance and hopes to be able to beat her TBR pile into submission when she has time to think. Sarah teaches at Fayetteville State University, NC.


  1. jayhjay
    Mar 17, 2011 @ 20:59:39

    Sarah, have you (or any other posters) read her Dark Horse/Out of the Darkness series? I was wondering if they were similar in style at all. I had a hard time getting into them. I think too much exposition about horse riding/training, etc. And I felt like it was too slow to get the guys together. Even in the second book, after which they were in a relationship, I felt like they spent 90% of their time talking about “how it will work” and very little doing anything (maybe I just wanted more hot stuff and less chat?)

    I am just trying to figure out if I didn’t like those particular books, or if this author is not for me. Anyway, obviously you liked this one so maybe I will give it a try.

  2. Sarah Frantz
    Mar 17, 2011 @ 21:06:38

    @jayhjay: I haven’t read those series, although I looked ’em over when I was at her website. There’s a good balance of hot smexing and talking/thinking in this book, IMO. In fact there’s sometimes not enough talking/thinking, despite what I say above. I’d say give this one a try. I did really enjoy it and didn’t expect to, for the reasons you mention here. But it was fun and cute.

  3. jayhjay
    Mar 17, 2011 @ 21:12:46

    Thanks Sarah! I tend to like almost everything you recommend, so I will add to my ever growing list.

  4. Ren Thompson
    Mar 18, 2011 @ 07:15:19

    Hi Sarah,

    I tried to get through Dark Horse but it was very difficult considering that it was written in present tense. I couldn’t finish it.
    I do hope that this one is as promising as it looks.

    Thank you for posting your review.

  5. Sarah Frantz
    Mar 18, 2011 @ 07:21:28

    @Ren Thompson: Yeah, I noticed that in the excerpt at Dreamspinner. This one is past tense, thank heavens. The only present tense book I’ve ever enjoyed is LM Turner’s RESISTANCE.

  6. Sophia (FV)
    Mar 18, 2011 @ 10:10:52

    Usually m/m/m menage seems awkward and not believable to me and I’m not sure why. I guess I’m a hard sale. It doesn’t stop me from continuing to read these stories though lol. I’m going to pick this one up I think.

  7. andrea
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 20:36:44

    I loved Dark Horse and Out of the Darkness. They were my favorite two books that I read this year. I love angsty romances and they definitely were. I also liked Trifecta, but I liked the Dark Horse books more.

  8. LIGHTNING REVIEWS and LETTER OF OPINION: Various Shorts from Dreamspinner Press - Dear Author
    Sep 13, 2011 @ 04:01:01

    […] And publishers, I guess you can publish whatever the writers write, and the writers can write whatever the hell they want, but readers don’t have to like it. In fact, we can despise it. And *I* despise it NOT because it arouses strong feelings in me, but precisely the opposite. I despise it because it’s sloppy and lazy and boring as fuck. (Except the Sherwood, who I have read before, apparently, and liked.) […]

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