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REVIEW:  Reward of Three by Kelly Jamieson

REVIEW: Reward of Three by Kelly Jamieson

Reward-of-Three

Dear Ms. Jamieson,

There’s just no way I can talk about this novella without giving away things which might be regarded as spoilers.  So, be ye warned all who read what follows.

I admit to a weakness for m/m/f menage stories and I think Rule of Three was among the best I’ve read in that niche.  Reward of Three takes up the story three years after the events of Rhythm of Three and begins when Kassidy announces her pregnancy to Dag and Chris.  They had talked about the challenges of raising a child in a poly relationship but had talked to other poly families and decided it’s what they wanted to do.  They had also decided that both Dag and Chris would be the dads, regardless of biology.

The beginning of the story felt a bit sparse and I would have liked to have seen some of the discussions about living in a menage and raising children rather than just being told about them.

But then, something happened and it distanced me so much from the story that it was difficult to read the rest and hard to remain engaged at all.  This is the potentially spoilery bit y’all. I think the blurb broadly hints at what happens and oh how I wish I had read it more carefully because if I had, I would not have requested this book for review.  Kassidy has a miscarriage and the bulk of the rest of the book takes place in the week following as the trio grieve individually and decide whether they can weather the storm together or whether this will break them.

I do have difficulty reading about pregnancy loss.  It’s a personal hot button – without going into too much detail, I think it’s easy to guess why. I either have a very strong emotional reaction and lose my shit completely or I withdraw emotionally from the story so as not to lose my shit.  The latter happened to me here.  I’m not sure that has anything much to do with the way the book was written but it did inform my experience of it.  That being the case, my grade probably needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

I wouldn’t want to suggest that each person who experiences pregnancy loss feels the exact same way.  Of course they don’t. For an unwanted pregnancy, I imagine a miscarriage could even be a relief.  People grieve in different ways and none of those ways a wrong. That said, I found it insulting in the extreme for Dag and Chris to be getting it on the day after Kassidy loses their baby (she’s sleeping in a different room because she wants space).  I get that lovemaking can be a way to feel alive and connected after a loss.  But still.   (Remember, I was pretty shut down when I was reading and I still was pretty flabbergasted by this).

There were aspects of Kassidy’s reaction which rang very true (even as I was reading with my eyes half closed because I didn’t want to know) and I expect that other readers will feel quite moved by her grief.  The book is only about 100 pages and most of it covers about a week. One week is just the tip of the iceberg for someone who suffers a miscarriage of a much wanted baby (as was the case with Kassidy).  I found it extremely difficult to believe and/or accept that Kassidy would be up for vigorous sex with both men ONE WEEK after a miscarriage.  She was 10 weeks pregnant so it’s not like she had a heavy period.  She would likely still have been bleeding.  Now, some people don’t mind having sex when there’s blood but a) it wasn’t mentioned and b) that kind of blood has a different emotional qualilty to me and I just could not and did not want to go there.

There is a happy ending for the trio as they work through their various griefs.  While I don’t think the novella suggests that they’re all fine and dandy after a week (which I appreciated) I did nevertheless get the impression that the worst was over. Um, no.

There is also a happy epilogue one year after and I think readers can guess what happens there.  For me, that was almost harder to read.

So, I’m probably the wrong person to review the book and really, I wish I hadn’t read it.  I think it had too much sex for the content and tone and I found the juxtaposition jarring.  The first book was a little gem but this was a disappointment on a number of levels, some of which had nothing to do with the story really.   I’m not sure what use this review is to anyone and the grade is probably pretty rubbery all things considered. But, for what it’s worth, I give Reward of Three a C-.

Regards,
Kaetrin

 

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REVIEW:  Her Kind of Trouble by Sarah Mayberry

REVIEW: Her Kind of Trouble by Sarah Mayberry

troubleDear Ms. Mayberry:

This story could have gone wrong in so many ways, and the fact that it doesn’t makes me appreciate it even more. Pretty much every time I feared it was going to go to a stupid or annoying or too obvious place, it didn’t.

Her Kind of Trouble is about growth and maturity and the ways people change — and the ways they stay the same. In the opening chapter, aspiring fashion designer Vivian meets her new brother-in-law by marriage at her sister’s wedding, and instantly recognizes a rebellious, good-time-seeking kindred spirit in Seth. A very sexy kindred spirit. Over champagne and a joint (Oh Harlequin! I hardly know you!), they share a passionate interlude in a limo, and then cheerfully part.

Ten years later, a lot has changed for Vivian. Her career has taken a different path, though one that’s still creative and her. She still loves sex just as much, but is less interested in one-nighters. And the woman who was once sure “there would be no cozy domestic arrangements in her future” and “there would definitely be no babies,” has discovered she’s quite susceptible to the charms of her nephews, though not to the point of giving up her career when her (now ex-) lover demanded it. She’s settled down in Australia to be closer to her family, and is honored when her sister asks her to be guardian to the boys, though surprised that Seth will be her co-guardian:

she was privately boggled at her sister’s choice. Being based overseas, she’d seen Seth only a handful of times in the past ten years, but the family grapevine had kept her up-to-date on the headlines of his life. She knew for example, that he’d given up on the band seven years ago and had been bumming around in various jobs in the nightclub and bar scene ever since. She knew that he was still a total pants man, showing up with a new girlfriend every six months without fail.

She’s even more surprised to learn the big news about Seth: he’s going to be a father himself.

A strange feeling gripped her. A little like vertigo, but not. In her secret hear of hearts, she’d kept a casual eye on Seth, ensuring she knew enough but not too much about his life. Not because she was interested in him romantically, God forbid, but because he was the male approximation of her on Jason’s side of the family — the younger sibling, a bit of a screw up, never one to color within the lines. In a strange way, he’d become the benchmark for her own success — or not — over the years. As long as he was still single, it was okay that things hadn’t worked out with Franco and she was alone again.

Seth actually is still single; he’s going to be co-parenting with his ex, Lola. (Although — be still my heart! — they did consider abortion. SuperRomances are truly a world away from Harlequin Presents.) And he’s just as boggled by his brother’s choice of flakey Vivian as she was by their choice of him — and makes the mistake of saying so. Which brings a furious Vivian to his door, just in time to be there for a shattering phone call.

The rest of the story is at times fun and sexy and at times desperately sad. Seth is left to bring up a daughter alone, a responsibility he faces with anxious but loving determination. Vivian is too sympathetic — and too drawn to him — to stay away. Inevitably, hotness ensues. (I’m not sure how believable all that sex is for the single, working, sleep-deprived dad of a preemie newborn, but eh, who wants perfect realism in romance?) They’re also getting to know each other as their more mature selves — no longer so reckless and irresponsible, but still striking wonderful sparks of humor, mutual understanding, and chemistry. It’s a relationship which has a lot of potential, but it’s innately limited:

That was the way it had always been between them, right from the start. A battle of wills. A game. A dance. Parry, thrust, advance, retreat. Neither of them giving any ground. Neither of them showing any weakness.

It had always been part of the fun. Part of the danger and challenge.

It has also stopped them from talking about what they were to each other, what place they held in each other’s lives. God forbid they let their guards down. God forbid they show weakness or risk hurt.

Still, neither Seth nor Vivian is obnoxiously stubborn. Both have good reason to be nervous about getting involved, but they don’t cling desperately to those reasons when it’s clear that something is developing between them anyway. Everything that happens feels right for who they are. And though what happens to Lola could seem terribly convenient in a romance, it’s so very clear that it’s not, for anyone involved. Although she barely appears, her character is given a great deal of narrative time and respect, and I wept for her.

I cried again at the end of the story, this time happy tears because it felt so true and right. (Yeah, I was probably pretty softened up by the sad parts.) There were a couple of elements to the book I wasn’t crazy about: Seth’s self-consciousness about any “threat” to his masculinity is something I’m really tired of in contemporary romance. (He’ll wear a baby sling, but he just has to comment on it: “Yeah, I know, this thing is ridiculous, the most emasculating invention in the history of the world. But she loves it.”) And the writing style tends towards “tell,” though done skillfully through the thoughts of the characters. But I was genuinely happy to see these sharp, funny, unapologetically themselves people find their right paths and each other. B+

Sincerely,

Willaful

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