July 16th, 2012

_It's Raining Men_, Crystal Jordan (kindle) (shorter than a novel)

I never quite know, in this sort of situation, whether the title should be between underbars or between quotes. Just know, if you buy it, you're not getting a 200+ page novel; you're getting a novella or a long short story. Also, SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS. Possibly NSFW, altho I'll try not to freak you out too much.

I'm not going to explain _why_ I've embarked on this particular reading exercise -- I'm not even going to explain why I'm not going to explain why. But I will warn you that this is the first in a series of at least two reviews of MMF polyamory novels.

What does that mean? From the wikipedia entry for poly: "Polyamory (from Greek πολύ [poly, meaning many or several] and Latin amor [love]) is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved." MMF means "male-male-female", that is, this particular poly relationship includes two men and one woman. To get marginally more technical, this particular MMF is a full triangle, a "true" triad, rather than a "V": that is, the relationship between the men is as important as the relationship between each man and the woman. It's an important distinction; the second in this series of at least two reviews is of a novel depicting a "V".

Both this and the next book are also romance novels in the emotionally-satisfying-ending sense (and more specifically, in the HEA or Happily Ever After sense). These are not erotica novels with a series of sexual engagements but no developed relationship outside of sex, nor are they twosome romance novels in which the characters hump a variety of people in a variety of configurations but stabilize on a dyadic intimate relationship (possibly while continuing to hump other people).

_It's Raining Men_ is (at least) the second in a series of supernatural stories that include the usual kind (viz vampires vs werewolves) politics and, inevitably, cross-kind Mating. I use the capitalization to indicate this is a universe in which supes (but not humans) Know their True Mate either as soon as they encounter them, as soon as they touch them, as soon as they have sexual contact with them, etc.; this one also has the can't-get-interested in anyone else after finding True Mate bit. For the record, I hate hate hate hate hate this particular idea. Hate? Get it? Really don't like.

Candy (shudder) is turning 31. She is an orphan and a werewolf. Her BFF, Cyn (double shudder) apparently hooked up with a vampire in the first story in the series (haven't read). Candy has met her True Mate, Cyn's brother IIRC, followed him by scent back to his home and saw him there humping another man. She has concluded from this that he is Gay. Poor Candy has never heard of bi guys, apparently.

Anyway. Cyn keeps trying to hook them up; Candy is avoiding. There's a whole Thing at a bar, with a Siren (supernatural creature, wings that are sometimes tucked away and sometimes not, when they sing, well, they're Sirens) which is remarkably well written -- Jordan did a great job of conveying bar/nightclub. A really great job. When the Siren is done singing, he comes over to see Cyn's bro and it is clear they have Something Going On. Oh, and Cyn realizes he, too, is her True Mate. And remember, Cyn is unaware of male bisexuality.

From here on, it's more or less pizza boy at the door, and reasonably well executed. Because it is short, it hovers on that distinction between menage [ETA: I now better recognize that using this word this way is controversial. Probably threesome would be better] for titillation (and thus straight up erotica) and developing the triadic relationship, which the concept of True Mating presumably expedites for some people but mostly just annoys me.

Given that I hate (hate hate hate?) True Mates and I am not really a big fan of the Big Mis (there would be zero plot without Cyn's inexplicable ignorance), I could have hated this. OTOH, Jordan did _not_ go down the magic hoo ha route (that is, the guys are already interested in pussy; Cyn isn't a lone exception), for which I am deeply grateful.

Mostly on the basis of the Truly Excellently described bar scene, altho partly just because it _really and truly is_ a poly story, not just a menage hookup, if this sounds like the kind of thing you'd enjoy, you probably will. I'll read more Jordan, in all likelihood.

[Want more MMF novels? I reviewed Mari Carr's _Sweet Thursday_ in September 2010. It's a "V", and is, similarly, a true poly novel: http://walkitout.livejournal.com/622537.html ]

[Also, Ann Heerendeen's _Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander_, which I reviewed May 2007. http://walkitout.livejournal.com/107323.html It's a "V", with one of the men at the vertex. It's even more clearly a poly novel, with no three-in-bed-at-once -- well, not much -- in the three main characters.]

_Undercover_, Lauren Dane (kindle) spoilers, NSFW

The usual warnings apply: SPOILERS! And very likely NSFW. Also, this is the second in (at least two) reviews of MMF poly novels. Please see the first in the series for definitions, if you have no idea what these words mean and are curious why I'm doing this:

http://walkitout.livejournal.com/892786.html

In addition to being a True Poly Romance (viz happily ever after for the poly group, which is in this case a MMF "V" with a woman at the vertex, but with some sexual activity between the men prior to and throughout the developing triad), this is also a D/S novel. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominance/submission, because I'm not going to explain it here) And it's not a D/S novel in the turn her over his lap and give her a light spanking sense, or tie her down so he can make her come extra hard sense, either. No, this is a D/S novel in which the guys spend a fair amount of time oohing and ahing over how the woman's skin turns such a lovely shade of pink, and when a cat is used on the brown guy, the results are visible through the dark skin and that is part of the fun. This is a novel in which subspace is described repeatedly and lovingly; if you've ever sat around and wondered why the hell anyone would want to do [that], well, this is one well-executed show-don't-tell.

All that aside (and you will never hear me question the appeal of competent flogging, or being tied down, or blindfolded or blah blah bleeping blah), I hate hate hate hate hate did I say hate? Oh, yes I fucking HATE D/S depictions in art where a man is the D and a woman is the S and the woman is HAWT and blonde and long haired and can we just get past this, PLEASE! Also, I hate D/S lifestyle crap, and Dane used a quite nicely developed science fictional multiverse to offer up doozy of a D/S lifestyle: a world with wives and official mistresses and concubines and the mistresses have more freedom but want to be wives anyway and blah blah bleeping blah.

Also, I hate hate hate hate hate using a thrown-together thing to make people fall for each other. Oh, we have to pretend to be having sex with each other oh and it has to be convincing so we're going to actually have to have sex with each other which means, never mind. You get the idea.

Anyway.

Here's what is amazing about this book. Dane did all that (which I disapprove of), but ALSO offered up a neural implant that let the triad have completely concealed communications. So while they are playing at the D/S lifestyle, we have an active, ongoing depiction of everyone in the relationship trying to maintain a relationship of _equals_ -- which is exactly what is supposed to happen in D/S. (The woman character's passive aggressive use of the neural implant aside, and let's not even get into it turns out the men can force their way into her mind bit when they said earlier they couldn't.)

Further, once they are done with the undercover assignment, the woman/vertex/submissive is very emphatic in verbalizing to the man who does not have Past History with her that she doesn't bottom outside the bedroom (the man who does have Past History with her presumably already knows, altho he sure doesn't act like it in spots -- but the storytelling is clear that that's him being an insecure dick).

The ending of the book (going in to bust the Family some of whose members were selling to the Imperialists) was easily the weakest: oh, my, gosh, it's hard to cope with our woman being shot. It's not that I don't believe that reaction (believe me, I _do_ believe that reaction) -- it's that it feels cheap. Especially since she got shot in the same left shoulder that _every_ character who isn't going to die in an action movie or cop show ALWAYS gets shot.

You would be justified in concluding from the above that I didn't enjoy the book; alas, you would be wrong. I did enjoy the book. There were some really neat things about it, notably the use of the neural implant. While I generally disapprove of going back to the well after DTMFA'ing, and I _really_ disapprove of trying to use poly to repair a relationship, it was quite clearly depicted (shown, not just told) that the original D/S couple, while separated for a decade, had never really gotten over each other. Using New Relationship Energy to make a triad out of a failed dyad seems iffy, but Dane tried really hard to make a convincing case based on external demands on the members, and people _wanting_ to try to make that work is extremely believable (a sequel in which the triad had broken up and everyone moved on to other relationships would _also_ be believable).

Finally, Dane deserves some kind of award for creating a V with a woman at the vertex with absolutely zero homophobia. The guys have a pre-existing sexual relationship of convenience (they are switches with defined turn-taking, manual and oral intimacy apparently no anal; one of the guys is primarily verbally dominant, the other more physically dominant and no I DO NOT mean throwing people around I mean non-verbals and that is reflected in the MM relationship as well as with the F) which continues into the triad, and the three discuss together how they feel about pairing off within the context of the triad.

Obviously, if you are a submissive woman with poly inclinations, getting tops who want to share you and who work well together would presumably be Pretty Awesome. Not, alas, that appealing to me.

Okay, if you've read this far, I'll 'fess up to the real reason I'm reading trashy MMF poly novels. I'm trying to screw my courage up to read (not see) _Savages_ by Don Winslow. If the reviews are even remotely accurate, I'm going to find the book an incredible ride and the ending may emotionally wipe me out for days. I'd sorta like to have some comparators so if it turns out to not be that great, I'll have specifics to base my mockery on.

_Simply Sinful_, Kate Pearce (kindle)

Spoilers. Possibly NSFW. Etc. See the previous two entries for an explanation for why I'm doing these reviews.

Third in a series of poly novel reviews. I'm on the fence as to whether this is an MMF V with a man at the apex -- I think by the end, it's pretty clearly a MF dyad primary with some outside lovers, including the F's husband and the M's BFF and his wife. But that's confusing.

Regency romance, part of a series. I haven't read other entries in the series. As with other series, characters from earlier entries appear in later entries, so if you do decide you like Pearce's characters, you can follow them as the stabilized relationships produce kiddies and so forth.

The vertex, Peter, has been told by his BFF Valentin (grew up with him in a Turkish brothel as a slave), that now that Sara, Valentin's wife, is pregnant, Peter is no longer welcome in their bed. Peter doesn't take the news well and doesn't stick around for the explanation. When Peter his hanging out at the sex club (Madame Helene's), Helene hooks him up to play cards with James, who wins and asks Peter to spend an hour with him. James has a proposition: he wants Peter to help James impregnant James' wife Abigail. James, alas, prefers men and _really_ prefers a particularly degrading form of submission. Peter's willing to go meet Abigail and, in true romance novel fashion, Peter, man-about-town, bored with all sexual lures, finds geeky, frumpy Abigail who never fails to speak her mind bluntly to be delicious and fun.

This is a substantial novel: there's a lot more than pizza boy at the door after the setup. However, after a certain point, I no longer was thinking this book reminded me of _Captives of the Night_ or _Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander_. I felt like I was reading _My Secret Life_ by "Walter" -- only "Walter" is _way_ less angsty. There are some pretty neat things in this book, most of them involving the three-ways orchestrated primarily by Peter in his efforts to map the very limited overlapping sexualities of Abigail and James together so they can have a sexual component to their otherwise good friendship and indifferent marriage. It's an interesting exercise in trying to make a wildly cross-orientation relationship work sexually.

Because it was so clearly depicted as cross-orientation, it's not too surprising that the end of the novel finds the various members of the threesome considering their relationship and figuring out where to go next. James decides he wants to track down the guy who helped him to really understand his sexuality and leaved newly knocked up Abigail with Peter -- the trick is convincing Abigail and Peter to be okay with that, while they're busy feeling so guilty about wanting that. Meanwhile, Valentin comes around and admits he actually kinda needs to have Peter around at least once in a while. Thus, the triad has devolved to, effectively, Abigail and Peter with occasional outside lovers including James, Valentin and Sara, etc.

So if you're reading this looking for romance novel that has an HEA for a triad, this isn't it. It _is_ a poly novel, however.

I probably won't be reading more in this series: it is overloaded with heavy drama (turkish brothel slave is bad, but finding out that what your amnesia was covering up was being sent on the boat by your mother so she could abandon you is worse, then there's the backstory of the opium addiction and blah blah bleeping blah), and my ability to suspend disbelief on some of the sex scenes came crashing down when Peter, James and Abigail engaged in DP (she's in the middle, and in this case, it's one in front and one in back -- the earlier DP on a bed was two-in-V) on the street while Abigail is dressed in men's clothes. While escaping from a bunch of angry lamplighters. (I clearly am Weak in writing fiction. I would not EVER have come up with that. Not EVER.)

Pearce is a good writer. I may try some of her other work. She keeps the story moving along and her characters are reasonably consistent and mostly believable (mostly, allowing for the overloading of heavy drama problem).