Stranded by Eve Vaughn
Heat Level: Blistering
MFM black female, white male, Latino male
Note: As I’m reviewing multicultural books, I think it would be remiss of me not to list the character’s ethnicity. Sometimes covers can be deceptive, and though that’s becoming less of an issue, I still think it would be a disservice to leave that out. So I’ll be doing that going forward.
Until I sat down to write this review I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed this book. Eve Vaughn is a writer I’d read before, so when I decided to try a triad, I picked up one of hers. Vaughn in some ways reminds me of Linda Howard; when she’s on nobody’s better, but when she’s off, God help you. Fortunately with this book she was awesomely on.
The story is fairly basic, India, the heroine, decides to take off on vacation after breaking up with her fiancé. Rafe and Grant are best friends who are vacationing together to recover from Rafe’s bad marriage and subsequent divorce. During said marriage they discovered that they enjoy sharing a woman, and are actively looking to form a triad. They meet en route and are immediately attracted to one another.
As the title would suggest, they’re stranded on a desert island as the only survivors of a horrific plane crash. And this island is no paradise, for one thing they suffer from a lack of food, and as none of them are survivalists, the situation quickly becomes acute. The scenes on the island are where Vaughn really shines. I liked the way she showed the relationship between the three developing. They’re walking wounded, battered by difficult lives. Rafe and Grant both come from broken, abusive homes. India is from a home that should’ve been broken. Because of this, it’s easy to understand why they would choose an unconventional relationship.
Of course, they’re eventually rescued and returned to civilization. And this is when the real conflict of the story occurs. For one thing, they’re a media sensation, and India, in particular, begins to doubt the legitimacy of their relationship.
India, the heroine, is probably the weakest note of this story. Though within the context of her home life and the battering her self-esteem had to have taken in that atmosphere her choices make sense, I still found myself screaming at her at times. Other than that, this is a very deftly told story. Stranded is available here.
One-Two Punch by Katie Allen
Heat Level: Blistering
MMF white female, white male, biracial (black/Japanese) male
Katie Allen is a new to me author, though she has quite an extensive backlist. After I read Stranded, which is a MFM story, with absolutely no sexual contact between the two men, I wanted to try a MMF story. Much to my surprise I discovered that I like the sex scenes in the MMF story better. Male-to-female anal sex squicks me out, and DP just sounds painful. However, male-to-male anal sex doesn’t bother me at all. Yes, I know that’s crazy, but hey, I never said my reviews would make sense. In the MMF stories the men have more than one avenue to sexual pleasure and frankly anything that leads to less DP is full of win for me.
My overall sense of this book is that it’s just cute. The story has some humorous scenes, and an overall sense of fun that I really enjoyed. That’s not to say that there aren’t any dark issues; Ky, one of the heroes just left the military with a case of PTSD. There is also an issue with a stalker and that’s never a good thing.
At the beginning of the story Beth sees Harry through the window of the gym he owns and thinks he’s uber-hot, so she feigns an interest in learning to box, and he becomes her trainer. The two of them become lovers very quickly. In a bit of foreshadowing Beth asks Harry if he’s ever been with a man, and he tells her about being attracted to one in the Army, but never acting on it. (This whole scene just rang false with me, I can’t imagine ever asking a man whether he’s been with a man. And Harry’s low-key response just doesn’t sound like any hetero male I’ve ever met.)
I like Beth, and I like Harry, but until Ky shows up this is a rather generic romance: Sassy blonde meets rugged ex-GI ho-hum. Ky and Harry served in the combat together and there was sexual tension between the two, but given the close quarters it never came to anything. Now, back in the States with a Mental Health discharge Ky comes looking for Harry after having an ugly dust-up with his father over his sexuality. Beth is instantly attracted to Ky, who is apparently so beautiful he can literally stop traffic. (I pictured Ky looking somewhat like Tyson Beckford who I think has the same heritage as this character, so I could understand her reaction.) Beth is already living with Harry and Ky moves in.
I like the way the story slows down at this point and the relationship evolves. If all three had just jumped in bed together this probably would’ve been a wallbanger. And frankly, given the speed at which Beth and Harry got together that’s what I expected. Instead, we see three characters with fairly realistic responses: Beth is thinking she’s a bit of a slut for lusting after two men. Harry is questioning just what his sexuality is. Ky already knows he’s just wild about Harry (sorry!) but is somewhat surprised by his attraction to Beth. I do have to point out that this is definitely a “gay for you” story. When Beth quite reasonably questions Ky’s attraction to her despite his sexual orientation he tells her, “If wanting to fuck you means I’m not gay, then I’m not gay.” Actually I guess that’s a case of “straight for you.” Or is it? Hell if I know. Just thought I’d point that out.
There is a bit of paternalism as well, though it’s not racial. Harry is nearly a decade older than both Ky and Beth and feels somewhat protective of them. This is incorporated into a couple of sex scenes and it’s very effective.
And for the record, the scene where Ky explains their relationship to his father, the cop, is worth the price of the book. Maybe it’s because I have a black father of my own, but I laughed out loud at that scene. One-Two Punch is available here.