I actually managed to somehow not realize that this story, as well as the already-reviewed Matzoh and Mistletoe by Jodie Griffin, is part of a Carina Press erotic holiday anthology, Season of Seduction. While I have no problem reviewing each story one by one (particularly since you can buy them that way), if the quality of writing I’ve seen so far is any indication, an interested reader should probably demonstrate proper holiday frugality and purchase the collection. 😉
This novella possessed an edginess that I realized was also present in Matzoh and Mistletoe. Rather than gloss over real conflict or turn to a magical “love conquers all” scenario, both stories face the complications and difficulties of the potential situation head on in a way that was slightly reminiscent of author Lauren Dane to me. Yet unlike Dane, who has the book length to get her couples and triads to a happily ever after, Menage on 34th Street ends with a “happily for now” that honestly has me fretting for the characters I’ve come to care about.
Kat and Liam are a happily married couple who have both missed someone for over a decade. Their friend, Hunter, wanted Kat for himself and upon finding her with Liam, bolted and enlisted in the Marine Corps. Ten years later, he’s back in Baltimore and not looking forward to seeing this happy couple again since it represents what he can never have.
Liam lies to Hunter, telling him Kat is visiting her sister in another state, in order to lure him over to their house on Christmas Eve. What Hunter doesn’t know is that Liam knew Kat better than Hunter did back in the day, realizing that one man would never satisfy her. He had hoped to add Hunter to their relationship, particularly because Liam also felt that Hunter desired a relationship with a man as well as with Kat. But Hunter ran from both of them, not realizing Kat’s predilections and frightened of his feelings for Liam. Now that it’s Christmas, Liam can think of no better present for all of them than to be together the way they should have been.
When Kat walks downstairs in a barely-there piece of lingerie given to her by Liam, she’s startled to see Hunter, who left her without so much as a goodbye all those years ago. While she loves Liam, he occasionally invites a temporary and carefully vetted third into their relationship for them both, but that’s gotten tired. One look at Hunter and Kat realizes she’s been trying to find someone to fill his place, something no one clearly will manage after one glimpse of the smoking hot Marine who has replaced the troubled boy who left before.
This story leaps pretty quickly into the sexual situation yet simultaneously delivers an astonishing amount of backstory effortlessly, a fact that impressed the hell out of me. The reader is exposed to all the messy emotions and feelings of each character, generating a terrific amount of empathy for each of them. Triads always have the complication of having to negotiate not two but three people’s feelings and baggage, no easy feat.
The hardest part for me about this relationship was not the rough emotional baggage of Liam and Hunter, but Hunter’s career with the Marines. He’s brutally honest about exactly how hard his work and possible deployments would be in a relationship – particularly without the military support system offered to official spouses – but that all three would have to keep their relationship a secret in order to not endanger Hunter’s career is a huge obstacle. How on earth can they manage that and still have a healthy relationship? This was why the ending is a “happily for now” and not something with a more permanent resolution, and truth be told, I’m still thinking about these people, worrying about their future! These three love each other so much and have since they were teenagers; I don’t want to see anything happen to break their hearts.
This uncertainty makes me wonder if the writing duo of Elise Logan and Emily Ryan-Davis (who share a website at Scorchedsheets.com) don’t plan an additional book about these protagonists or some of the interesting secondary characters they introduced. If so, I’ll certainly be buying it! Their writing has an incredible mix of finely drawn characters, plenty of conflict and unbelievably hot sex scenes. That’s my go-to trifecta when it comes to must-buy books.
Consider adding this particular menage story to your holiday pile – you will not need to turn up the heat to get warm while reading it.