Ménage books are becoming increasingly popular in e-book land, and thus increasingly prominent. In my (admittedly far from complete) experience, M/M/F groupings are becoming the new “it” couple in the sub-genre. However, the stories do come with their own special brand of problems.
First, the group dynamics have to be handled very carefully, else the book just becomes a traditional coupling with an extra pair of hands for added fun. Second, and this is also a consideration for most erotic romances, when the sex is novel, as M/M/F sex still tends to be, authors run the risk of allowing the sexual connection to overshadow the emotional one. Owning Rachel, a novel by Madison Layle, escapes the first problem, but not the second.
Rachel is a successful prosecutor who is having increasingly erotic dreams of submission and bondage, and the dreams have begun to affect her waking life, leading her to make an appointment to see Dr. Jonathon Sinclair. He does everything he can, but eventually reaches the limits of what he is professionally able to do. Personally, however, is another story. He tells Rachel that in order to get over the dreams, she must listen to what her subconscious is telling her. He hands her a cell phone number, tells her to call it, when she’s sure she’s ready, and walks her to the door.
A month later she makes the call, is kidnapped, and starts a sexual journey to fulfilment with her two kidnappers.
The plot moves nicely along, showing how each barrier Rachel has thrown up is broken down. She works through her various mental blocks, learning more and more about herself, and falling harder and harder for her two teachers: men she never sees but knows by voice as Master and Sire.
Layle handles this part quite well. I admit to having had some squeamishness associated with some BDSM books in the past, especially when the story trips just that much too close to “forced seduction” for my personal taste. However, in Owning Rachel Rachel is never coerced into anything, and there was never any discomfort on my part as a reader. In fact, Layle almost went overboard with her “trust is key” mantra.
Readers will be able to guess it easily, so I’ll reveal that Sire is Jon Sinclair. Master is his brother Jack. Together, they’re known as the Masters of Sin. Jon falls for Rachel while still her doctor, and decides to introduce her into the lifestyle with his brother. However, it’s Jack who plays the more prominent role in her introduction, so the three-way connection is forged quite realistically. I have to admit though that the familial connection hit a squick factor with me, and although the brothers were always focused on Rachel, I was never really comfortable with the three-way sex scenes.
While the triumvirate works in the sense that everyone was an equal partner, unfortunately, the emotional connection never materializes. The three eventually share declarations, but I never felt the love. Attraction, sure. Sexual connection, definitely. Emotional bonds? Beyond the fact that the brothers introduce Rachel to her sexual destiny, and she is grateful, I don’t know. Rachel is built up as someone who goes after what she wants, who is always pushing, always wanting more. I wonder if she will be content to stay with the men who introduced her to the lifestyle without trying out others, especially as she grows more comfortable in her sexual identity.
Owning Rachel is an excellent choice to introduce readers into BDSM novels, but regular erotic/romantica readers are unlikely to be seduced.