Playing For Keeps
by Shiloh Walker, contemporary (2009)
Samhain Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 978-1-60504-356-2

While reading this story, it occurred to me that a ménage à trois with a doctor and a photographer isn't such a bad thing. The two of them will be frequently be away either on night shifts or business trips, after all. Such an arrangement is so much better than servicing two smelly cowboys who, at the end of working day, will expect you to cook them dinner, do their laundry, and service both men sexually all in the space of one evening.

Jacob McCoy, the doctor, is nuts over Dana Cochran. When he finally moved into the same neighborhood as Dana, she was dating the photographer Mason Caldwell. Despite their cozy arrangement, Dana knows that she has a stronger bond to Jake, whom she has known since they were kids. Should Mason decide to walk out of her life, she won't get too worked up over it. As for Jake, he believes that Dana doesn't care for him, not as much as he cares for her, so he's willing to share her with someone else. Better have a bit of her than to have none of her, that kind of thing, if this story is a country song.

Playing For Keeps is an interesting story in that it isn't about the threesome arrangement as much as it is about what happens when one participant is in it only as a way to get close to the woman and the woman in question is starting to understand that she cares more for one man over the other. Something has to give eventually, and when it happens, emotions run high and those little earthquakes of the heart begin to cause some cracks to appear on the surface.

This one has some beautifully presented erotic love scenes - the one in the storm is especially very nicely done - but I find myself enjoying the emotional aspects of the story a little bit more. At many moments I find myself feeling frustrated that Jake has so much trouble in telling Dana how he feels about her, but I suppose we can't always have our men to be eloquent and overly sure of themselves. Despite the presence of Mason in this story, the story belongs to Jake and Dana - it is how they deal with an unexpected development in their relationship that is the focus of this story.

Playing For Keeps is an enjoyable and unexpectedly satisfying story. I say "unexpectedly" because this one is marketed like a more typical ménage à trois story when it is actually a little bit less straightforward than that. If you are expecting a story that keeps to the more typical conventions of the three-for-fun genre, I'm afraid that this one isn't that story you are looking for.

The only downside is that the length of the story means that the emotional drama has to be settled quickly and therefore the whole thing is over in a rushed manner before I know it. If this story had been longer and there were more room for a more gradual and convincing fallout from the unexpected development in the characters' relationship, this one would have been a very good story indeed.

Rating: 84

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