Ellora’s Cave, $5.95, ISBN 978-1419906039
Contemporary Erotica, 2006
Whenever I think of a really good representation of the type of ménage romance story I want to read I keep coming back to this one. The Courage to Love just seems to do so many things really well and in a small amount of space. Here let me show you…
When Tony touched Jason’s arm, the skin was hot and damp with sweat. Jason looked over at Tony, his eyes smoldering. As he stared at Tony, he pulled out of Kate and then thrust into her hard, making her cry out. Tony’s breathing became labored, watching him. God, he loved to watch Jason fuck a woman, loved to touch him while he fucked. Leaving his hand on Jason’s arm, caressing the bulging muscles there, Tony leaned down and kissed Kate’s shoulder. She looked over at him with dazed eyes, shuddering with each thrust of Jason’s hard cock inside her.
“Kiss me, Kate, kiss me while Jason fucks you,” Tony breathed in her ear.
Kate immediately reached for Tony with her mouth. There was no hesitation, no worry over wrong or right. Tony was pleased with her acceptance of the two of them. Apparently it felt right to her, just as it did to him and Jason. It was as if suddenly all the pieces of a puzzle fit together.
He met her halfway for the kiss, and kissed her long and tenderly. His mouth sipped at hers, his tongue dipped in to taste, invited her to taste him, his teeth nibbled at her lips. It was a deliberate contrast to the hard, rough fucking that Jason was giving her. Her whole body shook with each of his thrusts. He had forced her legs up around his waist, and was holding her hips tight to him with one hand, while still bracing himself up with the other.
Tony watched him out of the corner of his eye while he kissed Kate. Jason fucking was a vision of brute strength, dominance, sheer physical beauty. It made Tony hot and hard to watch him, to touch him and feel the harsh strength of his thrusts. When they were fucking together, Tony could feel Jason inside a woman, his cock slamming up against his own in there, and it drove him wild. When they watched one another, Tony preferred to go second, so he could watch Jason. Watching him first made Tony a better lover.
See! I mean just think of all the conversations you have heard lately about erotic romance and what it is and how we should define it and why it has an important place in romance and then go back and read that single moment in the book. No wonder those Passionate Plume folks nominated it.
But that’s not all!
This being a series I can then take the fact the same author wrote several other variations on this theme and compare and contrast why I like The Courage to Love better than say one of her later books like At Love’s Command. Now why would I have not chosen that one? Samantha Kane’s writing is better, it is stronger and all that in At Love’s Command. Which leads me to this whole list of reviews I am writing about ménage romance because thinking about this one series made me start analyzing the differences between what worked and what did not and why. The why becomes apparent when you start adding all my favorite books together.
I think the first thing I figured out was the “balance” (you will hear me use this word often from now on out so beware) in the relationship between the three players here. Jason and Tony are close close friends who have shared sex with other women but they are not lovers. They have no defined sexual relationship or mutually negotiated emotional baggage and nothing that the establishment of a ménage relationship with Kate would undermine or betray.
I think this is key since we are reading a romance first and foremost so things like undermining and betrayal of an existing relationship just won’t work. Sure, I know in the real world that most folks in a ménage relationship start with a couple and then renegotiate by adding someone. BUT! One thing I have learned from reading romance is that real world realities do not always make great reading. The more convoluted and complex dynamics it takes to get even a typical couple together can be off putting so adding the whole extra baggage of an established relationship into a ménage romance where you have three different sides just brings with it too many possible questions for me the reader.
Remember “balance” the word I use? Well, the minute I think that someone in the story is nothing more than an added third wheel or is there for the selfish fulfillment of the wants of one party of the existing couple bringing with it the unsaid threat of him or her leaving… Well, in my opinion there is no balance there and I just find I cannot buy into an HEA for the ménage romance. That is just the way I read it folks.
Samantha Kane defined yet another important factor though in this story and showed character growth and benefit constantly through out the ménage romance. Here let me show you…
He turned to walk away, and Tony’s frustration got the better of him. “It is not settled,” he growled, and grabbing Jason, spun him and shoved him against the wall. He fell against him to hold him there, and then did what he’d wanted to do for days. He kissed him. Holding Jason’s shoulders to the wall, Tony pressed his mouth furiously against the other man’s. Jason’s lips were pushed open in the assault and Tony thrust his tongue inside his mouth, mad with grief over what they had come to.
Jason allowed the kiss, holding tight to Tony’s waist. When Tony pulled away, both men were breathing heavily. You could have heard a pin drop in the ensuing silence.
“So it’s that way, is it?” Jason asked quietly.
Tony lowered his head until his forehead rested against Jason’s. “Yes, yes, I suppose it is,” he whispered.
Suddenly Tony felt Jason’s hand grabbing his hair and pulling his head up, and he was spun around until his back was against the wall. Jason kept his grip on Tony’s hair, pressing hard against him. He leaned in and spoke quietly in his ear.
“Do you think I would risk losing this? You and Kate, and what we can have together? I want this, Tony, I want this life with you both so badly I can taste it. No, darling, I won’t die tomorrow. I won’t allow it. I’ll be here, and you’ll have to live up to this promise.”
He had dragged his mouth across Tony’s cheek so the last word was spoken against his lips. Then he kissed him, his lips soft against Tony’s. The kiss was more searing for its tenderness, and Tony’s mouth opened on a sigh. Jason licked into his mouth, rubbing against his tongue and encouraging Tony to do the same. The kiss quickly escalated, and Tony wrapped his arms around Jason, reveling in the hard feel of him, the taste of him, the sheer joy of having him like this. He tasted of coffee and the sweet marmalade he favored every morning, and Jason.
Jason broke the kiss slowly. He looked at Tony, his desire clearly written on his face. They stared at each other for a few moments, and Tony gradually became aware of the other men in the room, who had turned away to give them some privacy.
“Jason,” he murmured.
“Yes, Tony.” Jason’s reply was soft, but ardent. “Yes, Tony, I want this. And by God, I’m going to have it. Robertson isn’t going to stop me.”
So there you go. Samantha Kane showed that Kate was finding benefit and redemption by her involvement in the ménage by finding protection and social standing in another established group. While the guys are shown benefiting from the ménage by a deepening of the their close friendship by becoming lovers. All of that very understandable and important to each of them. They all gain something emotionally fulfilling beyond the shared sex which is what we want in any romance.
So The Courage To Love stands for me as a textbook Grade A. As an erotic romance and as a ménage romance it just works. I like to say this story has strong bones. In my opinion Samantha Kane could strip away the Regency garb and put it in Western gear or a kilt and she still would have a good romance story here.
That may piss off some of the historical accuracy mavens out there. I guess in the end I read for the romance not the historical accuracy and although some blunders are show stoppers but if the romance story itself is good a lot of inaccuracy is simply forgiven or ignored. Like it or not.
In the end I know when I read something if it all works because it comes across so effortless. This book is effortless from beginning to end and yet I can see the focus clearly from the start. The fact there is constant balance, benefit, and clarity helps sell the ménage romance HEA.