Romance Pet Peeves: Ménage à Deux
I’m probably revealing some of my kinks here, but I really love well-done menage stories. Storylines and character arcs can get cumbersome in a single title when there are more than three people (although I would love to see a long-running series with a polycule), so most of what I read (and are readily available) are ménage à trois novels. I just read a really excellent one by Emma Holly in her Billionaires series that I highly recommend (Beck and Call). It’s a fantastic example of ménage done right: everyone has an arc, and all three people are interested in and fall in love with each other. Yes, that means the guys fall in love with each other, too.
A brief caveat here. I don’t have anything against straight (read: heterosexual) MFM stories. I have, however, noticed that some MFM authors feel like they need to go out of their way to reassure their readers “they’re totally not gay!” I have zero tolerance for homophobia, and if that happens, I’ll put down the book. I don’t need the guys to be bisexual, but I do need them to not be terrified/disgusted by the possibility, and I also need their friendship to be just as strong as the romance with their female partner. They both need to arc, change, and grow, both in the romance and in their non-sexual relationship.
But getting back to the pet peeve, I have recently read a few stories that totally whiffed on the third member of the ménage à trois. In one notable example, the second man was very obviously there only for the sex scenes, and was excluded from the relationship-building and romance. It was an MFM story, so there was no romance between the men, and their friendship was informed rather than shown. At the end of the book, the heroine says, “I think I’m falling in love with X, too!” and I was like, “Based on what interactions, exactly? You’ve spent zero time with him that didn’t involve his dick, and usually the main guy’s, too.”
And even that could have been enough if the author had done things differently. Good erotic romance gives us most of the relationship-building and character development within the sex scenes, after all. But that didn’t happen in this example, so the story totally fell flat for me. It felt like a regular twosome, with a third tossed in so the heroine could get some DP action. While that can be totally hot under the right circumstances, that’s not a ménage à trois romance.
In another example, the author didn’t even pretend that the third character was there for the romance. He was very much just there for the sex. At the end of the story he wasn’t interested in commitment, and it ended up with only two of the characters getting together. In my first example, the story fell flat, but the ending of this book was just a slap in the face of reader expectations. If I pick up a ménage à trois book, I expect three people to fall in love!
Don’t get me wrong–I understand how hard it is to properly arc and develop two characters, much less three. In a non-sexy way, I just tried my first threesome in a short story I wrote for an upcoming YA romance anthology. It was much harder than writing a twosome! But it’s very important that all of the characters in the relationship receive the same weight in the story.
Do you have any great ménage novels to recommend? Let me know in the comments. I’m always looking for authors and books to add to my TBR pile. And yes, I will be writing at least one MMF story in the future, and possibly other groupings, too.