One man's putting her first…
Mira Adams knows she has a great guy in long-time lover Ethan West – he's smart, handsome, and sexy as hell. And she's always been respectful of Ethan's work – his law enforcement training with the H.O.T. team has led him on an admirable path of aiding the disenfranchised. Yet over time she's begun to fear that she'll always come in second to his career.
Another man's returning from her past…
To prove otherwise, Ethan has planned a very special weekend getaway for her birthday. His gift is Rogan Wolfe, Mira's old flame and one of his friends from the H.O.T. unit, who's more than happy to make Mira's deepest fantasy come true—to be shared by two men devoted only to her pleasure.
The party of three is just getting started…
Where Ethan is caring and well-meaning, encouraging Mira to explore her sexuality, Rogan is irresistibly bad to the bone, soon pushing her to expand her erotic limits in new and outrageous ways. Yet falling for Rogan all over again is one boundary she never imagined she'd cross. And submitting to this desire could change everything.
I find it incredibly challenging to review erotic romances. For the most part, I have little difficulty suspending my disbelief enough. I don’t mind historical inaccuracies, unrealistic action in contemporaries, over the top plots or even intimate interludes in the midst of a chase scene. I can read most books and remove my sense of reality from the story. However, I have a much more difficult time suspending my disbelief in erotic romance and as such, often judge them with a harsher lens.
Lacey Alexander’s “Party of Three” is an erotic romance set in the present day. In it, Ethan West wants to give his girlfriend Mira a hot birthday present that will make one of her sexual fantasies come true. The fantasy involves two men pleasuring her. Ethan invites his one-time coworker and Mira’s ex-boyfriend, Rogan Wolfe on a weekend getaway aimed at allowing Mira to let herself go and reach a new level of ecstasy. Ethan, Mira and Rogan indulge in a sexual marathon and discover that their actions may have devastating emotional consequences.
For Rogan, it is painful being so close to the woman he once loved. Well, not sexually, as he is still attracted to her. But, he realizes that he may have made a mistake breaking up with her, and he wished for another chance to recapture their love.
Ethan is the one who arranged the wild weekend without fully acknowledging the emotional risks before he let Rogan into bed with Mira. Part of Ethan wants to uncover Mira’s deep-seated naughty and raunchy impulses so that he can help her freely express her sexuality. He thinks that helping Mira open this part of herself with a threesome will make their relationship more intimate.
And Mira gets a big surprise when her husband tells her of his plans and then struggles with several different issues. First, Mira worries about whether a threesome with Rogan will impact her relationship with Ethan (kudos to her for actually thinking about this in the half hour that she had to think about Ethan’s gift). Secondly, she has trouble reconciling her baser desires with her need to be a respectable woman. And lastly, Mira struggles with her feelings for Rogan, a man she once loved, as they reconnect sexually.
So, I find it nearly impossible to suspend my disbelief enough to accept that a man can invite his girlfriend’s former lover to engage in a threesome without considering that such a move might have a negative impact on his committed relationship. I’m okay if a hero acknowledges this and is surprised to find that his emotions have become engaged in an unexpected way, but I need to believe that he has some understanding of what could happen.
All three characters have varying emotional reactions to their time together, and most are not warm and fuzzy ones. There is uncertainty, regret, love, unrequited love, guilt and jealousy – to name a few. With so much unsettled emotion, it isn’t surprising that things do not work out the way that Ethan expected.
Another major thread, and one I appreciated, is Mira’s struggle to own her sexuality and express it freely. Mira has many internal debates that mirror this one: “Is it possible to be both ways? Can a woman be both respectable and free? Classy and wild at once?” (p.130). She struggles with guilt because she truly wants to experience a threesome and is aroused by both men. Unfortunately, Mira can never truly answer these questions because she still has strong feelings for Rogan and can’t help but worry about what those feelings might mean for her relationship with Ethan.
Fortunately, while Ethan does have to face the reality of a real connection between Rogan and Mira, he does a good job at not blaming Mira for allowing herself to indulge and enjoy her fantasy. Ethan does get angry with Mira, with good reason, but he has to acknowledge his own culpability. In the end, both Mira and Ethan admit that while the situation with Rogan got dangerously out of hand, it forced them to allow the deepest and most hidden parts of their sexuality to surface.
As I’ve thought more and more about “Party of Three” and my reaction to it, I realize that I would have had different reaction if I had read it as erotica rather than erotic romance. The ending is simply not the standard happily ever after of romance novels. Instead, the ending has a “we-weathered-a-storm-and-survived-our-wild-weekend-of-sexual-abandon” feel. Also, the most intriguing part of this story is how Rogan’s participation changes the dynamics of Ethan and Mira’s sexual relationship.
Regardless of the issues that I have with the story, “Party of Three” made me think. I would like to read more stories about women trying to accept and express their sexual needs and desires, although with more success. The book is highly erotic, although readers may never think of cheesecake quite the same way.
Lacey Alexander has a knack for writing memorable and enticing sex scenes, and these are the highlight of “Party of Three.” I will be reading the next book in this series, mostly because it features Rogan – and I need to know that he finds his happily ever after.
Book Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher.