by Holley Trent
Series: Plot Twist #1
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: March 11, 2019
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
There’s room in a heart for more than one kind of love.
Dara and Adrien Valliere are soul mates and best friends…but they’re not lovers. Their marriage may be unconventional, but it’s satisfying and loving, and they’ve never needed anything or anyone else.
Until they met writer Stacia Leonard.
Stacia built a career on maintaining close ties with her fictional characters while keeping everyone else at arm’s length. She avoids intimacy, apart from a few one-night stands when the loneliness and need become too much. But when Adrien Valliere, her cover model and long-distance friend, invites her for drinks, she’s too fascinated to refuse.
Dara recognizes the physical attraction between her husband and Stacia and sees it for what it is: an opportunity to help Adrien get what he needs. Dara can breathe easy knowing that both she and her husband are happy.
Before long, though, it’s clear that Stacia’s connection isn’t just with Adrien… She and Dara have something special, and it’s something neither of them can—or want to—deny.
I’m a big fan of Holley Trent’s Jekh Saga books, so when I saw she had a new contemporary coming out, I had to read it! Having never read one of her contemporary menages before, I was curious to how it’d work (what works for me in a paranormal or scifi doesn’t necessarily work for me in a contemporary), but I was pleased with how it turned out.
“You read my books.”
He couldn’t tell if she were asking him a question or not, but she seemed to need validation. He was happy to provide it. “Yeah. Every word of every one of them.”
“Did you start that before or after you ended up on one of my covers?”
“Busted,” Dara said softly.”
Stacia may be a bestselling mystery author, but all she wants to do after her latest signing is go back to her hotel and sleep. When the cover model for her series reaches out to her for a photo op, she agrees to meet him and his wife for a few drinks. Adrien and Dara seem like the perfect couple – best friends since they were teens and well suited for each other in every way – except sexually. After a few disastrous attempts, Dara accepts that she’s not interested in Adrien – not interested in anyone, really – sexually, and so gives him, basically, a kitchen pass to have an affair with someone else, and the woman who’s caught his eye is Stacia. Their one night stand is electric, but it’s complicated by Dara discovering that she’s interested in Stacia, as well. As they gradually start to realize how incomplete each person’s life is without the other two in it, can they navigate geographical differences, fame, and their own past hurts to find their own happiness together?
Stacia was my favorite character, which is no surprise as she’s a prickly hedgehog of an author, whose relationships are constantly scuppered by her devotion to her job. Prickly heroines are my favorite, and Stacia certainly doesn’t disappoint! Dara’s an absolute sweetheart, a born caretaker, even of her husband’s one night stands. Adrien’s life revolves around taking care of Dara, but he’s also ashamed that he feels like he needs more than her. Thrown altogether, on the surface they seem too disparate to even be friends, but each pair balances the strengths and weaknesses of the other member. I loved how obvious the love between Adrien and Dara was, and I loved how Stacia responded to each of them differently – taking gentle care of Dara and being more demanding with Adrien.
“Whatever the thing was that animated human bodies nearly launched itself out of Dara at the touch. It was frenetic and bewildered, and couldn’t process what any of the cues meant, or even if they were cues. Adrien’s touches didn’t panic her in that way. She was inured to them. She found them comforting, not inciting, but there was no reason why she should have found Stacia’s curious examination of an old scar inciting, either.”
I’m not sure how exactly to categorize Dara’s sexuality. She was raised in an extremely religiously conservative family and was homeschooled until high school, so in some ways it’s no surprise that she’s repressed sexually. What I’m not sure of is if she’s somewhere on the asexual or demisexual spectrum or was just so repressed that she didn’t know she was a lesbian. Regardless of labels, while I found her sexual awakening sensitively handled, I’m not sure how an ownvoices reader would feel about it.
I liked the pacing of the book, and that it was set alternately between Stacia’s home on the east coast and Adrien and Dara’s on the west coast. Besides the relationship, there’s also a subplot about Stacia’s books being adapted to TV and the added fame that will bring her – and when Adrien interviews for the main role, Adrien and Dara as well. I thought that was well explored and also empathized hard with Adrien and Dara’s neighbor issues. I also liked that Stacia got a chance to start establishing a relationship with each person individually, even though that did lead to some communication issues. And, at the heart of it, most of the conflict in this book stems from lack of communication on all sides. Adrien doesn’t tell Stacia that he’s gunning for the lead role in her TV show, Dara doesn’t tell Adrien about her dalliance with Stacia, Adrien refuses to talk about his worries about how fame would affect Dara… it’s a giant cycle of “let’s not talk about stuff!” and it’s one of my least favorite conflict types, so that did bring the book down a bit for me. That was ameliorated, though, by the fact that all the characters had understandable reasons for communicating (or not communicating) the way they did.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this book, and I’m looking forward to reading about Raleigh – Stacia’s PR guy/handler – in the next book!