Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rough Stock by Cat Johnson

TITLE: Rough Stock
AUTHOR: Cat Johnson
PUBLISHER: Linden Bay Romance
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 48k)
GENRE: Contemporary menage erotic romance
COST: $6.99

Best friends Clay and Mason have noticed a change in the girl they’ve grown up with. At eighteen, April has turned into a woman, a beautiful sexy one at that. Both want her. Both love her. When her prom night turns violent, the boys come to her rescue, binding all three of them in new, exciting ways. They don’t know what to make of the changes, especially when April seems unwilling to talk about it. But when she tells them both she loves them, they decide to keep at it, even if at the end of the summer, all three will be parting ways…

One of the things I’ve learned over the past few years of buying e-books is that I’m incredibly picky about ménage romances. I have no specific needs when it comes to sexual interactions. I don’t care if the men get it on together or not, and I don’t hold the woman in disdain for being a female getting in the way. All I care about is the emotion involved. Convince me that this group loves each other, or, at the very least, need each other, and I’m a happy camper. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that the vast majority of ménages that I read are content to rest on their sexual laurels. Like they think...the sex is hot, everybody gets off, therefore it works. They rarely sell me on the emotional connections.

Ultimately, that’s where this book ends up falling. The story starts out with the trio finishing out their senior year in high school. Clay and Mason work at April’s father’s ranch, and the three have been inseparable for years. The entire first half of the book is told in alternative POVs between Clay and Mason, and through their perspectives, we see two young men, coming to terms with their burgeoning sexuality, trying to resolve their sudden attraction to the girl who shouldn’t be a woman. We get to experience their confusion and love for April, quite effectively, actually, so it really comes as no surprise when they succumb to lust. They’re teenaged boys. They care about her a lot. They’re willing to put aside their jealousy – because really, both of them express more than once that they’d rather be the only one in her life – in order to be with her. I’m actually okay with the ménage through most of this section, because it’s more than a little sweet seeing these young men fall over themselves. Their voices ring true for me.

April, however, doesn’t. None of the first part is told through her perspective. When the boys try to get her to say who she wants, she simply says, “I don’t want to have to choose between you.” And the boys let her get away with it. April comes across as immature and selfish in this. Her attitude is essentially, “I love you. I want both of you. Take it or leave it.” I can’t fault the boys for going along with it for the summer. She’s hot, she wants sex, they love her. Even Mason only sees it as a temporary thing, since he admits that after they’re all apart, they’ll just “see what happens.” Why should I ever think this is anything lasting? The boys fall over themselves in the first part to make April happy. She, in turn, seems to almost expect it and does little in return.

The story isn’t helped at all that part two jumps an indeterminate number of years into the future. All three are grown up, somewhere in their twenties, with three different lives. Clay and Mason are still harboring feelings for April, who hasn’t bothered to get into contact with either of them except for an occasional Christmas card, since she moved away after that first summer. Oh, gee, look, more selfish behavior on her part. Her reasons are exposed later on, but it’s too little, too late. By that point, I’ve washed my hands of them. Even Clay and Mason, who I had been incredibly sympathetic with in the first part, aren’t enough to make me care. Frankly, if that’s who they wanted, and they’re willing to put up with her, all the power to them, but nothing is going to convince me that they had some sweeping romance that couldn’t be held back by time. They deserved far better than April. It’s too bad they didn’t know it.


8/10 – Unchallenging and easy flowing, with minimal errors


4/10 – Though I liked and understood the two men, the fact that we never get the female’s perspective on why we should understand her made me dislike her


6/10 – I liked and believed both men. It was the girl I had a problem with.

Entertainment value

5/10 – There’s a sweet kind of charm to the first half, but without being able to invest in the ménage, or understand why I should be willing to put up with these sort of jealous feelings, I can’t care about the ending romance

World building

7/10 – The set-up is great, very evocative, but an indeterminate number of years pass between the first and second parts, and the second half seems cobbled together just to make the romance happen.



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