Friday, January 1, 2010

'Til Death Do We Part by Madison Layle and Anna Leigh Keaton

TITLE: ‘Til Death Do We Part
AUTHOR: Madison Layle and Anna Leigh Keaton
PUBLISHER: Cobblestone
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 42k)
GENRE: Contemporary menage erotic romance
COST: $5.99

Justin Blackwood survived twelve years as a POW in Iraq by focusing on the woman he left behind. Erica is the only family he has, next to the best friend he always considered a brother. What he doesn’t expect to discover, however, is that they married in his absence. Clint loved Erica his whole life, but when she chose Justin, he stepped back, unwilling to hurt the two people who meant the most to him. He’s glad to have Justin back, but there’s nothing easy about his return. Especially since Clint’s not even sure he’s going to live long enough to get to know his friend all over again…

I have no idea why this story worked at all for me. It should have failed. It certainly had enough elements that normally drive me insane. The authors headhopped through the whole story, sometimes paragraph to paragraph between all three characters. The melodrama screams soap opera, including Justin running out of the house when he finds out Clint and Erica are married, shouting “No!” as he runs, then staring up into the sky and asking “Why?” as tears run down his face. It’s incredibly emotionally manipulative. And yet, and yet…

I didn’t hate this. In fact, there were points where I got swept into the story. The detail about Justin’s military life and Clint’s ranching life are crisp and thorough, and the trio felt richly realized. Their reactions rang true. That goes a long way in helping to compensate for the other weaknesses. Erica feels genuinely torn between Clint and Justin. She loves them both. It’s not like she hopped into bed with Clint as soon as Justin was declared dead. They remained platonic friends for years until they finally took another step. As much as Justin wants her back, he feels morally obligated to get out of the way because of their wedding vows. It’s Clint, and his driving need to make both Justin and Erica as happy as possible, that brings the three together. It’s his secret, the truth about his headaches, that compels the action forward, and underlies every emotion. He’s the one who resonated for me the most.

While I recognize all of this intellectually, and I really did like the characters, I was never as emotionally involved as I’m sure the authors intended. The ending is written specifically for an emotional wallop, and it didn’t hit me like that. Probably because even while I liked the three, I felt manipulated into liking them the entire way. It was like, what else can they possibly throw into this emotional soup to make it even angstier? And then they did. Then they did it again. To give them credit, they never backed off on making hard choices. And like I said, I did like the story. Just maybe not as much as I was told I should.


7/10 – Headhopping proved to be a big barrier for me


7/10 – Regardless of how manipulative I found it, the trio still managed to strike a chord


8/10 – Surprisingly rich

Entertainment value

7/10 – I had difficulties with the headhopping and melodrama, so didn’t really immerse into the tough emotional ending

World building

8/10 – Believable detail abounds, from ranching to the war details



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