Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Her Heart's Divide by Kathleen Dienne

TITLE: Her Heart’s Divide
AUTHOR: Kathleen Dienne
PUBLISHER: Carina Press
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 19k)
GENRE: Contemporary paranormal erotic romance
COST: $2.69

Lila and Ryan have been together for seven years, first dating, then as husband and wife. Jack is their boss and best friend, but when he comes home one Saturday after work and calls Lila his wife, none of them know what to think. He seems just like the Jack they know, but his insistence that he’s the one married to Lila and not Ryan borders on crazy. What’s not so crazy is the way he looks at her…

Know what’s frustrating? The lack of clarity on how publishers classify ménage romance. This short novella is categorized as a ménage at Carina, but with the exception of one 3k scene, this is very much an m/f erotic romance. There is no threesome happy ending, and the emotions that play themselves out are very much monogamous. For a reader specifically looking for a ménage story, I’d imagine it would be very disappointing to buy this and find out you were sold a wrong bill of goods.

That’s not to say the story is bad. It’s a solid enough, hot enough erotic romance. There’s not much I can say about it since the story is so short. Lila and Ryan are married. Both of them work for Jack, who has been Ryan’s best friend since college. Jack shows up at Lila’s house after work one day and promptly pulls her into a kiss, calling her the best wife ever. Lila’s confused, because outside of a very embarrassing drunken flirtation one Christmas, they’ve never expressed interest in each other, other than as friends. But Jack knows things about Lila he shouldn’t, like fantasies she has and tattoos in private places. Since his wife is currently out of town, Lila and Ryan let Jack stay with them, especially since he views their house as his own.

The story is told in 1st person, through Lila’s eyes. She is very much in love with Ryan, and more than a little freaked out by the real feelings she sees in Jack’s eyes. Though some of what he says sparks fantasies for her, as well as fuels some of her and Ryan’s sex life, her heart and desire are firmly rooted with Ryan. Not once did I ever think she’d entertain a relationship with Jack included. Since I had purchased this as a ménage romance – rather than as an erotic romance with a ménage scene included – I kept waiting for some kind of shift in the emotional landscape to make an HEA possible. It never comes. Lila is as devoted – if not more so – to Ryan by the story’s end, while Jack…well, that would be spoiling the ending more than I already have. I won’t do that, but this much I think is necessary, simply because readers have a right to know that they might not necessarily be getting what they think they are getting.

If I had read this as a strictly m/f story with a ménage scene thrown in for flavor, I’d probably love it. The emotions these three experience are palpable and easily the best part about the novella. I felt for Jack’s frustration as much as I did Lila’s unease, while Ryan mostly just gets caught in the middle of it. The writing itself is suitably hot, and if I wondered a bit about how Lila might so easily accept these fantasies as something she’s always wanted when she hasn’t really thought about it before, I was willing to let that slide for how much I got into their turmoil.

But that wasn’t how I approached it, and ultimately, that misrepresentation hindered my enjoyment. Know what you’re getting when you go in, and you’ll be fine.


8/10 – Emotional and erotic


6/10 – Seems perfect enough, but he’s ultimately a pawn in the heroine’s dilemma


7/10 – Appropriately distraught over the turn of events, though her blindness to some of her fantasies seems unrealistic

Entertainment value

7/10 – The emotions in this were the crispest part; I would’ve much preferred seeing this played straight rather than attempting to fulfill a ménage fantasy

World building

6/10 – The explanations at the end for everything were very muddled; the focus is on the people not the setting




Erastes said...

I get very annoyed when a book says menage and then simply has a 3 way sex scene and that's it, but then, if people are going to start warning for every scene, it would get silly. I would expect a m/f/m or a m/m/f to have a HEA for all of them together!

Additionally wanted to let you know I always read your reviews, even if I rarely comment on them. Must Do Better.

Book Utopia Mom said...

I like the way Loose Id delineates what to expect in their books. It's simple and straightforward, much better than the silly warnings Samhain puts on theirs. I know some people get a kick out of Samhain's, but I'm not one of them.

You'd think that with a book labeled menage, wouldn't you? I still can't figure out how a single scene can justify separating it completely from the rest.

I do appreciate you taking the time comment now, though! I'm just glad you're reading. :)