I enjoy reading menage stories on occasion and was quite surprised to realize I hadn’t really reviewed much so far on the blog. But recently quite a few have come across my desk so I started thinking about what makes a menage story work for me. Specifically, what makes a believable menage Happily Ever After (HEA). To be clear, I am talking about a story where three people form a partnership together that leads to a long-term relationship as a group. This is different than a couple who occasionally (or frequently) adds a third person into their bed, but that essentially remains a pair.
I think part of the appeal for me in menage is the fantasy. Not just the triple the hotness factor, although there is definitely that. But also the fantasy of such an atypical relationship working. Let’s face it, there are not many long-term three way relationships out there as models. So while the fantasy is what draws me to these stories, it is also what makes me want some reality thrown in to make the book believable. Here is what I need for a believable menage HEA:
Everyone in the group needs to be mutually attracted to one another. This is usually not an issue in m/m/m stories because the guys tend to all be gay or bi. But I have found it to frequently be an issue in stories featuring both men and women, usually with two guys who are identifying as straight and one woman. First off, it is almost impossible for me to imagine living your life long-term with someone for whom you feel no physical attraction, let alone participating in group sex together night after night. When you are all naked together rolling around in bed, wouldn’t it be weird to be totally uninterested in one of the people next to you? It just seems to become two people having sex with a third at the same time, rather than an actual three-way relationship. (The other problem for me in these stories is that they often turn into a situation where the woman is passively laying back while the men find as many ways as possible to penetrate her. The power dynamic just bugs me.) So number one rule for me is that everyone must be hot for everyone else.
There needs to be at least some discussion of the “rules to live by.” I am definitely not looking for them to draft a constitution here (and sadly I have read a few books where they spent so much time talking about things I was yelling at them to “just do it already!”). But a three person dynamic is almost always difficult, in and out of the bedroom. There is the potential for jealousy, hurt feelings, miscommunication, ganging up by two people on the third, etc. So I like to know that the people have put some thought into making this work. I don’t even care what the rules are (we must all be together to have sex, two of us can sleep together when the third is gone, whatever). As long as I can see some recognition that this is not an easy situation and it needs some time and attention.
Some indication that they have thought about dealing with the outside world. This doesn’t really affect the believability of the threesome for me, but instead makes me believe in the book. The reality is that the vast majority of folks will frown upon a committed three way and many will be down right hostile. This includes families as well as society in general. And this weight of disapproval is likely to take a high toll. I like to see that the characters have thought about this, talked about how they will handle it, or in some way recognized that this will be an issue they must face, even if it turns out everyone is ultimately accepting. I guess this just provides the link for me between fantasy and reality that I need.
These aren’t necessarily iron-clad rules. I have read books where the characters don’t all get together until late in the story, or where the plot dynamic differs enough from the typical menage that I am not necessarily looking for these hallmarks. But in general, this is what I like to see to really believe it is a relationship that can work.
So what do you all think? What do you need for a believable menage HEA? Or do you even want one? I’d love to hear your thoughts!