Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
I think I had bought and read 3 about six hours after it was available for purchase. There are a couple of reasons for this: 1) Have you seen the cover? Delicious. And 2) I love a good menage. And damn it if Jacob Z. Flores didn’t inadvertently smack me upside the head and make me see that my smutty plans were going to be thwarted by a much deeper, issue-driven story than I anticipated. Since I read this book a few months ago, I decided to read it again before I reviewed it. And I’m really happy that I did. While I enjoyed it the first time around, I was caught up in my defeated expectations (see: smut), and didn’t give it a true chance. Now I can accurately tell you why you should buy and read this book, whether you’re a fan of threesomes or not.
Justin Jimenez is trolling for action one night in a bar. When his friend, Xavier, points out the next man he is challenging Justin to take home for the night, Justin is instead mesmerized by the man standing next to him and abandons all his inhibitions to walk up to him and kiss him as the new year counts down in the background. This magic is just the beginning of a powerful relationship between Justin and Spencer, who spend the next ten years together. Several years later, Justin receives a phone call in the middle of the night from a stranger, who gives him some terrible news that throws Justin and Spencer’s relationship into a tailspin. This news involves Dutch, a man both have been attracted to and with whom Justin had a short but intense affair while Spencer was out of the country.
I read m/m/m romances because I’m fascinated by the complexity of a relationship between three people. In the case of 3, Flores deals with the intricacies of three people coming together and deciding to stay together in a very realistic way. The first time I read it, I was frustrated that they didn’t immediately fall into each other’s arms and proclaim their undying love for each other. However, the second time through I was able to see that Flores was deftly recounting the break down of one relationship and the inclusion of a third based on true connection and circumstances that bound them together.
Justin and Spencer’s relationship starts to unravel when they become involved in Cyber, a social networking site that allows them to explore online relationships with other men without the “cheating” of actual physical intimacy. It is not surprising when they both become so involved with the online scene that their relationship suffers. When Spencer asks Justin to stop and he refuses, Spencer decides to get some space by teaching in London for a few months. This is when Justin’s relationship with Dutch, an online friend, intensifies. Some people might find the cheating aspect of this novel a reason to dislike it. I found this aspect of the plot particularly realistic. How often do people become so wrapped up in their online lives that they neglect their real life ones? How difficult is it to draw the line between flirting with “friends,” and taking it to the next level? And how easy is it to lose the connection with the one you love because you’re not putting enough time and energy into cultivating it? Instead of fighting for Spencer, Justin turns to Dutch, and finds himself in love with two men.
The road to bring these three together is not an easy one. We get only a few scenes of a relationship between the three of them. (Note to Jacob Z. Flores: Sequel, please!) But the chemistry between the rotating sets of couples is apparent. It is not difficult to believe that they are all drawn to one another in some way, and the sex scenes between them are extremely hot. I thought that all three characters were well-developed and their motivations clear, which is often a difficult achievement in a menage book.
This is not to say that this book is without flaws. It has some pretty serious ones. Flores tells the story in a maddening series of flashbacks and flashforwards that lead to confusion and frustration. As soon as the story seems to be getting somewhere, it jumps to a different character in a different time period and you’re left reeling. I think the story would’ve been a better one without the jumps in time. Each of the characters also has an inner voice that counsels them for good or bad throughout the novel. For Spencer, his womanizing, homophobic father is the voice inside his head. For Justin, it was a variety of people. I found this to be an annoying way of expressing the motivations of the characters rather than letting their actions speak for themselves. And Flores also uses some Harlequin romance-esque descriptions in his sex scenes that I found really distracting. There’s nothing that takes me out of a scene quicker than an engorged rod or straining piece of meat. Just give me a good hard cock any day. And yes, I meant that the way it sounded.
Overall, I liked what Flores was doing with this story, and it helped me to overlook some of the weaknesses and enjoy it for the complex novel that it was. I think, if you give it a chance, you’ll feel the same way.