Rating: 4.75 stars
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The Foster Family takes us on a journey of self-discovery and shows us that through adversity, pain, and eventually understanding, love can triumph.
Kerry Grey, a college dropout and former foster child with a fondness for profanity, has finally realized that his “straight” fuck buddy, Andrew, is just using him for sex and nothing more. Disgusted with himself after Andrew snubs him at a party, Kerry gets drunk at the beach and passes out in the sand. The following morning, joggers Malcom (Mal) and Charles (Charlie) find Kerry on the beach and offer him a place to shower and a change of clothes. On their way to Mal and Charlie’s house, they travel through the men’s back yard where Kerry expresses his admiration and delight with Charlie’s garden.
Kerry returns home to discover that his wallet, phone, and keys are missing and that someone used his keys to break into his house. The perpetrator stole his roommate’s valuables and destroyed all of Kerry’s possessions, leaving him homeless.
While Kerry and his boss Lissa are discussing this fiasco, Mal shows up to talk about having Kerry work in his yard and the attraction is evident between the two men. Kerry is intrigued enough meet with Mal to see what he has to offer. At the house, Mal immediately begins to interrogate Kerry about his past and when confronted, Mal tells Kerry that his goal is to vet Kerry and determine his suitability as a bedmate for Charlie. Initially shocked by the question and where it is leading, Kerry asks Mal why he is not enough for Charlie and although Kerry is given an answer, he believes there is more to it than what he is being told. Kerry’s first instinct is to run, but the prospect of sex with Charlie and possibly Mal is too appealing.
Kerry eventually overcomes his reticence, leaves Andrew, and moves into Mal and Charlie’s home where he is given the spare room, but the tension and frustration between Mal and Charlie leave Kerry confused about where he stands. When he calls his last and best foster parent, Nash, to give him an update and find out how he is, Kerry discovers that Nash needs his help and decides to fly to Seattle to lend his support the only man who was there for him growing up.
With Kerry in Seattle, Mal and Charlie are worried that he may not return and, even if he does, wonder if he will he still interested in exploring relationship them. Kerry must look inward and decide if his feelings for Mal and Charlie are strong enough to overcome the lack of communication and tension he felt in the household between the two men before he left. And when Kerry then finds out that Andrew has possibly put his health in jeopardy, he needs to set any decision about Mal and Charlie aside to focus on himself.
This is a character driven novel whose three main characters and many secondary characters are engaging, complex, and dynamic. Each of them is flawed and I had a hard time putting the book down, I was so curious to know if they could overcome the obstacles holding them apart.
There is just something about Kerry that I love! A former foster child who has made his way into the world with a battered sense of self-esteem, he is the type of person you could imagine befriending. He has a foul mouth, a self-deprecating sense of humor, and I could only imagine the trouble we would get up to. Kerry is very much a “what you see is what you get” individual and so even though Kerry is the main character, Mal and Charlie are by far more intriguing and complex characters in the book.
Mal and Charlie have been together for 15 years. They show themselves to be incredibly complex, both as a couple and as individuals. Mal, a Dom, who at first glance appears to be fair and balanced with a no nonsense attitude, turns out to be fragile and self-aware enough to know that his relationship with Charlie is teetering on the brink of failure. Charlie, with his contradictory behavior, needing both to be dominated and to be in control, adds to the confusion. Mal’s hope is that the addition of a third will give Charlie do what he needs to be happy, but his actions made me wonder what Charlie and Mal really needed. Mal says he does it for Charlie’s benefit, thinking that Charlie needs more than he can offer, but he ends up being the one who gets emotionally attached, then hurt when the attempt fails.
What impressed me about the characters is that their behavior and issues are realistic. Communication between Kerry, Mal, and Charlie is stunted; Kerry thinks he knows best; and Lissa, Nash, and David’s advice and support for Kerry adds to their depth. Other secondary characters are also well developed and believable, whether it is Chad, the receptionist at Charlie’s work and his Manga and lackadaisical attitude, or Leslie, Charlie’s boss, whose goal is to keep Charlie under her thumb. All of the supporting players increase the feeling of family and community within the story.
Jaime Samms has written some complex and engaging characters with hidden depths, strengths, and flaws. The few things that did not makes sense to me in the plot were addressed in time and the story was told in the first person POV and was easy to follow as the tone of the writing for each of the characters was distinctive and consistent. There are some wicked funny lines delivered by Charlie at his work and the flow of the story was smooth and easy to follow.
If you picked this book based on the cover and are expecting some hot M/M/M action, you will be in for a surprise. The few sex scenes in The Foster Family are truly secondary to the characters’ needs to figure out their relationship and come to terms and accept themselves. The scenes are intense and powerful and work perfectly within the context of the story.
Overall, this was a fun, fast paced read that was well written and edited. The story concept skirted the various genres and worked with a softer variation on the D/s and ménage lifestyles, which was refreshing and showed show life is not always black and white.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.