Rating: 5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Manuel (Manny) Tescadero has a dilemma. He is in love with his best friend and fellow Marine, Kyle Hunter, and is falling in love with librarian Rebecca Sinclair. Manny’s sense of honor would let him pursue one or the other; unfortunately for Manny, he wants them both.
When Rebecca returns home from a month-long assignment, she finds her apartment has been taken over by Manny, her landlady’s grandson who has recently returned from his final tour in Afghanistan. Manny and Rebecca’s attraction to each other is immediate and powerful, despite the circumstances of their meeting. Even though they have only known each other a short time, Manny and Rebecca feel very comfortable together.
Now employed as a helicopter pilot for the rich and elite, Manny is specifically requested for a VIP flight where he encounters Kyle, a man with whom he has unfinished personal business from their days in Afghanistan. Now back home, Kyle has come to realize that his feelings of shame regarding his attraction to Manny in Afghanistan were wrong, and he comes out to his parents to little fanfare. Now that Kyle has admitted he is gay, he wants to make amends to Manny, but when Kyle tries to apologize, he discovers that Manny has apparently moved on, and is now interested in Rebecca. Little does Kyle know, Manny still cares for him, and Manny’s growing attraction to Rebecca has him confused; he wants both Kyle and Rebecca, but is still hurt by Kyle’s unceremonious dumping and afraid of getting involved with anyone else too soon and risking his heart again.
While staying at Kyle’s parent’s estate, and with a lot of convincing on Kyle’s part, Manny and Kyle reconcile, and when the two men are caught making out by Rebecca, all three end up participating in a scorching sexual encounter. After the excitement in the bedroom, Manny admits he still loves Kyle and is falling for Rebecca. Conflicted by his honor and desires, Manny returns to the city and worries whether Rebecca will come back to him and if Kyle will keep Rebecca for himself. Kyle does not see the problem as he would be more than happy to share Manny with Rebecca, like he and Manny had done back in college with other women. Unfortunately, this time Manny feels it is not about having sex, but rather it is about the connection he feels for both Kyle and Rebecca.
Kyle can see how Rebecca has affected his friend and is genuinely happy for Manny, except that he too finds Rebecca desirable. From Rebecca’s perspective however, the gorgeous Kyle Hunter may be hot as hell but Rebecca likens him to a parachute jump: “all intense exhilaration in the name of fun, but better watch it or splat.” At the same time that Manny is having his crisis, Kyle convinces Rebecca of his sincerity for a true loving threesome, not just for the sex, and they hatch a plan to seduce Manny.
The wrench in the plan occurs when their unconventional relationship is unwillingly thrust into the spotlight, throwing their relationship into chaos and affecting their reputations. Without each other, they are incomplete. Kyle was the catalyst that brought them together. Now the three lovers need to decide if their relationship is important enough to fight for, and try to put the puzzle that is Manny, Rebecca, and Kyle back together.
Make Me features three distinct, and likable characters: Manny, Rebecca, and Kyle. Manny Tescadero is a funny, witty, and conflicted hunk of man who knows what he wants: Kyle and Rebecca. He is a softy at heart, and has been burned in love by Kyle, which makes him a bit insecure when it comes to his attraction to Rebecca. Although he has nightmares and does not want to discuss his deployment in detail, I did not feel that he was suffering from PTSD, but rather he is just not the most communicative person out there. Manny feels betrayed by Kyle for his cowardice in Afghanistan. He shows himself to be chivalrous, and views Rebecca as a “good girl,” and because of that perception of Rebecca, he feels guilt for wanting Rebecca and still loving Kyle. Despite his strong sense of honor, which is rigidly defined and conflicts with his needs, Manny cannot let go of the possibility of having his cake and eating it too.
At first, Rebecca appears sweet and driven, with a little aggression under the surface. I liked how early on in the story, we are treated to Rebecca’s internal musings which are funny and sound so natural and authentic. I also liked how Rebecca’s behavior mirrored what we all do in life, especially when faced with some serious eye candy: take a long hard look and commit every detail to memory for future contemplation. When it turns out that the eye candy she was admiring on the street is the man now occupying her apartment, her attraction goes on the back burner due to her frustration with having lost her apartment. The way that Rebecca deals with this drastic turn of events shows us that she is strong, stubborn, independent, yet strangely trusting. She realizes that she needs to loosen up and let go. Life is uncertain, eat dessert first — in this case she sees Manny as dessert. Rebecca is a bit impulsive, but understands that Manny needs the time he asked for to get over his broken heart. Rebecca is the type of person who pays attention and notices the small details about others, such as Manny’s twitching nose when he is stressed. I also really liked how in one scene she gets the song Beat It stuck in her head. I can totally relate to having a song get stuck in my head as it happens to me all the time, and so this strengthened the rapport I felt for her character. But Rebecca has fantasies of her own, and the voyeur crosses the line to participant, a gradual process where she works through the challenges and stigmas of a threesome.
Kyle comes out to his parents as gay, but is actually bisexual, like Manny. Sadly, Kyle finds it easier to explain being gay to his parents instead of the truth. Kyle is simple in this respect, he just wants what he wants: Manny, and by extension Rebecca. Kyle regrets ending things with Manny in Afghanistan after they were caught in a compromising position and has been miserable since. In some respects, Kyle is the brave one, the catalyst for change, the one who is honest in his desires and willing to make the effort to succeed. At the same time, he is a coward, afraid to stand up to his mother Olivia, a Senator who is running for re-election. He wants it all and that includes Rebecca. Kyle shows himself to be selfless and caring, open to the possibilities and willing to work at it.
Whether they like it or not, their history and longing for each other is too strong to let Kyle’s betrayal keep Manny and Kyle apart. There is also absolutely no question about the chemistry between Manny and Rebecca, and Rebecca and Kyle. The puzzle pieces are close to fitting together. The core conflict in Make Me is Manny, who finds that both Rebecca and Kyle fulfill different needs for him. Manny sees so many similarities between Rebecca and Kyle and his feelings for both are strong and he can’t make a decision as to which he wants more. It was cute when Rebecca admits that seeing Manny and Kyle together was hot and that she wanted to watch and showed yet another dimension to her character, the “good girl” librarian with a man-on-man kink. Kyle’s quote about being bisexual was telling of Kyle’s character:
“Straight guy with a man-crush? A gay guy who still likes women? Maybe it’s just Manny that has me switching teams.” He threw his hands up. “Who cares what you call it. I just know what I want.”
Manny’s fear that someone will get hurt prevents him from fully accepting what is being offered by Rebecca and Kyle because really, he figures that he will be the loser in the end. Manny’s mindset is understandable and interestingly enough, Rebecca has similar concerns and is the one who identifies that the three of them need to discuss the relationship and boundaries. Kyle also begins to have doubts, not about the relationship, but about the power play between the three and realizes that the talk about setting boundaries should have happened sooner.
I am always happy when I come across a novel that has realistic characters with depth and flaws that mirror real-life. I was also impressed with the secondary characters. Most were, for the most part, well-formed and had just enough depth to avoid being two dimensional. A few exceptions like Thomas, Olivia’s assistant, lacked depth but since those exceptions were more like tertiary characters, the missing depth was irrelevant. The cover art was also perfect and super-hot, with great looking men and a gorgeous redhead which caught my eye immediately. Turner also used clever euphemisms like “thirty-toe fiesta” to describe the sex between Manny, Rebecca, and Kyle and the writing, storyline and editing were all top-notch. The sex scenes were scorching hot between Manny, Rebecca and Kyle whether they were together as three, or in pairs.
If there were ever three people destined to be together, in one way or another, Manny, Rebecca, and Kyle fit the bill perfectly. The tension and longing is palatable between the three of them and Turner’s take on bisexuality and ménage could possibly change the perception some people have and may help to eliminate some of the misconceptions associated with both bisexuality and multiple partner relationships. The end result is a story that exemplifies the love three people have for one another, regardless of their sex. Make Me should be an example for all of us: to live life with no regrets, love freely, and realize that sometimes the risk is worth it.