Josh and Benji have been together for several years, but they have always had an open relationship. Benji is the lead singer in a rock band and Josh travels a lot for work and the two are rarely in the same place. But Benji really wants to be exclusive and Josh has fears about closing their relationship and the problem has now caused a rift between them.
Josh has decided to take some time off work and rent a room in a friend’s beach house to have some time to figure things out. But it only gets more complicated when Josh meets sexy bartender, Van Holt. Josh is definitely attracted to Van, but when Benji returns determined to work things out between them, Josh knows he has to let Van go. And Van is not a man who does relationships, especially complicated ones. So knowing that Benji and Josh have a lot to work out between them, he is determined to stay away and let the men sort out their problems.
However, as the guys get to know each other better, it becomes clear that the attraction between Josh and Van is still there and it is becoming hard for both of them to ignore it. For his part, Benji is getting to know Van and realizes he is developing a bond with him as well. And Van is learning that it may be worth the complications to be with these two men. When Benji suggests he and Josh consider expanding their relationship to include Van, the men are surprised and a little wary, but also excited for the opportunity to explore what is growing between them. But making a triad work is not easy, especially for someone like Benji who lives in the public spotlight. Now the men have to figure out if they can transition a partnership into a triad and find happiness among the three of them.
Hot Licks is the third book in A.M. Arthur’s engaging Off Beat series. I have really been enjoying following along with this series and I think this is another great installment. We have met all three characters in previous books, and we have known for a while that Josh and Benji’s relationship has been strained, so it was really interesting to see it explored here in a way I didn’t expect, by transitioning it to a threesome. Overall, while the storyline stands alone reasonably well, there are so many crossover moments among the various characters in the three books, I think you would get much more out of this one knowing the history of the MCs here, as well as other side characters and plot points.
As I mentioned, I think the approach here is interesting, as we take an established couple who is having problems and add a third. I think what makes this work is that despite the fact that Josh and Benji are at odds over whether to close their relationship, we never doubt the love and commitment they have to one another. Even though Josh is wary of closing things, it is not for a lack of commitment to Benji, but a real fear that it would mess things up for them based on some past bad experiences. Josh is tender and caring with Benji and so clearly crazy about him that it immediately made me root for these guys to work it out. I also appreciated how the two men come to some resolution on their own feelings between the two of them before adding in Van. They could have easily been solid on their own, but Van adds a new dimension to their relationship that expands it, rather than “fixing” it.
Arthur does a nice job creating three distinct characters that I believed could work together. It does help that we have met them all before this book, but we also get to know them in much more depth here. I liked that the way these men interact with one another is different among them all, and we can see both the connections among all three, as well as between the pairs. That said, I do feel that Benji and Van’s relationship isn’t quite as well developed as each of their relationships with Josh. Part of that is that Van and Josh are much more sexually active together, but mostly it is that Benji is apart from them a lot, as well as that Josh and Van’s connection comes first and is much more intense then Van’s with Benji. So I did wish for a bit more time seeing Benji and Van developing their relationship together, but overall I found that the threesome works.
I also enjoyed that Arthur explores some interesting dynamics with regards to the men’s sexualities. Early in the story, Benji comes out to Josh as asexual. We see Josh’s initial shock, as these guys have had an active sex life, so he is both surprised as well as worried that he has perhaps pushed Benji into things he didn’t want. Benji is clear that he experiences arousal, as well as deep emotional attraction for Josh, and he has always wanted everything that happened between them. It makes for an interesting dynamic among the three men as Benji is not a guy who can just jump into bed with someone without a lot of time, care, and trust. So while Josh and Van start an intense sexual relationship right away, Benji takes a more spectator role. I liked the way this is all explored, and Arthur shows how these three men work together romantically and sexually in different ways. The other men are very careful with Benji, and at times I felt like they perhaps treated him as a little too fragile. Also, these guys are almost perfectly understanding and react ideally in virtually every situation. I also think they fall for one another awfully fast. It is about a week before they are feeling love and telling Benji’s family. It is hard for me to believe that kind of rapid intensity in just two people, but among three it is even more challenging, so I would have liked to see this all develop over a bit more time. But overall, I found I really loved these guys together and I found their dynamic really engaging.
So this is another great installment in the Off Beat series. I like the way Arthur is connecting the books and developing these characters that we have met along the way. I am hoping that there is more to come (there is at least one bandmate whose story we haven’t heard), as I am finding this a really engaging series.