The year is 1987. In search of a little dirty talk, Marc makes a phone call that will change his forever. Rather than getting off, he winds up having an actual conversation with a college student named Bart…who is not gay and uninterested in phone sex, but IS interested in talking with the older man. A friendship begins between them and Marc and Bart began talking every day, and their feelings grow deeper. When they finally meet in person, the men become even closer. Soon, even though Bart identifies as straight, he and Marc confess they’re in love and begin a sexual relationship.
With Marc’s approval and encouragement, Bart meets a woman named Leslie and he begins a relationship with her, as well as with Marc. Soon Bart admits to Marc he’s in love with Leslie, as well as with Bart. This goes on for six months until Leslie moves from Arizona to California. Bart misses her, but he still has Marc and occasional one night stands with women.
However, Bart is an actor and when he gets a role on a soap opera, he and Marc make a move to LA and live together. When they happen to run into Leslie, she and Bart pick up where they left off. Once again, Bart is having a loving relationship with both Marc and Leslie. Soon, the three make a decision that will impact all their lives forever. They all move in together and begin a polyamorous relationship. Leslie and Marc are in love with Bart, and are becoming dear friends with each other as well.
What follows is the story of love, marriage, jobs, judgement by the public, and even a baby. Through it all, the three are certain of one thing: their little family just works.
Now, I know this story is a little different from what I usually read. In fact, I expected something different when I read the blurb. I made assumptions that turned out to be totally wrong. But, I decided to stick with it, and I am not sorry I did. Design for Loving turned out to be a somewhat complicated, but excellent story about a unique kind of love that follows Bart, Marc, and Leslie for a ten-year period of their lives.
I liked all three of the MCs. Leslie was a nonjudgmental woman who loves a man…who loves another man. She has a life of her own as a college professor. She isn’t a cuddler and doesn’t care for Bart’s snoring, so she gladly sends him to Marc’s room after their time together. Now Marc…I cared deeply for that man. He was older than Bart by eleven years, but didn’t care about the age difference. He actually encouraged Bart to go out and explore his sexuality. He shows incredible patience and, despite his love for Bart, acknowledges Bart will eventually meet a woman and fall in love. Marc’s unsure of the role he’ll play after that happens. He’s selflessly willing to give up Bart in order to make him happy. I think his vulnerability really shows here.
Bart considers himself straight. Marc is the only man Bart is attracted to, and it’s because they are so connected and in love. At first, the idea of being sexually attracted to a man makes him a bit panicky, but once he lets that go, he becomes a completely different person. I enjoyed reading about his journey from college student, to daytime sex symbol, to being in love with two people, and finally wanting to let the world know about that love because he’s completely unashamed by it.
Quite frankly, the author’s writing style was pitch perfect for a book like this. It’s all told from Marc’s POV, and that was a relief. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the story, and it would have been difficult to follow if different chapters were told from different POVs. Speaking of chapters, they flowed smoothly…no jumping around. I was always aware of where I was, who was in a scene, and where everything took place. The dialogue was spot on…clear, concise, and real. The subject matter was handled nicely. The relationship between Marc, Bart, and Leslie is not a common one, and rather than just throwing themselves into it, they sat and actually communicated. They didn’t take their decision lightly, and they were upfront with their friends and family. Again, that was a great choice from the author. Time was taken, and it wasn’t just all about sex. It could have easily turned into one big sex scene, but while the book is very sexy, it’s also tasteful and there is no unnecessary sex for sex’s sake.
I loved how the story followed our MCs through ten years of their lives. People change and grow, and Bart, Marc, and Leslie certainly did that. Not everything was moonlight and roses, and those issues were portrayed in a very real manner. The ending comes at a perfect time. Their lives have come full circle. They’re secure in their relationship, and they don’t give a damn if not everybody approves. I was left with a feeling of hope, but also satisfaction. Everything was as it should be.
I highly recommend Design for Loving. It’s unique, very interesting, and full of love of all kinds. Do yourself a favor and pick it up.