Ethan has just gotten divorced and is moving into a new apartment building. On his first day, he meets Lucas, and there are some sparks between them, but Ethan is not ready for dating. However, he and Lucas agree to be friends and they get along well. Lucas doesn’t have much time for dating anyway, as his boss is unbearable and Lucas is stressed and miserable at his job. Connor also lives in the building and ends up finding both Ethan and Lucas on an app. While Ethan isn’t interested in more than friendship, Connor and Lucas do get together and heat flares between them.
The three men begin to build friendships and connections as pairs, and eventually realize that they all know one another. It leads to a chance for a growing friendship among all three. The men are there to support Lucas with his job stress, and to be there for Ethan as he deals with issues with his father. Soon, Ethan, Connor, and Lucas realize that what started out as a friendship has turned into a chance for a real romance for all three of them.
Spare Time is the third book in E.M. Denning’s The Trouble with Triads series. All the books feature different trios and stand alone (and as far as I can tell, there are no crossover characters). This one has a kind of friends-to-lovers vibe, as while these guys are just meeting at the start of the book, things really begin as friendship for them (or at least friendship with a side of sex in Connor and Lucas’ case). Ethan isn’t ready to explore more at first, as he is still dealing with the aftermath of his divorce. So the men start out in a series of friendship as pairs, until they realize that all know one another and share an attraction. It does take a little time for Ethan to want to move things forward, but Denning does a nice job making the progression feel organic as the men get to know one another and then it grows into more.
I liked how the story explores some issues for the men, giving a little more depth to the characters. For example, Ethan is dealing with his divorce, as well as some complicated feelings about his father. His dad has dementia and doesn’t remember him at all, but he hated Ethan for being gay and things were bad between them prior to his dad losing his memory. So Ethan struggles with both feeling sad about his father’s condition and wanting to be a good son, but also the pain of knowing how badly his father treated him. Lucas is dealing with a toxic boss and the resulting stress from his job. Things are compounded by an old back injury that still gives him trouble from his college days. Lucas was in a bad car accident and lost a lot of time in recovery. He has long felt like he is behind his peers and needs to push to catch up to everyone, which is adding to his job stress. So I appreciated the way Denning fleshes out these characters and gives them some issues that they can work through as a triad.
One thing Denning has done in all the books in this series that really helps is keep a consistent rotation of POV chapters. It helps a lot with three main characters to always know whose POV is next and it makes it easier to adjust from one chapter to the next. That said, I still found myself often struggling to keep track of who was who, particularly in the beginning. The guys just felt very similar to me, particularly as they all meet at the same time and live in the same building. Ethan was easiest to remember, as he felt more distinct to me for some reason, but I did often have to remind myself who was who as I read. Also, while Ethan and Lucas are given some distinguishing conflicts to deal with, Connor’s character is not particularly developed. He is a nice guy, and we learn he has a twin, but aside from that, I don’t feel like I know him at all and he seems mostly a supporting character to the other two.
Overall, I found this one a nice friends-to-lovers style romance. The three men are a nice fit together and there is a sweetness to their connection that I liked. This is a fairly low-angst story and this series is a nice choice for fans of poly romance.