A heart-warming and entertaining poly romance story about marriage bonds, friendship, and the endless supply of love we all carry in our hearts.
According to the rumors, Ainsley is a prostitute. To escape the meddling ways of their families, Ainsley and his husband Graham move to a new town where they hope to find peace. Ainsley spends his days worrying if Graham’s decision to marry him was the right one, and he is devoted to giving Graham the life he deserves.
Andrew Croften has never been one to settle down, despite how desperately he seeks companionship. His romantic life is a series of half-flung flings that earned him the title of ‘home wrecker’ and his professional life is haunted by his long-term bully. But when he visits his friends’ party and meets the charming and adorable Ainsley, he devises a plan to steal him away from his husband.
Yet Croften finds himself drawing closer to Graham as well, especially as Graham’s brother and Croften’s bully are intent on causing chaos in their lives. Perhaps three heads (or rather hearts) are better than two.
I decided to give Devotion by author Anna Denisch a shot. Based on the blurb, I was intrigued by the idea of a story that featured the advent of a poly relationship. As I started to read, it became clear that this was going to be a contentious kind of get together. That is immediately conveyed in multiple ways. First, Croften hears and apparently believes the rumors that Ainsley is a former prostitute. Second, Ainsley is utterly dedicated to his husband, just as Graham is besotted with Ainsley, and Croften is seeking to claim Ainsley for himself. As far as set-ups go, it creates a pretty high bar to clear for these three to end up in a polyamorous arrangement all together. But it’s exactly when things start to shift towards poly that the story takes a nosedive.
One of my biggest disappointments in this story is how awful a person Croften is. I have read and really enjoyed stories about truly terrible people. But there is nothing but pure selfish intent motivating Croften. He literally goes from disparaging Ainsley as a whore to deciding he is in love with that same man moments after meeting him. From that point until I stopped reading at about 40% of the way in, Croften is practically hysterical with intent to steal Ainsley away from his husband. It doesn’t matter that Ainsley is married, that he seems to be happily married, or that he even tells Croften he loves his husband. Strangely, Croften also makes multiple mentions to the rumor that Ainsley was a prostitute TO Ainsley himself. I failed to understand how that was supposed to do anything to build a rapport between Croften and Ainsley. To be blunt, I thought Croften was a perfect asshole and wondered how Ainsley could stand the jerk. Not a ringing endorsement of one of the main characters.
As far as poly developments go, there were none to speak of in the first 40% of the book. As I mentioned, there’s unrequited lust/love from Crofton directed towards Ainsley. We get strong inklings that Ainsley may have or could easily develop at least sexual interest in Croften. This was further complicated by learning that Ainsley is not romantically invested in his husband. He is devoted to Graham because Graham apparently cut himself off from his family for Ainsley’s sake, but Ainsley is apparently not sexually or romantically attracted to the man he has married. And yet, to the extent I read, Ainsley was absolutely not going to engage with Croften beyond friendship because Graham was very vocal about how much he did NOT want his husband to see Croften. So there is attraction from Croften for Ainsley. Ainsley might have been open to something with Croften if it wouldn’t break his Graham’s heart. And Graham only has eyes for Ainsley for almost the first half of the book.
Apart from a sorely disappointing MC and a poly thread that hadn’t developed into anything yet, I was simply turned off by Denisch’s prose. As I started reading, the story seems to set in some vague bygone era of carriages and butlers, dinner parties and summering with friends at their fancy houses. However, we also learn that same-sex marriages are common place in this world, so I was surprised at this alternate history twist. Still, that wasn’t nearly as jarring as the way Croften talks. His voice simply does not fit into any sort of civil society and is utterly brimming with phrases I thought were ridiculously modern and it started to bleed into the non-dialogue parts. The line that clinched this idea for me was when Croften states, “I think he’s some kind of like, eccentric old guy. The kind that’s got a fuck ton of money and no fucks to give.” There was also the line about how Ainsley was “more than just a hot employer [Croften] wanted to bang.”
By the time I gave up, there was a hint of a whiff of Graham maybe not hating Croften as the man who lusted after Ainsley. For me, that glacial pace of so-called development just wasn’t enough of an enticement to put up with a character as loathsome as Croften. The character’s behavior and speech grated, and the more I read, the more I felt like the tone of the prose simply did not mesh with the ostensible historical setting. Maybe other readers will have the wherewithal to make it over the hump and enjoy the promised story about the “endless love…in our hearts,” but it was conspicuously absent from my perspective.