Tea for Three by Anne Douglas

Why I read it:  This book was recommended to my by one of my Twitter friends when we were having a discussion about m/m/f menage stories, so I went and bought it.

What it’s about: (from author’s website)   Straight, gay or in between, turning thirty’s never easy.

Craig wonders just where his life is heading. His relationship with Jack is satisfying, to say the least. But deep down, he sometimes still craves the soft touches of a woman.

Something’s bugging Craig, and Jack knows it. Some sort of pre midlife crisis that he just can’t understand. The sex is hot and demanding. Their home life is comfortable without being too familiar. But he just can’t help feeling he might be about to lose the love of his life.

Then they meet lovely, loyal and slightly broken Wren Browne. It doesn’t take long to realize, they might have just have found the solution to both of their problems.

Love isn’t tidy or simple; it doesn’t come packaged in neat little boxes. And sometimes you have to set the table with tea for three.

What worked for me (and what didn’t): If there are two men and one woman in a romance, my personal preference is that it is an m/m/f rather than an m/f/m story.  I have enjoyed m/f/m stories but I think they work better where there is a sexual connection between all three parties – it has something to do with my sense of equality I think.   When GrowlyCub said that she thought this book was one of the better examples of the genre, I couldn’t resist.  I didn’t end up liking it as much as she did, but I did enjoy it.

Craig and Jack are in a committed relationship when they meet Wren Browne.  Craig has just turned thirty and is having a kind of mid-life crisis.  Both he and Jack are bisexual but have a preference for men.  Craig wonders what life would be like with a traditional marriage and children.  To be honest, this part of the set up worked the least for me.  I had as much trouble as Jack did trying to understand what Craig’s motivation was.  When Jack meets Wren again some months later, he gets to know her in a business context and he comes to like her, enjoy her company and develops a physical attraction for her as well.  The trio start hanging out together and all of those mutual attractions grow.

Wren was injured in a car accident when she was fifteen and walks with the assistance of a cane.  She has scars down the left side of her body and she feels very self-conscious about them and has had the experience of being relegated to the “friend-zone” by potential boyfriends after they’ve seen the marks on her body.  Wren feels safe with the guys because she believes they are gay and there is no pressure on her to be attractive or try and catch their attention.  She is described as a larger woman, but perfectly proportioned (whatever that means).  She usually wears baggy suits and shapeless clothes, being uncomfortable with her body in many ways.  Both Craig and Jack are very attracted to Wren despite the baggy clothes and they think her body is beautiful and attractive and their only care about her scars is that they’re sorry she had to suffer the pain they indicate.

When the boys propose a night of sex – all three of them, Wren is both incredibly turned on and worried.  As she is a virgin.  Actually this made sense in the context of the story.  She was in the hospital for a long time after the accident and her disability put the brakes on her dating life so she’s never met anyone who’s lasted long enough to have sex with.  She’s only a technical virgin though – she has a healthy solo sex life, including various toys.  I appreciated this very much.  It’s nice to see a woman enjoying masturbation in fiction without being all guilty about it. Wren was fairly confident sexually, notwithstanding her lack of experience and she’s got plenty of ideas from all the erotic romance she reads – her favourite category being menage.

The evening goes so well, all three want a repeat but there is uncertainty about where the relationship is going.  Will Wren be an occasional “special guest star” or could there be more?

It is only after Jack and Craig agree and then approach Wren and propose a permanent menage relationship that any discussion of Wren’s father really appears.  Fortunately, he’s a liberal hippie type so he’s surprisingly accepting of his little girl being the meat in a Jack and Craig sandwich.  While it is acknowledged that it is likely that Wren will face more judgement as a result of the relationship, there isn’t any actually present in the book so it did seem quite fairytale-ish to me.

There is a fairly brief discussion about how things are going to work but it is conducted where the parties are either naked or intent on getting everyone naked so it wasn’t as detailed as I would have liked.  Yes, things were discussed but it was very brief and not terribly deep.

The sex was pretty hot although the kind of double penetration they engage in at the end seemed a little sudden and I would have thought it needed a LOT more preparation and specific consent from Wren frankly – because it did not seem comfortable.  Also, there was forgotten condomage at this point and that was disappointing.

I also wondered how Wren felt about being described as “cushie” – there was a part where she stiffened at this term but it was never really examined further than that in the story.

The boys do take care that Wren is comfortable and try and make sure that her hip is not positioned so as to cause pain during sex, but the boys don’t think of her as disabled, which I appreciated.

I liked the New Zealand setting and how they drove on the proper side of the road etc.  The book is fairly short (it showed up as 80 pages on my reader) and it was fairly pricey at $5.99.  So, maybe pick it up when it’s on special?

Grade:  C+



2 comments on “Tea for Three by Anne Douglas

  1. AJH

    I was actually hanging around on Twitter when this book was discussed, and I added it to my tbr-eventually pile … and now I might take it off again. Err, not because your review was deeply off-putting or anything, but because it doesn’t sound like the sort thing I’d be particularly into.

    I mean, firstly I think there are *other* reasons to get into a menage than “sigh, I miss the heteronormative lifestyle, don’t you boyfriend” and also I guess it’s something that *is* into fantasy territory for a lot of people, but for me I’d like the politics of it actually engaged. Since actually full-time menage type relationships take lots and lots of work. I know this is me basically complaining the book isn’t more like I’d want it to be, which is unfair, but all the same, I suspect I’d be better off not reading it.

  2. Kaetrin

    @AJH: well, yes, that part of the set up worked the least for me. I would rather they met Wren and found something special in her they wanted to pursue rather than this idea of “I miss women”. That seemed to play into a number of stereotypes about bisexual people but I’m not at all an expert in the area.

    This type of story is complete fantasy for me. I know no-one in this type of relationship (well, I don’t think I do, no-one’s told me about it anyway). The few people I know on line who are polyamorous don’t all live together. As I understand it (it’s not something we’ve had deep and thorough discussions about – very difficult in 140 characters in any event!), they have a husband and perhaps a girlfriend or boyfriend on the side. The girl/boyfriend isn’t in a relationthip with the husband, those relationships are separate. And perhaps the husband has a girl/boyfriend too. From my *cough* thorough *cough* research (which consists entirely of asking once or twice on Twitter) I gather that the type of menage depicted in this book is really really rare.

    That said, I do wonder how trios work the practical things out and I’m kind of fascinated by it because it strikes me as something very difficult to manage well – many romance books don’t really go into the mechanics however – a lot of them are just about how they all get together. There was one I read last year maybe (?) – which had a main character unfortunately named “Dag” – wherein they had some discussions about how things were going to work (which I liked) but even that had a “and the rest, we’ll sort out as we go” kind of thing.

    It sounds like my review did it’s job though, because it’s helped you decide whether the book might be for you or not so I’ll count that as a win 🙂

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