The Love Study, Book #3
Heat Factor: Things really get going…and the door closes
Character Chemistry: They have a very playful relationship
Plot: Mason has a vision for his future that includes a lot of “traditional” life moments, which is all thrown into turmoil when he falls for polyamorous – and married – Diego
Overall: This book did exactly what I was hoping it would do, so success! As for the rest – at the end of the day it comes down to: Is choosing the person or the living situation more important?
I absolutely picked up this book because it includes a romance in a polyamorous V relationship, and the main character who was not previously polyamorous had a vision for his future that included marriage, kids, and a house in the suburbs. So my goal going into this read is to feel like there’s a satisfying conclusion to this romantic story when one partner started out really wanting marriage, etc., while the other partner is already happily married. Tell me a happy story, Kris Ripper!
Most of the time, as I was reading, I had a number of questions floating around in my head. What is really important to Mason? What does he want because that’s the story he’s been telling himself vs. what will truly make him happy and satisfied with his life? There is a metric ton of stuff to unpack here, and I’m not going to unpack it all right now. But it was extremely engaging.
In terms of the romance, it’s a gentle, lifelike portrayal of, uh, responsible dating. Both Mason and Diego have a lot of big feels early on, but they both navigate their feelings in the context of a new relationship and what’s reasonable after only a couple months. No fast-paced, whirlwind courtship here. Their flirting, while probably extremely similar to the way I would flirt in real life (let’s be honest), was playful and silly and totally worked for them, but I didn’t click with it, so it wasn’t a swoony relationship for me.
In terms of the substance of the book and the hero’s journey, this book is a thoughtful exploration of what a polyamorous V relationship might be. Here, we can ask, “Was my reading goal met?” And I can say that it was. I wouldn’t say this was an emotionally thrilling book, but it did exactly what I was hoping it would do, and that was a positive reading experience for me. It interrogates a number of common social assumptions and makes not only Mason but also the reader consider what is important in the happiness a person seeks and why we believe certain things to be important. It’s not very messy. Everyone has really good skills with addressing boundaries and owning their feelings and actions and just generally being responsible.
In terms of the text, the story is told from Mason’s 1st POV and it’s a thoughtful, even-keeled narrative voice. BUT the thing I really enjoyed about it was Mason’s propensity for describing things in title case. It’s delightfully evocative and unique and gives playful little moments to an otherwise earnest text. I’ll also say that Mason is a historical romance reader and a huge Georgette Heyer fan, which I found interesting on account of everything else in the book being so careful but then no caveat about Georgette Heyer being horribly anti-semitic, among other things. This book is also gamer friendly – Mason and his friends love their video games.
Now, let’s boil the whole thing down. I’m not getting into specifics, but the following could be considered spoilery, so fair warning: after the separator, I will be discussing (in broad terms) the conclusion of the book.
We see the third act breakup coming a mile away, but it happens early in the 3rd act so Mason really has time to process and make life choices that will ultimately benefit him long term and that don’t only center on his relationship status. This worked really well. At the same time, I was a little eyebrows furrowed thinking, “Diego, Mason has never even been interested in polyamory before he met you. Do you honestly think that he’s going to have a seamless transition with no blowout fights or second thoughts or confused feels?” There is a lot of holding people accountable for their feelings in this book…but people still have the feelings. And, as the blurb makes pretty clear, the central hangup for Mason is marriage. Mason wants marriage, kids, house in the suburbs. Now, it is possible to have a happy, successful, long-term relationship that does not include marriage (or kids, or a house in the suburbs). Absolutely. But the parties involved have to want that, so Mason has a decision to make. (Hello, plot!) I’m still turning this over in my head, and I’d be interested to hear other perspectives on what’s happening here, but where I currently sit, I’m not sure Diego got me to a place where I agreed that his marriage isn’t significant. Not that he’s not totally sincere or they can’t make it work. He is and they can. But Diego is married. Diego has chosen to stay married. Diego refers to his spouse as his wife in conversation. Diego’s marriage is a real thing in Diego’s life. No matter which way they cut it (current laws being what they are, at least), Mason will not be Diego’s husband.
I felt like Mason really needed a solution to the problem of his desire to be outwardly chosen by Diego, but Diego focused on solutions for achieving the long-term life goals that they both wanted and brushed off his marriage as just a thing that happened in his life that doesn’t carry more weight than anything else. It’s very easy to say that other people’s thoughts about a relationship don’t matter, and that’s very true, but people introduce their partners to other people in social situations all the time – Diego refers to Claris as his wife in conversation all the time – and refusing to acknowledge that the words being used during that introduction (or conversation) carry weight and meaning and can be impactful to one’s feelings is… willfully ignorant? The focus of this argument centered on Diego assuring Mason that one of his relationships would not have more weight or value than the other, which is certainly important for Mason to believe and understand, but I got the sense that Mason also needed to hear that he would be Diego’s partner, would have a title that carried significance.
This is one of those spaces where getting into the weeds is probably not something an author needs to do for the sake of the story, but at the same time some acknowledgement to the reader would be helpful. Diego’s marriage has legal ramifications that could/would impact Mason in a long-term relationship. Diego’s choice of verbiage when describing his partners to others is impactful. (And this is not just A Thing that only applies here – I just read an article discussing what people are calling their long-term monogamous partners whom they never plan to marry because “boyfriend”/“girlfriend” doesn’t feel right. Slash I also used to supervise staff who got really invested in their job titles.) A nod to this would have made it feel less like Diego was simply brushing off the real and significant aspects of his being married, particularly when that component is so central to the conflict. Are they able to dig down to what they both really want in their futures and see a fulfilling future together? Yes. Definitely. Does Mason get a solution for his desire to be publicly acknowledged as Diego’s chosen person?
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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