Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Conflicts of Interest by Nulli Para Ora
Where to Buy:
Barnes & Noble
This is as much a relationship study as it is a novel. Perhaps more so in many ways since the bulk of the story involves a very honest and realistic look at the various relationship dynamics that need to be addressed and worked out when adding a third person into an established two person relationship. Curiously though, despite the story being solely about the three main characters and how they come together and make things work, we don't necessarily learn that much about who they are as individuals.
Vasily is a vampire and a high priced sex worker in a rather exclusive bordello. He spends the majority of his evenings pleasuring the women who pay for his services, all the while imagining that he's with his lover Jacob instead. His devotion to Jacob is absolute, to the point that he's even willing to share him with Sara when Jacob discovers that she is his destined mate because he can't stand to see Jacob suffering without her. He also finds himself strangely attracted to her even though he's never felt any particular attraction to a woman in the past.
Jacob is a lion shifter and a paramedic. He is as devoted to Vasily as Vasily is to him, and his initial reaction when he first catches scent of his mate is to do his utmost to deny the pull it has on him. This quickly proves to be impossible, however, and within a few weeks time he's a total wreck over it and is forced to give into the inevitable and at least meet her. Torn between his deep seated love for Vasily and the undeniable biological attraction he has to Sara, his life quickly becomes a huge balancing act as he seeks to find a way to satisfy both his desires and his needs without going insane or losing the people who mean the most to him.
Sara is the human that is Jacob's destined mate. She first meets Vasily when her friends gift her a series of sessions with him to help her get over a recent nasty breakup. It is through this meeting that Jacob learns she's his mate when he smells her on Vasily later that evening. Though initially very reluctant to get involved with anyone else, or indeed to get very involved with life in general, she does manage to regain much of her self-confidence by the time Vasily and Jacob finally approach her with the information about her being Jacob's mate. Still, while she's not wholly unsympathetic to Jacob's predicament, she's far from ready to get involved in another serious relationship still, especially one that to her mind will involve her being cheated on regularly since Jacob makes it clear from the start that he has no intentions of ending his relationship with Vasily.
I thoroughly enjoyed this detailed exploration into the dynamics of a three-way relationship and the very honest and realistic approach taken. So many menage stories ignore many of the jealousy or potential jealousy issues that need to be addressed and have the people involved simply fading away into an HEA after a round or three of amazing sex, any and all problems or potential issues being easily resolved or non-existent from the start because of...reasons. Not so in this book -- all three of them struggle with their individual wants and jealousies almost to the very end, and while they do eventually find their HEA, it's hard-won and doesn't just happen automagically overnight.
The main thing that bugged me in this and that kept as just a 4 star read for me is that for all that the story revolves exclusively around the three main characters and their struggle to find a way to make things work in a way that makes everyone truly happy, by the end of it I still felt as though I didn't really know any of them as individuals very well. The ways in which they feel about one another and relate to one another are very well defined, but individual characterization felt a bit thin. We learn most of the basics about Vasily and Jacob -- age, occupation, etc. -- and we get to know their personalities relatively well via their interactions and to a lesser extent their thoughts, but we learn nothing about their background either individually or as a couple other than that they've been together for 50 years. We learn even less about Sara really beyond the fact that she's recently gone through a nasty breakup that's left her more than a little reclusive and withdrawn. She obviously has money, but we never learn what she does for a living, and even though we are shown things from her point of view now and then, I never was able to get a true feel for her personality beyond superficial things. It all left me facing a paradox wherein I really liked all of the characters and was rooting for them to work things out and find their communal HEA but at the same time I felt like I didn't really know any of them as individuals. They were simply parts of a whole.
My issues with the book aside, I did truly enjoy it and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone who loves detailed relationship studies, menages, or anything in between. It should be noted that there is a great deal of M/M action here along with extensive discussion of Vasily and Jacob's homosexual relationship, so anyone who's offended by such things will likely want to steer clear (you'll be missing out on a very hot and touching romance though IMO). I'll be interested to see where this series goes next and whether or not we'll see more of these three in the future.