I’ve read a number of MMM books over the years, and many were excellent—Us Three by Mia Kerick (this one is YA), The Hot Floor by Josephine Myles, Polar Reaction by Claire Thompson, and Dark Horse by Kate Sherwood are all great—but I was surprised to discover how strong the connection appeared to be between MMM and BDSM. Don’t get me wrong. BDSM is fine. It’s just not something I’m into, and I wouldn’t classify the poly relationships I know of in real life as having much to do with BDSM—certainly not all of them. (None of this is meant to imply anything about the content of the novels I listed—some have BDSM, some don’t.)
As I was developing the blurb for my novel, The Rules, it was mentioned more than once that I should emphasize that the book was hot, hot, HOT! and kinky… except that it isn’t, by my definition. Oh, sure, there’s plenty of sex and those scenes are hot. But the novel isn’t specifically meant to be kinky or about a hot menage or threesome (both of which terms imply a temporary, sexual circumstance to me, rather than a permanent relationship).
It’s about three men with emotional holes in their lives coming together to form a loving, polyamorous family. (The search engine on Goodreads tells me “polyamory” is mostly used for nonfiction. Seriously?)
Hans feels alienated from his family. After his parents divorced, his father drifted away, and his mother and sister grew close, more or less excluding him. Thomas was thrown out of his family and cut off from his inheritance for being gay, and Boris… Boris is a mess. He survived bullying and worse at the hands of his country, Russia, and has a dark secret he’s afraid to reveal to anyone. But they come together to heal and love one another. The sex (and there is a lot of sex for a Jamie Fessenden novel) begins as kind of a kinky situation, but quickly becomes more than that.
My point is simply that a polyamorous relationship should be viewed as an alternate type of relationship. Polyamorous families are families. They involve more than two people, but they are still families. They aren’t about sex (exclusively)—they’re about love.
Family is how you define it.
WHEN HANS BAUER, a college student in New Hampshire, accepts a job as a housekeeper for an older gay couple, he soon learns the reason they’ve hired someone with no experience is that professional agencies won’t work there. Thomas is a successful businessman whose biggest goal in life appears to be giving his husband anything he wants. Boris is a writer who immigrated to this country from Russia, and suffers from depression and PTSD because of the things he endured in his native country.
He also refuses to wear clothes—ever.
While Hans is working alone in the house with Naked Boris all day, things start getting a little weird. Boris gets flirtatious and Hans backs away, not wanting to come between him and his husband. So Boris calls Thomas at work and asks permission.
At that moment, The Rules are born—rules about touching and kissing and pet names that the three men use to keep jealousies at bay, as they explore the possibilities in a new type of relationship….
WARNING: This story deals with themes of sexual assault and past abuse.
[Hans comes to the house to ask Boris to pose nude for his art project.]
The house was wonderfully cool. They must have been running the air-conditioner, though Hans couldn’t hear anything. The place was absolutely silent, as if nobody was home. Hans closed the door and called Boris’s name, but there was no response. From the front hall, he could see the sofa, and it was bare. Hans did a quick check of the downstairs rooms. The study door was open, and the room was empty. It also smelled kind of like a men’s locker room. Hans wondered if Boris would let him in again to clean on Tuesday.
At the end of the hall, Hans looked out the French doors and spotted his quarry. Boris was lying on the lawn, sunbathing face down on a large blue-and-white beach towel. Hans opened one of the doors and stepped outside.
Boris heard him and raised his head. “Hans! I did not expect you today.”
“No.” Hans crossed the patio to where he was stretched out. “I’m not normally… Boris Ivanich, do you have sunblock on?” The Russian’s back was getting a little red.
“It did not occur to me.”
Hans set his backpack on the grass. “Do you have some in the house?”
“Thomas might. I do not know.”
Hans frowned at him. “Hold on.” He went back inside. I swear, it’s like looking after a kid. He wasn’t sure where to search for sunblock, but the bathroom seemed a good possibility. He checked the downstairs half-bath first. There was nothing in the medicine cabinet, but he found an old plastic tube of sunscreen under the sink. It was nearly empty, but there was a little left.
He went back outside and knelt in the grass beside Boris. “You really should put some on. You’re getting burned.”
Boris took the tube and opened it. He scrunched up his nose. “It smells like coconut.”
“I got this out of your bathroom. You must have used it at some point.”
Boris waved dismissively. “Not me. Maybe Thomas.”
“Well, it’s the only one I could find, so stop being difficult.”
Boris grinned, and Hans’s heart did a little flutter. That wasn’t good.
“Okay,” Boris said, handing the tube back to him. He put his head down and wiggled his butt like an excited puppy. “You may put some on me.”
“Oh, may I, your majesty?” Hans was using sarcasm to disguise his sudden discomfort. It really didn’t seem like a good idea for him to rub lotion on Boris’s… anything.
Boris snickered. “Please put some on me?”
“I’m not sure I should do that, Boris Ivanich.”
“Well, because you’re naked.”
“I am always naked.”
“Yes,” Hans explained patiently, “but I’m not always touching you.”
Boris lifted his head again and cocked an eyebrow at him. Then he grunted and nodded. “You are worried about Thomas.”
“I don’t want to do anything that would upset him,” Hans said. Then he quickly added, “Or that we’d have to hide from him.”
Boris held out his hand. “Do you have your phone?”
Hans hesitated, but Boris made an impatient gesture with his fingers, so he dug his cell out of his pocket and handed it over. He watched nervously while Boris dialed. Boris put it on speaker while it rang, placing it on the towel between them.
“Hans?” Thomas asked. “You still can’t find him?”
“I am here,” Boris said.
“Oh. Why do you have Hans’s phone?”
“He gave it to me in exchange for a blow job.”
Hans gasped. “I did not!”
Thomas laughed. “What’s going on?”
“Hans tells me I will get sunburned,” Boris said, “so I should put on this nasty-smelling coconut shit. But I cannot reach my back—I am not a comic book character—and he will not put it on me.”
“You’re sunbathing? Since when do you sunbathe?”
Boris made a rude noise. “That is beside the point. I need you to tell Hans you won’t divorce me and come after him with a butcher knife if he rubs coconut shit on my back.”
“You two will be the death of me,” Thomas muttered, but there was a note of affection in his voice. Hans assumed that was for Boris, but the way Thomas had said “you two” sounded as if they were all somehow together. Hans was surprised by how much he liked that. “Hans, I won’t divorce Boris and come after you with a butcher knife if you rub coconut shit on his back.”
“Thank you,” Boris told him.
“But Boris? You behave.”
“Me?” Boris sounded scandalized.
“Don’t think I can’t see what’s happening.”
“What is happening?”
“You’re attracted to Hans,” Thomas said calmly.
Hans was suddenly dizzy. This is not normal. People don’t have conversations like this! He wanted to run away, but he was riveted.
Boris looked at Hans for a moment, as if he were evaluating the truth of Thomas’s statement. At last he said, “That is true.”
“And I think Hans is attracted to you.”
Hans tried to answer but couldn’t speak. Boris smirked and said, “He might answer that, after he stops pissing himself.”
“Shut up,” Hans said, finally finding his voice. Boris grinned.
“I’m not going to flip out over it,” Thomas went on, “but I think we should all sit down and talk about this, especially if Hans decides to move in for the summer. For today, I need you both to understand what my boundaries are. I’m fine with you rubbing lotion on each other’s backs, chests, arms, and legs. I guess butts are reasonable. But don’t be rubbing lotion on each other’s dicks—your crotch is not a hard-to-reach spot.” Then he dropped the bombshell. “If you get so turned on you absolutely can’t stand it, jerk off in front of each other, but don’t jerk each other off. Are we clear?”
“Yes, yes,” Boris said, clearly enjoying this. “We’ll fondle each other’s asses and jerk off, but no touching of dicks.” He glanced at Hans, who was sure his face had turned bone white. “Or maybe Hans will run screaming in terror and never come to our house again. I will keep you informed.”
“Buck up, Hans. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Be nice to him, Boris.”
“I will be very nice to him.”
Thomas groaned, but he said goodbye and hung up.
Hans wasn’t sure what to make of the exchange, and he was pretty wigged out. “What just happened?”
“You were worried about how Thomas would feel,” Boris said matter-of-factly, “so I asked him.”
“Did he just tell us to jerk off together?”
“No,” Boris replied. “He explained what would bother him and what would not. Jerking off together would not bother him. That does not mean we have to do it.”
“All I wanted was for you to put on some suntan lotion!”