A guest review by Jenre
After his boyfriend breaks up with him, fashion photographer Caleb Moss finds himself alone in Los Angeles looking for work and friends. He finds both in a group of aspiring musicians, who offer help through their connections. But while building a strong friendship with Scott and Chris, a startling sexual tension flares to life among the three men, and Caleb is afraid the new friendships will fall apart.
It won’t be easy for Caleb, trying to find his way when Scott and Chris invite him into their relationship. They face criticism from their friends, but they’ll struggle to stay together because they have discovered a three-fold love.
I nearly didn’t read this book. I saw that the book was a m/m/m which is a storyline I find difficult to resist, but as I knew nothing about the author I decided to read the extract before making up my mind. My heart sank when I started reading and realised that the book is written in the present tense which is very difficult to write well and can be quite distracting. There was also an awful lot of info-dump in those first few paragraphs, so I regretfully decided that I probably wouldn’t bother with the book after all. Then, over the next few days, I found myself thinking about the characters in the extract and wondering how their story progressed. I also started to hear good things about the book from other sites, which sparked my curiosity further. In the end, I decided I would take the risk with the viewpoint and read the book. Boy, am I glad that I did, otherwise I would have missed out on a terrific book.
The book begins with one of our heroes, Caleb, waking up with a huge hangover, on a sofa in a strange man’s house. The strange man is Jason who took pity on a heavily drunk Caleb and brought him back home to sleep on his sofa. Caleb is recovering from a bad break-up with a boyfriend he’d moved from NY to LA to be with. he’s now stuck in LA with no job and no friends. Jason takes pity on him and introduces him to his group of friends which includes Scott, a fellow musician of Jason’s. Caleb and Scott get on really well and Caleb also finds Scott very attractive. Unfortunately, Scott has a boyfriend, Chris, who is insanely jealous of anyone who even seems to be slightly touchy-feely with Scott. Chris is working away and so Caleb doesn’t get to meet him for a few weeks. When Chris returns, Caleb tries to back away from his friendship with Scott, but Scott has grown fond of Caleb, as it isn’t long before Chris grows fond of Caleb too.
Once I’d got into the swing of the present tense, which was within a few pages, I found this to be a very absorbing book with a number of positive features. Firstly, this has to be one of the very few m/m/m books where I’ve got to the end and thought that the relationship really was going to work, to stand the test of time. This was mostly due to the whole set up of the relationship. In a number of other m/m/m books I’ve read, the men have sex as a three and also in pairs whilst one of the three is absent. In this book all the sex happens between the three of them, and this is something that is established early on in the relationship. This meant that there was never anyone ‘left out’ of the sex at any time and this went a long way to making the relationship seem solid. Another factor was the way that the men worked together as a three. Chris and Scott are quite a volatile couple and the slightly more laid back Caleb acts as a buffer between them, smoothing out some of the problems they had before they met him. This means that the three personalities complement each other which also helped to make the relationship strong.
Another thing I liked about the book links in with what I’ve said above. Each man has a distinct personality which made the men very individual. The book is written in a closed third person point of view, that of Caleb. As he is the one joining the relationship, the reader is taken along with Caleb as he works through various fears he has at being a third person in an already established relationship. I found myself identifying with Caleb and the problems that he has, even if he does have an annoying tendency to run away whenever he has a problem rather than staying and talking it through with Scott and Chris. The fact that Caleb is such a sympathetic character went a long way in my enjoyment of the book. Despite such a closed narration, I also felt that, through Caleb, I got to know Scott and Chris well too. Chris is the dominant one in the relationship, with a jealous streak a mile wide. When the three decide to have a go at a three-way relationship, Caleb has to cope with Chris’ jealousy as much as Scott does, something which causes tension between them. Scott is the emotional one, who often mediates between Chris and Caleb.
As the book progresses the three men deal with many problems caused both by their differences in personality and the pressures of work or having to confess their odd relationship to friends and family. As each problem is dealt with, they grow a little closer and add another layer of cement onto the relationship. It was the little things which I liked the best: For example, when the three first get together, Caleb is discomforted by the way that Scott and Chris can communicate by just glancing at one another and he feels left out of these wordless exchanges. As time goes on, he is able to read them both better until he is also part of this special exchange of glances.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed this m/m/m romance and the only slight niggle I may have is that some of the sex scenes, especially towards the end of the book, seemed a little repetitive and superfluous to the plot. Apart from that very minor complaint, I found this to be an extremely well written, realistic portrayal of three men who meet and fall into a very unconventional relationship. I highly recommend The Strongest Shape to those of you who like m/m/m menage and also to those readers who are looking for an engaging read, with strong characterisation.