Title: Beyond Complicated
Author: Mercy Celeste
Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Publisher: Self Published
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M/M
Length: Novel (375 pages)
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by jeayci
Review Summary: Beyond Complicated is the perfect title for this book, as that’s exactly what it was. It was incredibly hot and sexy; it pulled me in and made me care about the characters; and it had several major WTF?! moments so extreme they could have ruined the story. This is an excellent example of a good book that could have been a great one, with better editing.
Blurb: Liam McGuire has the perfect life–his job is a nightmare, his apartment was swank back in the eighties, and he has a secret so painful it could destroy him. What can top that? Meeting his son’s new boyfriend, that’s what.
For former porn star Liam McGuire, life is pretty tame, except that his twenty-one year old son is now dating the love of Liam’s life. At the ripe old age of thirty-eight, Liam’s entire world is collapsing around him, his past catching up with him, his secrets and his lies are coming back to bite him. All because Kel had to go and fall in love with Seth.
CONTENT ADVISORY: This title contains incestuous subject matter.
Review: I usually avoid spoilers, yet here I am two reviews in a row! The spoilers for this review are more significant than those for Heartstrings (reviewed here), but not only is it difficult to discuss this book in any meaningful way without them, there are a couple of things that have the potential to trigger readers. The blurb reveals so little, and so much of what makes things work (or not work) are predicated on pivotal events that would definitely be spoilery to reveal. There are several twists that surprised me, even after I thought I had figured things out. I’ll avoid spoilers as much as possible, but I’m going to share the two that I think are the most potentially triggering so you can make an informed decision whether or not you want to read it.
The first of those is the question of incest, with Kel supposedly Liam’s son. It was revealed very early on that Kel couldn’t be Liam’s biological son; not if you have the most basic understanding of genetics. So whether you consider it a positive or negative, be aware that this is pseudo-incest rather than real incest. However, the fact that Liam believed Kel to be his son made it a little difficult for me to respect Liam’s intelligence. We were later offered some explanation for why he believed it, and some of that could qualify as extenuating circumstances, but I still thought he had to be pretty obtuse not to have figured out the truth a whole lot sooner.
The second spoiler, one I’m surprised wasn’t included in the publisher’s warnings, is that there is a past rape. It doesn’t take place in real-time, but there are enough memories of it that it’s definitely part of the story. That rape, and the various actions and emotions around it, was the root of quite a few of my WTF?! moments. Although we are shown how devastating the rape was, I thought the first sex following it was unrealistically easy-peasy, even if it did occur years later and after some therapy. It just wasn’t believable to me that the first sex would just happen, with the rape an after-thought later of the “hey, I had sex yesterday without ever even thinking about the rape” variety.
I don’t want to reveal any more spoilers than necessary, so I’ll just say that there were several logistics around the rape that simply did not add up for me. At all. In fact, they pretty much flummoxed me. Actions (or inactions) that led up to it which I found absurd. Things during it that struck me as bizarre. And actions and assumptions afterward that seemed ridiculous.
There are other plot inconsistencies, like Liam saying he hadn’t had sex without a condom since he was sixteen despite having told us that he and Seth had barebacked during the six years they were together. I also found their present-day attitude toward condom use (or lack thereof) surprisingly cavalier for men who really ought to have known better. Unless I was supposed to interpret that as self-destructive behavior which provided insight into the characters, rather than sheer stupidity or thoughtlessness?
Anyone who is sensitive to cheating in books will probably be disturbed by a few combinations of twosomes that occur among the threesome. There are a couple of situations that edge uncomfortably close to two cheating on the third. It all turns out fine in the end, but if that’s something that bothers you in general, you’ll probably be disturbed by it here.
The end is a HFN, and I want a sequel to get a real HEA. Because although they are HFN, I’m not convinced how lasting that happiness will be. I’d really like to see them resolve some of the complications to help me better believe their happiness will actually last.
You may be wondering why I rated it as highly as I did, considering all the negatives I just detailed. The thing is, despite all those gripes I was really engaged and invested in the characters and the story, and I loved it anyway. Liam and Kel, Kel and Seth, Seth and Liam, and Liam and Seth and Kel all really worked together. They complemented each other, and clearly loved each other, and it felt like it made sense for them to be together. I cared about them, I rooted for them, I occasionally wanted to smack them upside the head. For as implausible as I found some of the core plot points, the characters themselves were very believable.
My emotional reaction immediately upon finishing it was to rate it highly, even as the more rational part of my brain said, “Really? Even with this, that, and the other thing?” With better editing to address those issues, this could easily have been a 5-star book. Because those issues were there, and annoyed me, I compromised on 3.5 stars.