Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Out of Focus by LA Witt

Why I read it:  This book had been recommended to me by a number of reviewers I trust so I decided to dig it out of my TBR pile.

What it's about: Photographers Dante and Ryan (aka Angel) have been happily together for about 12 years.  They are both Dominants and Angel never bottoms ever, and so they take on a third, submissive partner, from time to time.  They meet horse rancher Jordan, brother of the bride at a wedding they are photographing and there is instant lust between all three.  There follows some sweet and sexy manoeuvring to establish that there is interest and that Jordan is interested in exploring submission.  Things get complicated when they all fall in love with each other and it looks like at least one them is destined to be hurt.

What worked for me and what didn't: The story is told in the alternating 1st person point of view of all three main characters, mainly changing from chapter to chapter, but later in the book, within a scene as well.   I was often confused about whose head I was in and it took me a while to work it out each time the chapter/scene changed.  This was complicated by the similarity of Dante and Angel.  They're both Doms and both photographers and there wasn't much else to differentiate their characters for me.   I had to keep reminding myself who was who.  It was easier to differentiate Jordan - he's a submissive for one and if there was a scene on the horse ranch it was most often (but not  always) from his POV so that helped.  I did like that I got all three main characters points of view but the alternating 1st person was confusing.

The beginning of the story is about setting up Dante and Angel's relationship with Jordan and this was done very well.  In fact, by the middle of the book, I was wondering what was keeping Dante and Angel together.  I mean, I could see they not only were together but happily so but I wasn't seeing the how/why of it.  About the time this was beginning to really bother me there were some scenes which showed Dante and Angel alone together and reflecting on how they met and who they were to one another.  I think, in hindsight, that the author did this deliberately to add to the tension of the book, and it worked.

The sex was very hot and very plentiful but the best parts of the book for me, were when each realised they had fallen in love with the other and that what was supposed to be an intimate but not emotional relationship had morphed into something else.  Angel was worried that Dante would leave him to be with Jordan, there were things he couldn't  do for Dante that Jordan could and did and it seemed that Dante's other needs were met by Jordan too.  
The fact was, Jordan was everything I couldn't be for Dante, and slowly but surely, if I read the two of them right, he was becoming what I had always been.
Jordan was worried that he'd forever be the interloper, the "expendable one" who would be "first drop" if something went wrong.  Of course, by then they had all fallen in love with each other so breaking it off was going to hurt no matter what, but the idea of a true menage relationship with the three as equal partners was full of complications and each was dubious about how it could and would work.  In fact, the author did such a great job of alerting me to the possible pitfalls, I didn't entirely buy the HEA.  I would have liked to have seen some practical examples of the problems being successfully resolved instead of an epilogue which told me that "it had been hard, but it was worth it".  Once again, I could see that it did work but I didn't see the how, except this time, I wasn't shown it later.

What else?  I did like the way the characters talked about their relationship, especially at the beginning, setting safe words, advising hard limits and working up their own set of rules.  It added to the sense of reality of the book, because I'm sure that in real life people have to sort these things out by conversation rather than the osmosis which occurs often in fiction.    

There was a secondary storyline involving Eli, Jordan's mooching ex-boyfriend and his lack of ability to finally kick him out.   It took up quite a bit of room in the story and the conversations between Eli and Jordan were largely the same.  I didn't really get why it was featured so strongly.  It certainly wasn't as interesting to me as the developing relationship between Dante, Jordan and Angel.

Favourite Quote:  
Angel had been there.  He hadn't been cropped out of the image.  I'd shifted my attention to Jordan, to Angel, to Jordan, to Angel.  Neither pushed the other completely out of the picture; each simply rendered the other... out of focus.

Grade:  B


Tam said...

I too had issues with the similarity of voice. I'd start knowing it was Dante's thoughts and by the end I couldn't remember and would have to go back and confirm who had been speaking sometimes.

I wondered if there is a set-up for a book about the ex, hence the more extensive on-page face time he got. I did enjoy it though and it's nice not to see a trio just drop easily into a three-some wit no problems but to hear their inner insecurity as they struggle to make the changes. It's usually far too easy in fiction as you said, everything is by osmosis and they just "know".

Kaetrin said...

@Tam. I think, from looking around at various reviews, that it was a common problem, distinguishing between Dante and Angel. I sometimes have that problem when there is only 2 MC's though so I often wonder if my brain has some kind of shorthand which works easily to differentiate the main characters for m/f romance but stutters on m/m romance? On the other hand, there are some books where the characters are, to me, drawn so strongly and they are so clearly different, however complementary they are to each other, that it isn't a problem at all - Heidi Cullinan's Special Delivery was one, Marie Sexton's Strawberries for Dessert is another that I can think of off the top of my head, that work for me like that.

Chris said...

Oh oh - I bet I'd have the same differentiation problem.

Kaetrin said...

@Chris - I wouldn't say that should necessarily put you off reading, just that you might have to concentrate a little more on their differences to get the characters clear in your mind. There are differences there, but I found myself having to consciously call them to mind and remind myself whose head I was in. For example, Angel is fidgety and the more agitated he is, the more he taps, flicks, bounces. Dante can soothe and quiet him with a touch. Dante bottoms but Angel doesn't. Angel has dark hair and Dante is platinum blonde. Although their respective hair colour isn't a big feature in the book once it's been initially established.

It's worth a read though - don't let it put you off! :)

orannia said...

I have this, but haven't read it yet. I might need to move it up the list :)

Kaetrin said...

@Orannia - let me know what you think of it when you do :)