Review – Unexpected Circumstances (Isthmus Alliance Vol. 3) by Sloan Johnson

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Earlier in the Fall we had the pleasure of talking to Sloan Johnson, a prolific author who is not afraid to tackle challenging themes in her books. To find out more about Sloan and her work, listen to her fascinating episode, and hear her giving our hosts a run for their money! Episode 075: Sloan Johnson – How Far Can We Deviate?

REVIEW

Zeke, Jeff and Mary have enjoyed a casual three-way relationship until fate steps in and makes them evaluate whether what they are doing is just a bit of fun, or whether they are ready to settle down into a more serious relationship. Whilst they are trying to figure that out, the outside world seems determined to pull apart their unusual arrangement.

The plot is fairly straightforward. After Mary is attacked by the ex-boyfriend of her best friend, her dreadful mother arrives to look after her, and finds her daughter embroiled in what she sees as a very unsavoury situation. Meanwhile, Zeke is torn between wanting to settle with Mary and Jeff and doing his own thing. And Jeff, the steadying influence, is busy trying to keep everything together.

Recently I read a comment that most books concerning polyamorous relationships, especially those that are M/M/F,  are basically erotica and have no story-line, but this is not the case at all for Unexpected Circumstances. Yes, the sex is hot, but it isn’t over-stated. Each main character is fully realised, with their own personalities and foibles, so they don’t merge into one being. The secondary characters are also convincingly drawn, apart from Mary’s mother, an obvious boo-hiss character so horrendous she verged on caricature. Somewhat oddly, she was dismissed in an off-hand fashion half-way through the book. I say oddly because after such a strong start, she was tucked away in Florida, conveniently out of the way. One of my favourite minor characters was Holly, a complex girl with an abusive ex and a supportive boyfriend. The author nailed her character with pin-point accuracy and for me, she was the most memorable in a large cast of satellite characters, all with their own problems.

In the end, what seems to be a huge drama is a misunderstanding. There’s a lot of angst, redeemed by the serious look at the relationship of the three protagonists, and the issues and prejudices that their situation throws out. And there are a lot of issues. The two men have the same love for each other as they do for the woman in their life. One of them isn’t fully out yet, and there are implications to their careers, their friendships and family members. I would have liked to have known more about how Mary felt, what her insecurities were. We learned Zeke’s and Jeff’s, but felt a little short-changed by Mary’s experiences, other than learning that she was incredibly satisfied in bed.

This is a long book, and it could have been tightened up a bit without losing any of its impact. I found I was skimming in places, then going back to see if I had missed anything. I hate doing this as it takes me out of the story. The dialogue could have been sharper as well, and the emotions less over-wrought in places, but the characters were likeable and I enjoyed reading about their dilemma and how they were going to deal with it.

This is part of a series, and I haven’t read the other books, but fans of Sloan’s writing will lap up this chunky read. For newbies, it might be a little hard to digest in places, but there is no denying the love that the author has for her characters, even as she’s throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at them.

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