Jamie Conway has a charmed life. At 24, he’s relocated from Dublin to London to star in his first feature film. Unfortunately, he also has one very big problem: He has a huge crush on his happily married costar.
British heartthrob to middle-aged women everywhere, Callum Griffith-Davies should have better sense than to flirt with his new-to-the-business colleague, but good judgement isn’t one of the qualities for which he’s known.
Nerea Espinosa de Los Monteros Nessim has better things to do than fret about her husband’s newest conquest. She’s busy planning her daughter’s wedding at the family’s farmhouse in rural Spain. Besides, she and Callum have been married and polyamorous for almost 30 years; she’s content to let him make his own bad choices.
But when Nerea flies to London after her artwork is selected for a high-profile museum show, she falls for Jamie too. Soon Callum, Jamie, and Nerea have bigger problems, and surprises, than international logistics. From ex-lovers and nosy neighbors to adult children with dramas of their own, The Art of Three is a contemporary romance that celebrates families, and farce, in all shapes and sizes.
This story was completely lovely. I absolutely adored this story and couldn’t put it down once I started. The emotions each character felt came through clearly and had me feeling them along with the characters. I loved how each relationship grew and changed and evolved as you read. You can see everything unfold and feel like you’re with them. I truly enjoy Ms. McRae and Ms. Maltese’s combined voice. They take you on a journey that you willingly traverse and leave you with characters that feel real and like you could stop over for lunch and spend time with them.
Nerea was so unashamedly herself. I love how she truly didn’t care what other people thought of her and her relationships. She vehemently opposed and hated the double standards that she faced but her husband and boyfriend didn’t. But she wasn’t bothered by idle gossip. She wanted to live her life, love her family, and make art. She wanted a simple life, and barring that, as simple a life as she could because of who she was and who her husband was. Nerea led with her heart but she did it quietly. She was the one with the most level head throughout the story.
Callum was sweet at times and also completely impossible as well. He had a wonderful sense of humor and could laugh in almost any situation. But he was also serious when the situation warranted it. He was quick to react and sometimes that got him in trouble. But he also had life experience on his side and knew when to go full out and when to be reserved. Most of the time anyway. We all have times when we act first and think later. He took care of everyone and wanted to ensure everyone was happy. Sure, he messed up from time to time, but he learned from his past mistakes. But he loved wholly and deeply.
Sweet and eager Jamie. He was completely lovely in the story and I adored how he was hopeful right from the beginning. He was far more grown up than most twenty-four year olds you’ll meet. But he too had his times to overreact. He took care of Callum and Nerea in his own way. He was logical about things and went in with his eyes wide open. Jamie also led with his heart, but he was quite loud about it in the most endearing of ways.
Nerea’s relationship with Callum was truly beautiful. You could feel their love for each other and how deep it went. There was an easy that came from being together for so long. But they also worked hard to stay together and make poly work. Callum was smitten with Nerea and it was wonderful to see how even after so long together, two people can still be so in love and affectionate with each other. Jamie’s relationship with Nerea was quick to form and so sweet to see. He was desperately protective of Nerea in a way only youth can be. Nerea’s relationship with Jamie was sensual and refreshing. You could tell Nerea needed Jamie’s youthfulness in a way she didn’t expect. Callum and Jamie’s relationship was a bit more volatile at times. However Jamie cooled off quickly and wanted to amend things immediately. Callum needed to simmer a but longer and needed to have a clear head to fix any wrongs that were made. Jamie loved quickly and easily. He needed more reassurances from Callum than Nerea.
I think the way all four relationships were presented and how they grew and evolved over the course of the story was my favorite aspect of the book. Ms. McRae and Ms. Maltese show how a poly relationship happens with adults and everyone working together to make it the best it can be. I loved the frankness about everything and the open communication that happened. Obviously it wasn’t rainbows and roses the whole time because humans are complex and have a tendency towards stupid. But all three knew how to take the parts and make the most beautiful whole. It’s not often you read a menage story and get to see how beautifully the polyamory works for the people involved along with what all goes into that beauty. So many menage stories skip over this part. While I absolutely love menage stories that don’t worry about that, when I read a book that delves further and shows how hard it really is, I fall in love. For me, this is the difference between polyamory and menage. It’s subtle and most won’t make the distinction. But for me personally, the difference is important to make. I’m sure I’m not explaining my feelings on how this book is lovely in it’s depiction of a poly relationship. But I do highly suggest you read this book if you like poly relationships in your stories.
This story was wonderful and truly the only thing that tempered my enjoyment was the ending. I was shocked it ended how it did. I thought there was more story to tell. I desperately want a sequel. I want to see more Jamie, Nerea, and Callum and their wonderful family and poly relationship. I want to see how they handle moving. How they handle flat renovations. How they handle life. I just want more of these three.
Four and a half
On the appointed day and time, Jamie and Callum arrived at the restaurant where they were due to meet Nerea. The place was dim, with little lighting beyond the candles burning softly on each table. The leather seats and dark wood walls contributed to the gloom and added the edge of sex.
Nerea was there already at the bar, and when she saw them she slid off her stool with an elegance Jamie hadn’t known existed in real life. She wore a fitted gold dress and her dark hair fell in sleek waves down to the middle of her back.
“Callum. Jamie,” she said when her husband bent his head to kiss her hello. Jamie looked away so as not to be caught staring. No matter how much advice Callum gave him, every moment seemed to generate a new situation in which he had no idea what was expected of him. He wondered why there wasn’t a handbook for this sort of thing. Like What to Do When You Like to Watch the Guy You’re Sleeping with Kiss His Wife.
As they took their seats at a table, Callum, ordered a bottle of wine. Nerea caught Jamie’s eye when the waiter returned to present it. Her expression spoke of long-suffering amusement at Callum’s solemn enactment of the tasting ritual. Jamie could relate. Callum’s insistence on the proper pairing of wine — even with takeout — was somewhat absurd, and now he looked like he was showing off. For who, it was a mystery. Nerea was hardly impressed, the waiter looked placid and bored, and Jamie was already as far gone on Callum as it was possible to be.
Jamie must have made a face, because Nerea started to laugh, bell-like and girlish. Before the waiter even left — and despite his best efforts and all good sense — Jamie joined her. Which only made everything funnier. Callum looked up at them quizzically; it was like being caught passing notes in school.
When the waiter had gone, Nerea leaned across the table to touch Jamie’s hand. “I was terrified you didn’t know my husband was ridiculous.”
He shook his head. “Smitten, not stupid,” he said before slapping his other hand over his mouth in chagrin. He was such a liar. He was smitten and stupid, even though he hated to use that word. “I didn’t mean ….”
“It’s fine.” Her eyes were wide and bright.
“I was trying to be so good,” Jamie moaned. He glanced at Callum who was rolling the stem of his wineglass between his fingers.
Callum looked between them, a wrinkle of curiosity between his eyebrows. “Am I missing something?”
“We’re bonding over how much we like you.” Nerea gave him a flirtatious look over her shoulder. “You don’t need to worry.”
“He looks worried,” Jamie said, wanting to recapture her attention.
“Should he be?” Her tone was suddenly crisp.
Nerea radiated confidence, and perhaps even power. Although she still seemed entertained, Jamie was reminded yet again that he was outclassed in every way. Combined, Callum and Nerea had almost four times his life experience. Jamie, worried, glanced at Callum. Had Nerea’s sudden sharpness meant he’d overstepped?
“Nerea,” Callum said softly. Not a scold, but something else. A man trying to hold back a horse. Or a storm.
Nerea gave him a reproachful look, and he dipped his eyes apologetically. Jamie wondered how long a couple had to be together before they could communicate so thoroughly in silence.
“I only meant,” Nerea spoke tartly as the smile crept back to her face, “that I am sure Jamie and I will have lots to gossip about as soon we can get a moment away from you.”
Jamie flushed. “Oh my God.” At least he wasn’t in trouble.
“Try the wine,” Callum said.
Jamie thought he was being rescued from Nerea’s teasing. But Callum watched, his eyes fixed on Jamie’s mouth, as he raised his glass to his lips and took a sip. If pressed to describe it, Jamie would have said the wine had notes of oak and blackberry. And then, because he was painfully aware of Callum’s gaze, he would have gotten lost. Who cared what the wine tasted like when Callum was looking at him like that?
He set his glass back down.
“How do you like it?” Callum asked.
Jamie’s cheeks burned. Nerea put her hand over his on the table again. Suddenly, the question felt like it was about far more than the bottle Callum had selected.
“It’s good,” Jamie gulped. “Not just the wine. All of this.” He was desperately trying to be clear, but he didn’t have a silent language with either of them yet, which meant he needed to use words as clumsy as they might be.
“I’m glad,” Nerea said.
“Really?” Jamie squeaked. He coughed and reached for his water.
“Really?” Callum echoed in Nerea’s direction.
“Yes,” Nerea said with a laugh. “Jamie, you’ve charmed me from the time you called me to ask if you could sleep with my husband. Not many people are that brave. Or that polite. I don’t always give Callum credit for good taste, but he chose well with you. I’d like very much to get to know you better.”
“Oh,” Jamie said, awed.
Callum smiled warmly at Nerea and covered her small hand with his larger one. Then he leant over to drop a kiss onto her hair.
“Okay, can you explain something to me?” Jamie asked, gathering his nerve.
“What’s that?” Callum asked.
“How do you — how to you two ….” he trailed off, hesitant. He took a deep breath. “How did you decide to do things this way?” He gestured to include the table and himself. “Actually,” he added, before either of them could respond, “You probably don’t want to talk about that with people around.”
“I don’t mind.” Callum shrugged, but Nerea shook her head.
“Later is probably best. Thank you.”
Jamie nodded. “Okay. Sure. Yeah.” Frantically, Jamie paged through his brain looking for a safe and appropriate topic of discussion. “Will you tell me how you met then? You must have been really young.”
“Oh well done,” Callum muttered.
Nerea shot him a glance Jamie didn’t know how to interpret. “Younger than you,” Nerea said. “I was, anyway. He was not.”
“It’s true.” Callum spoke with obvious delight. “I’m absolutely terrible.”
About The Authors:
Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese write the LGBTQ Hollywood romance series Love in Los Angeles (Torquere Press) and the theater-based Love’s Labours series (Dreamspinner Press). Their work has also been published with Cleis Press and Supposed Crimes.
Erin is a writer and blogger based in Washington, D.C. She has a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Toronto, and a master’s degree in International Affairs from American University where she studied the role of social media in the Arab Spring.
Racheline’s fiction, non-fiction and poetry has appeared in numerous outlets. She is also a producer and writer on Serial Box Publishing’s Tremontaine (available in print from Simon & Schuster’s Saga Press).
Together, they write stories and scripts about the intersection of private lives, fame, and desire.