The surface-level tropes were what originally attracted me to this book, but the deeper story and connections that developed between the characters drew me in completely. Even though it begins with a married couple in a long-term established dynamic, I found myself immediately invested in the external plot, which is much more than Justin taking out bad guys.
I appreciate when authors recognize that a “happily ever after” doesn’t mean stagnation. Crane and Kearney developed specific aspects of the relationship between Justin and Ace that made me willing to accept them welcoming a third. I was immediately intrigued by how their dynamic might expand and adjust to include Maddox, and that’s aside from the terrible way Maddox’s profession mixes with Justin and Ace’s extracurricular and professional activities. However, their collective chemistry is off the charts from the very start. As a reader, I felt a bit bad that I loved where everything was going but also looking forward to seeing how it would all blow up in their faces. The emotional train wreck is of Ace and Justin’s own making when the reality of Maddox’s life crashes straight into their best intentions.
Three people in a relationship is already complicated enough without incorporating power exchange or the external forces working against them. I appreciated that even the former was not all smooth sailing. Ace, especially, could have come off as slightly too perfect a character if it hadn’t been for a particular hiccup, but I enjoyed the way the authors took the opportunity to make him more well-rounded as a consequence of both screwing up and then having to deal with it.
Ultimately, the best storytelling comes from every character thinking that they are doing the right thing since each is the hero of his own story. I enjoyed every bit of this ride, and I’m so interested in the larger world created here. I would love more of it, either with the trio introduced here or highlighting other characters we meet both on and off the page.