by Karen Mercury, guest blogger and author of Either/Ore
When I first started writing ménages, I didn’t stop to think about the difficulties inherent in the form. I was so thrilled to finally be “allowed” to write what had been my secret hidden passion for decades. Two men and one woman! What could be better? But two conundrums immediately presented themselves:
- Where to put all those hands and appendages, and won’t someone get bored if they’re left out in the cold?
- Utilizing three POVs instead of two, as in the traditional romance.
Regarding hands and appendages, so far I’ve sidestepped this issue by some inventive ploys. In one scene in my new western historical, Either Ore, the secondary guy Gage ties up Lola with the belt to her dressing gown “to prevent her from consorting with men in saloons,” giving him more freedom to pin down Harrison, the better to kiss him. That gives Lola an unfettered front seat to the show, and absolves her of the necessity to act on anything. When Harrison finally unties Lola, you’d better believe she obediently promises to make Gage his corned beef for dinner. And probably has all sorts of new ideas in her head.
But yes, it does get messy when all three people are groping around. The way I imagine a director must feel when he’s directing a party scene, trying to juggle all the action gets a bit overwhelming. It’s too bad our characters don’t have those feet marks on the floor like actors do, and stay put where they’re told. Of course, they have a way of living and breathing on their own, and making sudden impetuous decisions to reach out and touch a body part the director had not instructed them to touch. That’s why one of my favorite and effective devices is voyeurism. It’s incredibly handy to have the third person spying on the couple going hard at it, because he cannot reveal himself, or confuse and complicate the action by joining in. In Either Ore, I write:
So now, as he breathlessly watched the fair shimmering shoulder muscles working ardently as Harrison pawed the housemaid, conflicting emotions rose in Gage’s heart. He wanted to reach out, snatch up the man by the neck, and wring it. He wanted to slap his chef into oblivion. At the same time, it would be so easy to drop to his knees—he imagined this when Lola undid the buttons of the leather pantaloons, and the impishly rounded globes of Harrison’s admirable ass came into view—and press his face between those athletic thighs. Land’s sake, as Harrison would say. His career and life really would be over then.
It’s incredibly difficult to write a ménage scene where the POV character is only viewing, say, the back of someone’s head, or the bottoms of their feet. If you’ve put someone upside-down or bassackwards, and thus into an unflattering or not very descriptive or vivid position, you’d better find an excuse to flip them around, pronto.
And referring to someone during a sex act as “he” isn’t entirely self-evident when there are two men involved, I soon discovered. This had never been a problem in traditional romances. An author could pretty much get away with merely saying “his arm” or “her nose,” because in a love scene a reader could assume who was who. Not anymore. I steer around a lot of this personal pronoun confusion because I tend not to have a lot of dialogue during sex. Honestly, who, after all, in the crush of all these limbs, really blurts out, “Sam! That is a very good feeling you are creating on my thigh with your sensuous mouth. I do wish you would continue with that scintillating excitation—only, amp it up a bit.” I just feel self-conscious when characters give each other sexual instructions, and much prefer when they’re intuitive and brilliant at deducing what to do next.
I did find it hilarious to describe how Lola kicked back, earnestly and casually discussing the Bad Guy’s plot, while her boss is fellating her boyfriend lying between her legs:
“What is your evil-doing plan, Gage?” Lola asked innocently. She actually reached out and sank her fingers into Gage’s hair, sending tiny shivers down his neck, and causing his cock to twitch.
“My dear.” That’s what Gage called Lola, but he spoke against Harrison’s mouth. “Salting the mines.” Lifting Harrison’s hefty cock into the air, Gage rubbed his thumb over the head, causing Harrison to gasp. Gage knew he had him—Harrison could never give him up. “My land grant on the American River.”
Harrison’s eyeballs rolled up into his skull as Gage slid his soft buckskins down below his knees. With arms lifted above his head, Harrison clutched at Lola’s shoulders as he exposed his athletic body to Gage’s desires. Gage fairly grunted like a pig to taste the velvety aroma of fog that imbued Harrison’s taut abdomen, and he had quite forgotten about his evil plan until Lola prompted him,
“The Natomas grant? You’re going to salt the river with some gold, and get Fowler to believe it’s a rich vein?”
Good Lord, this man was the picture of desirable manhood. His enormous prick actually throbbed in Gage’s fist, and Gage muttered “yes, salt the river” before spearing the meat down his throat.
But either way, a writer is stuck explaining whose arm is “his,” in many instances.
Regarding the second conundrum of having three POVs versus two. There is, of course, less depth to the characters when you have to spread the POVs out over three people in the course of a novel. I used to alternate between the H/H’s POVs, depending on who stood to gain the most from a scene, or whose viewpoint would push the storyline along. Now I not only have three POV characters, but I have to cram more sex scenes in. These unavoidable obstacles naturally make for less character depth—an author doesn’t tend to get too angst-ridden about a rough childhood backstory, or stop to describe a tulip-laden romp across a field. No, the characters just arrive at their destination, minus any tulips, or fully-realized backstory. This is the collateral damage of ménages.
So what are the payoffs, the benefits in writing a ménage? Why are they so popular? I first opined that adding a third man to the relationship poses no threat to the heroine. After all, a woman cannot compare herself to another man in all the ways that matter. His hair wouldn’t be more beautiful than hers, his wardrobe not more lavish. There are just no points of comparison. So sharing her man with another man does not constitute a threat.
In Either Ore, since Gage is seemingly permanently scarred by women after a bad marriage, he is at first reluctant to enter into congress with the heroine. So here I imagined what an increase in the sense of security adding a third man to the mix can bring for a woman. Sort of reverse Mormonism, like in that recent episode of Raising Hope where the brother visited the Chances with his three “brother-husbands.” Picture that: one man to bring home the bacon, one to fix the sink, one to care for the kids, and one to rap in Filipino.
She had thought about the fandango every waking moment for the past couple of weeks. Opening herself up utterly to the thrusts of Harrison’s long thick penis had given her a feeling of trust—he had not hurt her with that giant appendage. He had stroked her tenderly, and he had allowed Gage to lick his big meaty balls. Feeling Gage’s slippery locks while she entwined her fingers with Harrison’s, feeling Gage hungrily lap at the root of his penis, she was happy, secure. The protection of one man gave her a sense of security. Wouldn’t the protection of two men feel doubly as safe?
She didn’t mind if Gage didn’t touch her. It was enough to burn under Harrison’s intricate, talented caresses. She would probably explode if two men at once attempted it. And it steamed her well-nigh to boiling to watch Harrison and Gage touch each other. Lola merely yearned to be considered an equal on the same social footing. To sit at the same table, to discuss the same topics of business and politics, things she was familiar with, since she worked at the newspaper.
But for now, she chose the only option. She would serve them champagne and return to the kitchen to wait for the damned ducks to finish cooking.
Yes, unfortunately, until close to the end, Lola still had to serve them their damned ducks. It was 1848, after all.
What is the attraction for women to these ménage romances? I like to think it’s simply a case of “the more, the merrier”! I am glad they are finally making their way to the forefront of the wonderful world of romance.
Karen knew she wanted to be a writer when she was 3. She sat on her bed gazing at her book, The Bee Man of Orn, thinking “What power there is in creating imaginary worlds! The reader is automatically transported into a reality that you created. She hears your characters talking, sees the vistas you painted with words.” Then she realized she had better learn to read.
When Karen was 12, she had a dream of being in a village on the coast of Kenya, so at 23 she bought a one-way plane ticket to Nairobi to find the village. She climbed the Mountains of the Moon in Rwanda to see mountain gorillas, hitchhiked overland through Egypt, Uganda, Zaire, and Zambia, lived with the Turkana in the Northern Frontier District of Kenya, went down the Congo on a decrepit steamer, and sailed up the Nile on a leaky dhow.
Her first three novels were historical fiction involving precolonial African explorers. Since she was always either accused or praised (depending how you look at it) for writing overly steamy sex scenes, erotic romance was the natural next step. She is currently writing about the rough and tumble life of the California gold rush, and lives in Northern California with her Newfoundland dog.
Visit my site: http://www.karenmercury.com/index.html