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Joint Review – Crosstown Crush (Sins in the City #1) by Cara McKenna

Reviewed by: E & Marlene

E: McKenna is a very gifted author. Everything I have read by her is well crafted and vivid so when I say I struggled reading this story, it wasn’t because of the writing, but because it was written so extremely well. Mike and Samira, Sam for short, have been married for a few years. As they have gotten more comfortable with each other Sam will occasionally cater to her husband’s kink of being cuckolded because he isn’t man enough for her. Eventually this reached the point when Sam asked if Mike wanted to take his fantasies to the level of realism of including another man occasionally. This is really a story about two people who love each other deeply and how do they deal with fantasy becoming reality along with all of its messy emotions. While this is a romance I felt more like this was a Happily For Now, HFN, in an uneven threesome BUT all three were trying to make what they had work.

Marlene: I picked this book because I have enjoyed, and in some cases downright loved, all of the previous books by McKenna that I have read. But this one doesn’t do it for me, especially as a romance. It took me a while (about 10%) to get into the book at all, and once I did, I still wasn’t there. One of the things I enjoy about romance is the thrill of, if not the chase, at least the push-pull of two people discovering that they are made for each other. Crosstown Crush encloses that push-pull into the introduction of a third person into a successful marriage, and the more Sam and Bern become emotionally involved, the more left out Mike is. It rubbed me the wrong way, pun possibly intended.

E: When Mike and Sam decided to go ahead and try to find a third, I was rather curious as to how they would go about doing it, what rules they would establish and how they would keep everyone in their roles. I thought the communication between Mike and Sam was pretty amazing and it gave me hopes for them although McKenna did a great job of also showing their moments of doubt. At the same time, I worried because I couldn’t see Sam doing anything with a man she didn’t find attractive not just physically but mentally as well. I thought the point about how Mike’s feeling were that much sharper in every area when it involved an actual person instead of a fictional story Sam created on her way home was a very important one. It seemed to say more than Sam’s peace of mind could be at stake.

Marlene: This is a story that is told through the sex. How it happens, what they each feel, what they do, what they fear and doubt leading up to and during the act. Mike and Sam communicate a lot of difficult stuff in order to make this happen at all. One of the things I did like was that the author showed their doubts and fears. There were so many ways that this could screw up their marriage, that they manage to deal with most of the stuff as it happened was one of the things that works in the story. But as much as Mike and Sam talked about what was going on, it seems a telling point that he never seems to have thought through what it would mean for Sam to let a man into her body. Of course she would want someone she liked and respected who would treat her with care, understanding and equal respect. Mike’s reaction reminded me of the common trope so often used in cheating, that the sex meant nothing. It might have meant nothing to him, but it means something to her.

E: Then the other shoe dropped and what I had been fearing happened. I really liked how McKenna set up the scene and I thought it captured the complicated mixture of feelings quite thoroughly. It also really pointed out a default belief that women are not entitled to the same amount/type/etc of pleasure and enjoyment as a man but if they sacrifice to bring pleasure to the man it is acceptable. I was glad to see this mindset didn’t stick but it is part of what made me feel this was a HFN book instead of a HEA.

Marlene: I liked the way that this threesome becomes a win-win-win. Everyone gets their kink satisfied, everyone gets their own specific itch scratched. At first it was all about Mike getting what he wanted, and Sam submitting to it. And as long as it was all fantasy, that was ok. But when it becomes real, she has to get something out of it too, or she will come to resent it and Mike. I liked that it took Sam quite a while to get past her programming and admit that she had her own kink and that she deserved to have it considered equal to Mike’s.

E: Like I said in the beginning, McKenna is a wonderful writer. My discomfort with CROSSTOWN CRUSH is because it was so well written and really exposed the potential ugly underside of bringing a fantasy to reality. Even when it is done with the best of intentions and out of love. Emotions are messy and complicated and McKenna dragged all of the complicated mess out but did it in such a way I never felt like I could pick a character to blame or dislike. She did end CROSSTOWN CRUSH with a promise and hope, for which I was grateful.

I give CROSSTOWN CRUSH a B.

Marlene: I found parts of this story interesting. I really liked all the characters. There is no one to blame, and there is no villain. I liked that the story ends with them trying to find a balance that works between the three of them, but it definitely feels like a happy for now. However, this book felt like the story was all in the sex and there was nothing outside of that. I often like a “sex into love” story, but this was a sex story with emotional undertones, and not quite my cup of tea. Or tube of lube.

I give CROSSTOWN CRUSH a C+

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By Marlene

Marlene is a librarian, ebook advocate, science fiction fan, and RPG fan who lives in Atlanta. She and her husband are owned by three cats, just ask them. She's a geek and a nerd and proud of it. She's also an avid reader of everything, including the back of the cereal box, and has been blogging since April 2011 at Reading Reality and is a reviewer at Library Journal as well as active on Goodreads.

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