by Meghan O’Brien
Jan 15, 2006
Buy it Amazon, B&N
By guest reviewer Jill Sorenson
I bought this book because I got the impression (maybe here at LVLM?) that O’Brien writes hot, gritty stories. Many of the lesbian romances I come across don’t seem young or modern, and I was looking for something more cutting-edge. I’ve also been interested in post-apocalyptic stories lately (I loved the movie, The Road), and it’s no secret that I like certain types of ménage. When I read the blurb for The Three, I got very excited:
Twenty-five-year-old Anna is ready to give up on living in a post-apocalyptic world where unchecked sickness and slaughter have killed off her childhood tribe, family, and best friend. But when Anna unexpectedly interrupts an attack on a beautiful woman lounging by a lake, she is drawn into the relationship of two other survivors of the sickness: young, idealistic Elin, who welcomes Anna into their makeshift family with open arms, and Elin's lover, the older, more jaded Kael, whose dark and brooding nature initially keeps Anna at bay.
The threesome journeys south for the winter season but is beset by accidents, relationship strain, and an attack upon Elin by a group of religious fanatics who believe that a woman's duty in the post-apocalyptic world is to bear children and repopulate the earth. Kael and Anna's fragile connection will be tested repeatedly. Will they find a way to work together to save the woman they both love?
Post-apocalyptic f/f/m? Yes please!
Fairly early on, I realized I wasn’t going to get quite what I’d expected. I can’t discuss my biggest disappointment without spoilers, so I’ll save that for last. I had problems with other aspects of the story, including weak world-building and odd character actions.
The Three isn’t a heavy read, despite being set in a dark, dreary world, full of danger and violence. It opens with Anna, an injured traveler who has just lost her male companion. She comes upon a stunning redhead at the shore of a sparkling lake. Anna decides to return later to bathe alone, but notices several scary men approaching. When the men attack the redhead, Anna jumps in to help her.
After a brief struggle, another man arrives and kills all of the bad guys. It turns out that Elin, the redhead, and Kael, a handsome young warrior, are together. They thank Anna and invite her to dinner. Eli smiles and giggles at the bizarre culmination of the scene, saying that her “perfect afternoon is back on track.” Huh? They are bloody from battle, dead bodies piled around. These three go from fighting to flirting in a flash. Elin teases Anna about needing a bath and Anna blushes because she feels dirty. The girls proceed to wash off in the lake while Kael roasts a rabbit. There might be corpses on the shore, but the water’s fantastic!
Elin’s sunny disposition never wavers, and it’s out of place in this setting. Later, Kael explains to Anna that Elin had a sheltered upbringing, away from the horrors that are typical in their ravaged world. That is why she’s an “optimist.” Okay, but Elin has obviously been exposed to violence as an adult. She just hasn’t reacted to it. That isn’t normal or relatable human behavior. Elin’s sugary sweetness seemed a little macabre.
Anna is an in-between character, sort of a tomboy. She isn’t as feminine as Elin or as masculine as Kael. Her tragic past is easy to sympathize with, and I liked her innocent, adventurous attitude toward sex.
Kael is the most intriguing of the three. He is protective, mysterious, and always on edge.
Before I get into spoiler territory, I have to say that the world-building was awkward from the first page. Anna has been walking for a week on an injured ankle, for no other reason than to keep moving forward. In this environment, wouldn’t it be safer to lay low and heal? It also seems careless for Elin to nap on a blanket by the lake, out in the open. When murderers and thieves are thick in the woods, why take chances?
The romance is lacking as well. Elin decides that Anna is “part of their family” right at the start. It’s insta-love. The author tells us through character dialogue that this threesome is meant to be, rather than showing us with a romantic buildup.
Although these flaws were jarring, I wanted to keep reading. O’Brien creates a fast pace with short bits of dialogue, and she does a nice job with sexual chemistry. The story moves. The sex is hot. The characters, especially Kael, are unique.
**SPOILER** (highlight to read)
What brought me to a halt was this “shocking” reveal: Kael is a woman. I use quotations because it isn’t hard to guess from the blurb, and the twist comes early in the book. I didn’t have a clue, and I felt very let down. O’Brien writes fantastic sex scenes and I wanted my f/f/m ménage! Lesbian readers might be relieved by this development. I was unsettled by it, as much so as if a manly hero from m/f undressed to display his female parts.
I continued reading for a few chapters, but the story fell flat for me after that. I’m not attracted to f/f/f. Kael has a very masculine energy and uses a strap-on, so it’s almost like f/f/m. But…not. I kept thinking that the story would have been better without Elin. The threesome scenes are graphic, nicely written, and erotic. I just wasn’t into it.
I’d like to try another O’Brien with a contemporary setting and two main characters. The Three wasn’t for me.