My rating : 3.5 stars

Nice. This is the first word that comes in my mind. Not great, not fantastic… just nice.

As a middle-aged woman, this story frustrated me. Not because I related to the past of the heroine, but because I felt cheated for the heroine. Genie deserved much more care and attention and wooing than she received. Luke looked like a spoiled brat, and Matt, even if he claimed to love them equally, was constantly reassuring Luke instead of Genie. At the story’s end, I thought that the relationship was anything but credible. During the first 40 pages, I was extremely thrilled as it looked like Painted Paths would read a great ménage romance and a great plot.

The choice of characters was great… a 40-year-old woman, Genie, a 24-year-old bisexual, Luke, and a 34-year-old Native American straight guy, Matt. The woman is not portrayed as a cougar. And there is nothing that says she is 40. When I started the story, I thought it would be interesting to see the guys woo her since she survived a very abusive marriage and never had a relationship or even sexual experience after her divorce. But this was not the case. In fact, the focus of the relationship was on Luke who lost his parents when he was a kid. I am not sure if Matt was at some point a father figure who turned into a crush and then lover for Luke. But it is obvious Luke is way head over heels in love with Matt yet merely in love with the heroine. This irked me. Tons. Why wasn’t a woman who never knew love, was abused in marriage, and harbored major self-esteem issues the main focus of the story’s ménage relationship? Is not a woman’s broken spirit as important as a man’s sexuality? This story was confusing.

The story starts when Matt is suddenly tired of waiting to see if Genie returns his love after almost two decades. And who would not be at that point? Right when Luke decides to jump his bones and take a risk to confess to Matt how he loves him. From that point, it is like a light switch was flipped. Matt has a revelation and decides he is bisexual with Luke, but only with Luke, as well as being in love with Luke too. Then Genie suddenly arrives in the middle of a sex scene and feels like a third wheel but accepts her secondary place among the lover’s triad. The men do nothing to woo Genie. She already accepts that they love each other more than her. Even at the end of the story when they talk marriage, the discussion ends with both guys planning to get married because poor Luke needed it more that Genie who cannot trust enough to marry someone again after her horrible marriage.

I have to be honest. I was happy to read the last page. But writing a MMF is never easy. It is indeed difficult to give equal love, time, and everything to all the players in a ménage. Ménages are true triangles of love, no matter how many more souls there are in the mix. Alas, I am always uncomfortable when I find an unbalanced MMF relationship. Some authors will favor the males as alpha dominant and the woman as simply a sex toy. Other authors prefer the male love relationship as leaving the woman being the excuse to explore the male’s bisexuality. And I think this is what Welsh chose—the last one. But isn’t everyone important enough to triumph in a story? Whether we have two heroes (or heroines) or eight, are they not all subject to gain something from their struggle to prevail in a story? Genie seemed merely a prop to make a MM story a MMF story that would appeal to a broader audience. Was she any better, changed, at the end? Why did she have to have such a difficult history and then no triumph? The story could have been so much more.

Now, I cannot end this review with a sour note. If the reader does not mind reading a MM love story on top of the MMF love story, then the reader will enjoy Painted Paths. It is a great book. I like the choice of characters and their ages. The style was easy to read. The plot was okay. Although not very original, the plot was nicely mixed in with the romance. Welsh even left an open door for another potential ménage of which in my book is a big plus! What I would like to read from SA Welsh next is a MFM and see her developing her characters equally. Write a blow-my-socks-off story, Welsh.

This review has been originally published at Risqué Reviews

Publisher’s description (Silver Publishing):

Sheriff Matt Shade had always gotten under his skin. Luke had spent the best part of his teen life watching and dreaming about the big man. Now Luke’s grown and ready to go after what he wants. Matt was in love with his best friend, how cliche was that? And if that wasn’t enough to make things complicated he’d started to notice how hot his other friend was. His very male friend.

Genie never thought she’d get past all the pain in her life but suddenly her dreams are filled with two very specific men — claiming her and showing her how love is supposed to be.

Events conspire to either bring them closer together or rip them apart for good. It takes an overheard orgasm, an ex with dangerous connections and a good dose of fear to nudge–or shove–these three onto the right path.

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About Mary's Ménages Reviews

I read, review, beta read and blog about erotic ménages romances since 2005. Welcome to my world! :)

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