Monday, May 16, 2016

Release Day Review: Five-Sided Heart by Max MacGowan

fivesidedheartTitle ~ Five-Sided Heart

Author ~ Max MacGowan

Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press

Published ~ 16th May 2016

Genre ~ Contemporary Romance, Ménage, M/M/M/M/M





Noah Trevelyan has lost his moorings. Disowned over his sexuality as a teenager, he hasn’t been back to his home on the Outer Banks since his fisherman father kicked him out. But when he returns for the Old Man’s funeral, he discovers his father left him the house and boat in his will. Noah must choose whether to stay or go, but he won’t be alone. There’s Ian, working to overcome the emotional scars left by a domineering ex-boyfriend, and Ty, a cheerful housekeeper who’s struggling to take care of his Alzheimer’s-stricken aunt. There’s Joshua too, running from the destruction of his old life, and Gabriel, who was once beaten and left for dead, and doesn’t know how to survive on his own.
Will they find in each other the strength and courage to keep living—and learn, together, how to love again? A polyamorous relationship is the last thing any of them expected to find in the Outer Banks, but it might be what they need most, and it might even be their redemption—if they can keep their group from breaking apart under the pressure.

 Debra’s Review

As novel and intriguing as a five-way polyamorous relationship sounds, this isn’t the first I’ve read, but it’s the first where all the men come to the relationship as strangers. This is a dynamic I always seek out in ménage and I was mostly intrigued about the author would handle the situation. If you’re looking at the story hoping for orgy after orgy, you’ll probably be disappointed. Yes, there are several group sex scenes, but the heart of the story is seeing the men break free of their past and finding strength in a bonded group that they likely would never have found on their own.

Noah’s father kicked him out ten years ago at 18 after finding out he was gay. He has returned to the Outer Banks for the Old Man’s funeral and plans to leave as soon as he can. After missing the ferry he comes across Ty and Ian, who both live on the island he grew up on. Ty hands Noah the keys to the Old Man’s house and Noah finds out that the obviously gay Ian has lived next door for the past five years and considered Noah’s father a friend. When Noah offers Ian and Ty a boat ride to the island, two strangers on the dock are also brought along for the ride: Joshua, an easy going man with a Kentucky accent and Gabriel, a slight pretty man whose face is marred by scars. The trip doesn’t go all that smoothly but when they make it to the other side the men talk, share a meal and the alcohol is passed around. With emotions running high, rum flowing and a need for each of the men to just forget, they indulge in a night of group sex. After the orgy (as Gabriel calls it) all the men retreat out on their own, but find themselves gravitating back to each other the next day. Each man has a story to tell and a past to forget and the bond they are starting to build seems to strengthen them all, but some secrets will hit harder than others and some of their pasts will come back to haunt them.

All have pasts to overcome – some harsher than others as you can see from the blurb. The story doesn’t delve so deeply into them as to get bogged down in pain and angst, but gives enough background and information for the reader to connect with and understand each and every one. Easily the most painful story is Gabriel’s but I was touched by each man’s struggle. While Gabriel and Joshua are new to the Outer Banks, Noah, Ty and Gabriel all have ties there with family, exes and small town gossips that put even more strain on them and the group.

I give Max MacGowan credit for taking this story on and not just giving us points of view from all five men, but making their voices sufficiently different so that I wasn’t ever confused as to who was talking. There as an interesting dynamic in that while all the men felt they worked better as a group, it was clear that some gravitated more strongly to the others for either emotional support or sex. For instance Joshua and Gabriel, both new to the Outer Banks, spend quite a bit of alone time together talking and getting to know each other, while Ian and Noah seemed to click quite well. Ty is the all-around happy, outgoing guy who everyone likes. Every man brings something different and necessary to the group and I never got the feeling that any of them were ever slighted or ever thought of breaking away.

Of course I have to mention the sex scenes. They are not the focus of the story but they definitely are necessary and add some heat. Let’s face it, five pairs of arms and legs, five mouths and five cocks are a lot to keep track of, but the author pulled it off. When all five men are together having sex, they are generally paired off two or three, but are always together in the same room watching and touching. The physical connection isn’t limited to those scenes though as I felt the attractions simmering whether they were kissing, playing on the beach or just going about the daily routines of life.

While there is definitely insta-lust it’s not an insta-love story. The story deals with the start of the relationship and you can feel the growing affection and how strongly the men bond. They face some challenges from the outside that could pull the group apart and get a taste of the judgment they may face going forward, but they also realize that they are stronger together than they are on their own.

The story was well written and moved at a good pace. I have to admit there were some odd words and phrases used that I wasn’t familiar with. I’m not sure if it’s the author’s style or part of a regional dialect, but I did have to look a couple of things up. Regardless of that minor issue, I would be all in for another story that shows how they deal with life after fully committing to their unconventional arrangement.


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Meet Max MacGowan

Max MacGowan is a work in progress. They’ve just turned forty, and are determined not to go gently into that good night.  They identify as nonbinary genderqueer, and prefer they/them pronouns. While Max lives in North Carolina, they daydream constantly of Seattle and Portland and all other colorful points West. In the meantime, they’ll satisfy themselves with coffee and trying every recipe that piques their interest on the Food Network. While they can be quiet, friends will tell you all that still water can’t quite hide Max’s quirky personality, Or maybe it’s the ever-present puckish twinkle in the eyes that’s really to blame. 
Max has a fantastic time writing male/male romance, and is especially fond of polyamory, found families, love in unexpected places, friends who become lovers, and romantic comedies. They’re owned by two rowdy tomcats who take pains to make sure their owner doesn’t ever get the status confused.
You can find Max online via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and their website.


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