Friday, August 12, 2016

Release Day Review: Expanded Hearts (Heartland #2) by Logan Meredith

expanded heartsTitle ~ Expanded Hearts (Heartland #2)

Author ~ Logan Meredith

Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press

Published ~ 12 August 2016

Genre ~ Contemporary M/M/M Romance



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Heartland: Book Two

Psychologist Victor Mascari and his partner, spa-owner Derek Jameson, have been together eight years, but their relationship is still evolving. Derek distrusts monogamy because of his parents’ messy divorce, but as marriage equality advances, Victor’s doubts about their open relationship are growing. He doesn’t necessarily want a legal union, but he’s increasingly concerned about how others view them.
When Victor comes home to find Derek with another new conquest, he’s annoyed… at first. As he gets to know Antonio, Victor discovers the young man is intelligent, self-assured, and charming. This time, it’s Victor who is intrigued by someone else and Derek who thinks Victor’s interest is crossing the lines they’ve agreed on. If Victor wants to keep Derek, he’ll have to let Antonio go.
But Antonio is in real trouble and has nowhere to turn. Victor and Derek take him in, and it soon becomes clear how well he fits into their lives and how strong the bonds between all of them are growing. A committed relationship between three men—all very different in age and background—is enough of a challenge, and then the horrifying secrets of Antonio’s abusive past emerge.

 Debra’s Review

After eight years together, Victor doesn’t question his love for Derek, but he is increasingly questioning their open relationship. This is only made worse when Victor finds himself attracted to Derek’s latest one-nighter, Antonio, after spending the afternoon together talking and cuddling. More than that, Victor can’t get rid of the nagging feeling that something is not right with the young man. Victor’s obsessing over Antonio turns everything upside down. Derek, always the one to find men to play with, suddenly doesn’t like the fact that Victor is pursuing Antonio and his jealousy flares even as he too is worried about Antonio. More than that, Derek has a real fear that he could lose Victor to Antonio.

Victor’s initial interest in Antonio ratchets up the doubts and questions that have been simmering below the surface of his relationship with Derek. I got the feeling that Victor was never fully comfortable with the open relationship, but he understood Derek’s need for it and went along anyway. Meanwhile, although Derek has been the one to dismiss monogamy and the one to seek out play partners, his arrangement is now coming back to bite him on the ass. Antonio magnifies some underlying issues and results in a difficult time for Victor and Derek before he even becomes a member of the household. Just Victor’s interest alone has the men at odds like they’ve never been, but it does force them to confront what is going wrong with their “arrangement”.

When they finally find Antonio and take him in, they begin to find out that Antonio’s problems are more complex than any of them imagined. He’s been used and manipulated and his past is now coming back with a vengeance and Victor is right in the middle of things. They come to an agreement to offer him a safe place in their home, but that he is off-limits for sex. It seems to work for a while Antonio fills a need in Derek to protect and nurture and have someone depend on him, while his book-smarts and never ending thirst for learning offers Victor someone to talk to and confide in, discussing politics and other subjects Derek has no interest in. But everyone has some secrets.

There were a lot of complexities in this relationship that went far beyond just the three men trying to make this threesome work. The alternating points of view went a long way in helping me understand the motives of all three men. Victor has a fear of outsiders judging them, Derek has a prickly relationship with his mother and the underlying commitment issues and Antonio’s life is still in turmoil. All three have family issues to some extent. Antonio sent to live in US with an uncle who kicked him once he thought he was gay. Although Victor isn’t that close with his sister and mother, they have a good relationship, but he doesn’t visit his hometown. Derek’s mother is a piece of work. She’s rude and disrespectful of Derek and Victor, yet Derek yearns for her acceptance even as she uses his father’s actions against him. He is hurt by his father’s womanizing behavior and his parent’s divorce from his childhood, and fears of being like that man, which is a driving force in his dislike of monogamy.

These three men are so different but they do work together once they stop keeping secrets and start being honest. It took me a while to feel like Antonio was on equal footing in the threesome. With factors such as the age gap, Derek and Victor’s long-term relationship and Antonio’s history, it wasn’t until Antonio finally found his strength to voice his needs that I felt better about the emotional connection. On the other hand, the sex scenes were hot whether it was Derek and Victor or all three men. I had no trouble buying into any of the attraction or desire.

I haven’t read the first book and although characters make a cameo appearance here, this works completely as a standalone. Although there was quite a bit of drama and emotional moments, I never felt it was overdone. The struggle to come together without them falling apart, the fear for Antonio’s safety and trying to navigate a three-way relationship in everyday life all made for good reading. Although I found Victor’s sister’s surprise in the Epilogue a bit odd the rest of it convinced me that the men have found what they need to move forward as a strong family unit. I recommend it for anyone looking for a ménage story where there is a serious uphill climb before the men get everything they didn’t know they needed.

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