I received an ARC for Caught in the Middle by Kira Barker, available for general purchase on the 12th August.
I finished reading it a few days ago and I’ve put off writing the review because I really wasn’t sure how I felt about it. It’s still unclear after the time out, so I thought I’d just write the review without giving it a star rating and let you all make up your own minds.
The story follows Erin, Simon and Jack. Erin is training to be a trauma surgeon so she works long hours and is so focused on her career that she’s a little bit blind to everything else. Simon is a brilliant yet arrogant writer. His abrasive nature puts a lot of people off unless you know how to take him. Jack is a charming playboy, handsome and easygoing.
Although the standard of writing was mostly pretty good, there were a LOT of typos where words were misused – new instead of next, expressively instead of expressly and (my favourite) corporeal punishment instead of corporal punishment, to name but a few. In fairness to the author, it was an ARC I received and these errors may have been corrected by the time it gets to print. There were also a lot of heavily involved, convoluted sections of dialogue where I sometimes managed to lose track of who was speaking.
I think my main issue with the book was that I didn’t like or empathise with any of the characters. I don’t always think that’s a bad thing. I’ve read other books where I wasn’t enamoured of the main character and still enjoyed it overall and, to give the author credit, as self-obsessed and narcissistic as her trio are, at least they’re consistent with it. I think, for me, it was just because all the characters were like that. Even Kara, who is a secondary character, comes in as abrasive, rude and prying. There was no-one likeable to cheer for in the whole cast. I feel like I should have identified with Simon more as he’s the closest to me in terms of life experience, but Jack was probably my favourite and I was warming to him, right up until he turned out to be a manipulative heartbreaker. Others may not have an issue with the characters, or at least identify with them more than I did, in which case you should dive right on in and cheer your champion to victory.
I think that because I cared for little for the characters or what happened to them, the story had little to no emotional impact on me at all and, because of that, it felt very static. It’s a character based story so there’s no action or adventure of any sort – it’s three people sitting around talking in between bouts of sex and the odd trip to work. If I were more emotionally invested, I’d probably have been a lot more gripped by the story and I leave that up to you to decide how you interpret it. As I said before, you may well empathise with the characters a lot more than I did.
The plot is incredibly simple. It’s two guys and a girl learning how to co-exist in a menage a trois arrangement and making a lot of mistakes along the way. To confuse issues, Simon is a Dom and Jack is bi-curious, although he wavers over admitting that in the beginning. Caught in the middle, Erin is torn as to what she wants and becomes something of a passive voice in the whole relationship, allowing Simon to overwhelm her with the intensity of what they have.
The dialogue between the characters is at times both deep and revealing of the psychology of poly relationships. I think this is where the book really shines – the author clearly has a good grasp of the issues that people involved in these relationships struggle with. It’s not an easy balance to find and it’s nice to read characters that are articulate and intelligent in the way they communicate. It was one of the nicer things about the characters – they were all slightly older than your typical romantic/erotica protagonists. They’re all in their thirties.
Another thing that was done really well was the sex scenes. Ladies (and gentlemen) get your fans out and prepare to get steamy! They were hot. Very hot. They were well written and any dirty talk was well done, without any of the laughable porn-speak you see so often in erotica. It leans quite heavily towards the anal end of the spectrum so if that bothers you, this is probably not your scene. That too was well written though – heavy emphasis on the lube, preparation and changing of condoms – gold star for the author! There’s also some M/M action.
It was good that she got the D/s aspect of it so spot on too – the way they set up rules and protocol is pretty standard, but not everyone can articulate the mentality of it as well as this author does. I liked that Simon wasn’t perfect too. He gives a good impression of being in control but there are insecurities there, lurking just beneath the surface, and that was nice to see. Doms are people too, with the same hang ups as everyone else. It was really good to see someone break out of that mould or the ‘perfect Dom’. The author has also either researched or got some hands on experience with rope restraint. Those sections were well described and realistic, which was great.
All in all, I’m really not sure what to make of this one. There were aspects I thought were brilliant and others that left me cold, probably in equal measure. I suggest you download it and see for yourselves!