Anyway, in the course of my own reading, I found Lora Leigh's Men of August series published by Ellora's Cave. I am doing the entire series here in this blog post because they are so interconnected and while they can stand alone--Leigh is certainly a past master at such work--they are best read in a series.
All the August brothers: Cade, Brock & Sam, had been sent to the ranch of a so-called friend of their father's--to learn new ranching techniques supposedly. In truth, the man was a sexual predator and from the very first day they were there, they were raped, drugged, imprisoned, and made to not only submit to abuse but to abuse one another for the entertainment of this madman. This went on for months and when the brothers returned to their father, they were changed irrevocably--physically, emotionally and psychologically. The love and connection they had as brothers had been damaged and in some way destroyed. Now the only time they felt connected was when they shared a woman.
Book 1, Marly's Choice, is the story of Marly McCall, a young girl that had been brought to the August Ranch when she was 12 years old. She had her adolescent crushes on all the guys but as she reached college age and began her college career, she realized that Cade, the oldest August brother was the man she truly desired. However, she was aware of their unusual sexual preferences--they shared every woman any of the brothers with whom the brothers became involved. She went on a campaign to win Cade's love and yet she knew that this would also mean accepting Brock and Sam into her bed. This is Marly's story, but it is, to a great extent, Cade's story as well. As the oldest brother he had tried to protect them during the horror, but in doing so, he had become full of shame and rage, and that dark part of him is edgy and seemingly insensitive to love and caring. The reader is introduced to the abuse and its results, but not as fully as in subsequent novels in this series.
Book 2 is Sarah's Seduction, the introduction of Sarah Tate into Brock's story. The Prologue details their initial sexual encounter six years earlier, even before their relationship with Marly. But Sarah runs away, knowing about the menage that was expected, and being only 18 years old, she just couldn't handle it. She is totally spooked when she sees Brock's twin, Sam, watching them as they make love. She marries another a week later, and this novel picks up the story of Brock and Sarah just after Sarah's divorce from a man who she never loved and one who spent six years being unfaithful and spending her inheritance.
Brock was the oldest of identical twins. In his conversations with Sarah the reader gets a fuller recitation of the kinds and forms of abuse the brothers survived. She recognizes that she has never stopped loving Brock and that his love for her is a "forever" kind of love, but not only does she realize the menage arrangement was to come if she stays with Brock, but she also must accept that the three brothers will continue their involvement with Marly. Lots to consider for this young woman. Of the three, Brock seems to have made some peace and acceptance of what happened, but in some weird way, they see their sharing as the ultimate act of love expressed toward their brothers as well as insuring that their women will always be surrounded by men who love and treasure them.
Book 3, Heather's Gift, picks up the story that began toward the end of book 2, namely the introduction of Heather James into Sam's life. He of all the brothers was most damaged physically and the description of what was done to him is horrific. Now he has become entranced with Heather, the younger sister of one of the security that has been hired to guard the August Ranch. Because, from Book 1 onward, there is someone who is seeking not only to destroy the August men but to kill their women as well. It is someone who has intimate knowledge of the kinds of physical injury that Sam sustained, because toward the end of Book 2, Heather is drugged, stripped, and physically injured in the identical manner as Sam. It is absolutely heartbreaking. Now Heather has to face her feelings for Sam, but he is so fearful, so angry, so full of shame. Yet he wants Heather in his life. She, too, must accept the strange family relationships of the August brothers. She, too, must decide if she can not only allow herself to enter into a menage relationship, but can she accept that Sam will also, from time to time, be with Sarah and Marly.
The mystery of the stalker is solved ultimately and the ending is a real jaw-dropper. I never saw it coming, and I think I follow crime clues pretty well. Not this time. And with the final chapters comes the full disclosure of what was done to these men and one wonders how they ever came out of that experience alive, able to function and be relatively productive, and be able to find their place in the world.
The final chapter to their story is told in a Christmas story entitled August Heat. Here there is resolution and here the brothers and their spouses begin again. If there is any "happily ever after" it is here. And after slogging through the horror of this series, it is a joy to read this book, complete with some very fun interaction between the sisters-in-law and the brothers.
There are mixed reviews to this series. Some loved that the stories were very, very erotic--HOT, to be truthful. Others were turned off by the repetitive nature of the problems these men faced among themselves as well in their encounters with the women. There are readers that are not open to any form of sexual domination and that is certainly present in these stories as these brothers have not yet worked through the rage and shame. Yet I found that there was never injury or hurt, that there was, in their own very strange way a deep respect for their lovers and a desire to see them treasured.
For readers who do not like menage, this is not for you. And if reading about severe sexual abuse is disturbing, that these books are best left alone. I, for one, do not ever try to back away from facing the fact that such abuse exists in our world and to a far greater degree than most of us want to accept. Lora Leigh has not backed away from it. And these are definitely "in your face" novels. If you read erotic literature, if you can deal with the menage aspect of sexuality, if you can be open and accepting of those who must deal with the fall-out, then you can read these books and perhaps find them instructive and worth the time.
I give this series a rating of 4.75 out of 5.