Author: Alyssa Turner
Release Date: 28 March 2011
Number of pages: 94 pages
Publisher: Etopia Press
Source: review copy provided by author
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author's Website, Amazon, Barnes and Noble
Grade: 4 stars
Sex that's twice as good, love that's three times stronger.
When Jodi returned to Burlington after a nasty divorce, broke and without a much needed place to sculpt, she never expected to bump into Paxton, her best friend from growing up. With her unresolved feelings for him still smoldering, it was a shock to find him married—to a great guy. But when Paxton and Nicholas offer her a room for rent in their too-big, too-expensive Victorian, complete with a turret to use as her art studio, it seems like the perfect solution for everyone. Until Jodi overhears Nicholas and Paxton making love—and finds herself burning hotter than she ever imagined.
Nicholas always knew his husband Paxton was bi-sexual, but finding his forgotten stash of cheerleader DVDs makes him wonder if Paxton's been tamping down his old desires. As strong as their love is, he knows there are things he just can't give Paxton...or can he? He decides to get Paxton a very special birthday present—a night with a woman—a no-strings arrangement to grant him the fantasies Nicholas isn't equipped to fulfill. But when he meets Paxton's best friend Jodi, Nicholas finds himself facing new feelings of his own. If only he could stop imagining Jodi's body wedged between Paxton and him and figure out what to do...
My Thoughts: By Surprise by Alyssa Turner really took me by surprise. I was expecting a scorching hot ménage erotica and instead I got a wonderfully moving and emotional love story (which of course had some very hot scenes).
I was truly amazed what a well rounded story Alyssa Turner managed to create in such a short novella of only 94 pages. Not only was there a developed plot (nope, this is no smut without plot story), the characters were fell fleshed out and, which is not a small feat once again considering the length limitations.
By Surprise is a ménage story in the sense that there are three people discovering and trying to define their relationship to the other two. Paxton and Nicholas are a happily married gay couple whose everyday life is rocked when Paxton's childhood best friend Jodi enters the picture and stirs up both their feelings and their peace of mind. Paxton has always had a crush on Jodi and considers himself a bi, but the shock of his attraction and emergence of feelings for her astonishes Nicholas who never liked women.
By Suprise is rather a discovery of each of the characters' feelings and their coming to grips with their emotions and attraction. Although there is sexual discovery what gets the center stage in By Surprise is rather how they deal with the situation emotionally, and Alyssa Turner didn't take the easy way out since she introduced the third player into a well established, harmonious and loving relationship. I was curious to see how one person of a devoted couple could deal with sharing that person with someone else and not feel jealous or possessive, but the way Nicholas reacted was both realistic and believable:
He continued, "I'm not jealous, though. I’m grateful, I think. Getting to know you feels like getting to know a part of Paxton I wouldn’t have been able to without you."
I found it wonderful how sensible he was and the fact of seeing Jodi make his beloved husband happy didn't make him jealous but grateful. And witnessing how he developed feelings and a connection with Jodi on his own made their unusual arrangement logical and credible.
...the anticipation tightened his balls, raised goose bumps on his skin. It wasn’t just the virginal aspect of pressing into a woman for the very first time, something he suddenly saw as an unbelievably exotic thrill. He was hard with the idea of sharing the woman that Paxton cherished as the only other important person in his life. He wanted to be inside her, to claim her too. Sharing her sealed the circle. To make her theirs, together…to be hers, together—he couldn’t wait to know what that felt like.
Verdict: I thoroughly enjoyed By Surprise despite the sometimes not fluent and a bit brusque narrative, as I was swept up in the story and more importantly in the characters' emotions. I wouldn't really categorize By Surprise as an erotica novella as the only graphic sex scene takes place at the very end, it is more an erotic romance as the focus is more on the emotional development of the bond between the characters. All in all By Surprise was a most delightful surprise, I would recommend it as initiation to those who are curious to discover erotica, ménage and m/m stories, I'm sure you'll like it!