Author: Lauren Gallagher (also writes as L.A. Witt)
Publisher: Carnal Passions
Primary Relationship: MFM
Other Relationships: M/F, M/F
Category or Genre: Erotic Romance, Erotica, Contemporary
Does this Review contain spoilers? very mild spoilers about sexual content.
How was the copy provided? Already owned.
Has this review been posted before? No.
There's a scene in the fifth season of Doctor Who where Amy Pond, furious at the Doctor, asks, "What is the point of you?" Well, that's kind of how I feel about MFM. I've always taken great pains to avoid it. GIVE ME MMF OR DEATH has been my slogan. I always check reviews to make sure MMFs are really MMFs, even.
I strongly suspected Lauren Gallagher's Light Switch wasn't an MMF, but I decided to give it a chance anyway, because I was intrigued by the BDSM set-up. I'm taking a looong break from any BDSM books with an abused sub who has to be "put back together" by the dom. I'm already iffy on hurt/comfort (see an explanation in this review), so I don't derive any visceral emotional satisfaction from the trope, and when used as the primary plot driver, it's so predictable that it can't hold my interest.
Light Switch was a lovely breath of fresh air. Kristen isn't particularly vulnerable or traumatized. She was in a bad relationship for a while, one that bordered on emotionally abusive, but she ends it on her own in the beginning of the book, and it's only noteworthy as the trigger for her sexual explorations. She's not a violet-eyed supertalented special snowflake, either, just appealingly normal, with a normal boring middle-class job she doesn't particularly like. What she does have (that most women sadly lack in real life) are two hot guy friends who live nearby and are totally down for whatever.
So Kristen starts exploring her submissive side with her old friend Scott. Since she's known for a while that he's into BDSM and polyamory, there are no major surprises, just a lot of tentative questions and dialogues. I loved this dynamic. It's not particularly romantic, but it is incredibly caring and compassionate and intelligent. And then, when they finally get down to it, it's hot. The concept of "taking your time" gets eroticized and woven into the sex scenes in terms of dominance and submission—Kristen getting taught her place sexually and that she's on his time now—and then, when the session is over, they go back to being friends. He's not controlling her in any other aspect of her life, and you can tell that he doesn't want to control her in any other aspect. That lack of need for total control makes him seem so much stronger and more attractive than most Generic Telepathic Alpha Doms populating this sort of fiction.
Meanwhile, she's conducting an intense flirtation with her other friend (and apartment building neighbor) Matt. A lot of their interaction comes from playing poker games together with their neighbors, so it's very playful and light. Matt's out of an unhappy relationship too, and he's starting watching her through the window, and she's started watching him. Eventually, he starts watching her sessions with Scott. When they finally cross the limit (of friendship, and of physical thresholds) the sex goes BANG.
From that point on, there's a lot of tension as to how Kristen's two separate relationships, both of them originating in friendships, are going to resolve. I will tell you that no, Scott and Matt don't get it on. They're both straight and that doesn't change. The voyeurism and the BDSM do get interwoven in ways that are sexually satisfying and true to the characters, and I'll leave it at that.
If you're into polyamory and romance, this is absolutely the book for you. I loved how friendship, sex and romance don't preclude each other in Light Switch. These people have strong emotional commitments to each other, care for each other, but sexual fidelity isn't the default.
This is a fairly long book, it's got a nonstandard form of tension, and I admire Lauren Gallagher for pulling that off. She could have thrown in a stalker ex or some bullshit like that, but she stays true to the internal arc. The tension we do get is complex, interwoven—there's also a strand about Kristen exploring her dominant side—and never reaches a truly desperate moment. The only negatives I can say about this structure is that the story felt awfully dialogue-ey at times, with the characters too unrealistically articulate about expressing their needs and desires. But this is a much lesser evil than misunderstanding-driven plots, so it didn't seriously bother me. Lastly, this is a book very focused on sex and sexual exploration, so we don't get a lot of the characters' lives outside of the bedroom. Again, a conscious choice that served the story, but I think if this was much longer it would have worn on me.
I'm still a bit prejudiced against MFM, but Light Switch really rocked my world. I highly recommend it.