The Three by Meghan OBrien is one of my favorite books. It’s certainly my favorite Meghan O’Brien novel (followed closely by The Night Off). If you haven’t discovered her work yet, you don’t know what you’re missing! O’Brien’s work is gold: well-written, interesting story lines that are usually a twist on what you’re expecting, and super-steamy sex scenes.
The Three is unique among O’Brien’s works for a couple reasons. First, it deals with a near-futuristic/dystopian world. Second, the romantic plot deals with a triad. I’d never read a book featuring a romantic triad before, and this was eye-opening and very sweet.
The book opens with Anna who is simply trying to survive in the brutal world that has followed the death of much of the population after a plague swept the country. Society has crumbled, and in its place is a precarious tribal system. Anna runs across some men sneaking up on a woman alone, and alerts her to their presence, which is how she comes to be traveling with Elin and her protector Kael.
Elin is surprisingly sheltered for the difficult world she’s living in. She has a tendency to believe the best of people she meets, though she knows how to defend herself. She is the perfect foil for the taciturn and recalcitrant Kael.
Kael presents herself to the world at large as a man to better protect Elin, whom she loves very much. But when Elin makes known her attraction to Anna, Kael has no problems when she sees it through. For her part, Anna is surprised at the openness of Elin and Kael’s relationship. Slowly, the three become part of each other’s lives as they travel through the wilderness, seeking safety.
Of course, the world isn’t about to leave them alone to explore what they have with each other. Just when things are starting to come together for them, Elin is abducted. Together, Anna and Kael have to work to bring her back to them.
Anna is the first character we meet, and the one whose point of view we follow throughout the novel. The post-apocalypse hasn’t been kind to her. She’s affected by her experiences, but I hesitate to say that she’s damaged by them. Anna is the kind of person who keeps moving forward, no matter the obstcles.
Elin can only be described as the flower child of the group. Compared to the other two main characters, her upbringing was sheltered. Maybe this is why she’s able to see so much good in people. She welcomes Anna into her and Kael’s lives, and is the one who makes the first move on Anna. Though she’s with Kael, she won’t deny her attraction to Anna. And while she may have been sheltered, she’s strong in her own way, with an emotional resilience that helps keep her little group together.
If the post-apocalypse hasn’t been kind to Anna, it’s been downright brutal to Kael. When Anna first meets Kael, she’s very intimidated by him. It’s only after she’s been traveling with Elin and Kael for a while that Anna realizes not only that Kael is female, but also that she’s doing her best to keep Elin safe from the worst of what she knows is out there. Kael is physically the strongest character of the three, but the most fragile emotionally. Anna might not have been damaged by her experiences, but Kael certainly has been. Watching her fight to move beyond that damage is one of the characteristics that makes her so engaging.
O’Brien does an interesting thing with Kael’s character. I don’t know that I’d categorize her as transgender, but she falls in a place between cis and trans. After the reveal of her gender, Kael is referred to in the narrative as “she” but Elin refers to her as “him.” It’s not clear-cut, which I appreciate. The spectrum is alive and well in this story, and O’Brien’s choices make that obvious.
The Writing Style
One of the things I love about Meghan O’Brien’s stories (aside from the smoking hot sexytimes) is the accessibility of her characters. We get to know them so well, and I love and want to spend time with all of them. When I retire, I want to live in an airstream village in the desert populated by Meghan O’Brien’s characters…
Her prose is simple and to the point, and never gets in the way of the story. The first time I read it, the novel kept me on tenterhooks through the entire way. It still does, even though I’ve read it at least half a dozen times now.
O’Brien also tackles a poly relationship in this book, specifically a triad. I loved her treatment of the evolution of the relationship. It felt very organic and moves differently for each character.
A great story that moves you right along with it, gentle but frank treatment of gender, and the first time I’ve read a lesfic story featuring a triad. Add in the lovely erotic content O’Brien is known for, and you have the entire package.
No cons from me! I love this book.
If you’re a fan of Meghan O’Brien’s work and you haven’t read this book, what are you waiting for? If you haven’t read any of her work, be warned! This book may send you out for all the other Meghan O’Brien books that are already out there. She’s prolific, so the damage to your wallet may be extensive, but I promise you’ll never be happier!
Seriously, I love this book, and I bet you will too. It takes a lot of themes we don’t see often in lesfic and wraps them up in a great story that will keep you reading until the wee hours of the morning, just so you don’t have to wait to see what happens.
Excerpt from The Three by Meghan OBrien
Still in a crouch, the woman cocked her head to the side. “I suggest you boys keep moving along.” Her calm, gentle voice raised gooseflesh on Anna’s arms. “You don’t want to cause trouble here, I promise.”
From behind the leader, a stocky, bearded man stepped closer and raised an eyebrow. “Yeah? What’s gonna stop us? You?”
The woman leapt to her feet in a lightning-quick move that made even Anna step back in surprise. She held a slim black object in one hand. “If I have to.”
The leader took an aggressive step forward. “All you have to do, honey, is cooperate with us. Nobody gets hurt that way. I promise.”
The redhead appeared to relax, but Anna watched her slightly widen her stance. She recognized the stillness before the strike and held her breath in anticipation. “No, thanks.” The woman extended a long, steel baton with the flick of her wrist and delivered a hard strike to the legs of the man leading the pack.
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Bits and Bobs
ISBN number: 9781932300512
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
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