by Cara McKenna
Series: Sins in the City #2
Published by Signet on June 21, 2016
Sub-Genre/Theme: Contemporary, Erotic, LGBTQ+, Menage
Format: ARC, Ebook
Buy: Amazon, B&N
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I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley.
At the edge of thirty, Clare is feeling restless. Even though she’s gainfully employed and pursuing her passion for photography, she can’t shake the feeling that something’s missing. Then she meets Mica. A perfect subject for her portrait exhibit, Mica is sexy, exciting, and everything Clare desires.
One night with the charismatic stranger is all it takes to leave her craving more. But the intensity Mica brings isn’t confined to the bedroom, and Clare wonders if this summer fling might turn more adventurous than she anticipated—especially as a curious energy starts to simmer between the two of them and Mica’s handsome roommate, Vaughn.
As the three-way tension mounts, Mica makes a sinful proposal. It’s an invitation Clare can’t pass up, and an erotic encounter she’ll never be able to forget. Caught up between two irresistible men, Clare is about to get all the excitement she’s been looking for—and then some....
Downtown Devil is book #2 in Cara McKenna’s Sins in the City series, which focuses on various aspects of menage. I recently read book #1, Crosstown Crush, and was quite pleasantly surprised by it. I had some misgivings about Downtown Devil, but once again McKenna set my initial reservations to rest. I enjoyed this book very much. Note: while Crosstown Crush is an MFM menage with light MM elements, Downtown Devil is definitely an MMF menage.
Just about to turn thirty, Clare is feeling a little stir crazy. She’s a photographer, but what pays her bills is a soul-sucking job in a retail call center. Frustrated with the direction her life is going, Clare yearns for something different. That’s when she meets Mica, a magnetic, charismatic guy currently working as a barista. Clare is immediately attracted to him. It just so happens that Clare is searching for portrait subjects for her first big exhibit, so she invites Mica to participate. Clare isn’t sure if he’ll contact her, but she is elated when he does.
As a side note, I really appreciated the fact that the main characters are all people of color: Clare and Mica are both multiracial, while Vaughn is African American. Additionally, that’s a plot point with Clare’s photography exhibit, which focuses on ethnically diverse subjects. I smiled when I read that her exhibit is titled, “So, What Are You?” As a person of color, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been asked that same question throughout my life. I identified with Clare strongly from the start for this reason.
Clare winds up photographing Mica and it’s not long before they enter into a sexual relationship. Due to the fact that Mica is only in town for the summer, they have a mutual understanding that the relationship will be casual and physical only. Not to mention the fact that Mica is MIA the morning after. Clare isn’t exactly hurt by this, but she wonders why Mica didn’t stick around or at least leave her a note to say thanks for the great time.
Through Mica, Clare meets Vaughn: EMT, Mica’s best friend for over a decade, and Mica’s roommate for the summer. Clare is immediately struck by Vaughn’s maturity and what a gentleman he is.
When Mica proposes that he and Clare invite Vaughn into the bedroom, Clare’s a little nervous but excited as well. She knows that her crush on Mica is, by nature, temporary. And she’s hoping that this adventure will pull her out of the funk she’s been in for a while in her life. Of course, it also helps that Clare is attracted to Vaughn, who in turn seems to share her interest.
Although Clare has never done anything like this before, the sex between the three of them is amazing and frankly, she can’t wait to do it again soon. However, once again Mica takes off, leaving Clare and Vaughn with the somewhat awkward morning after routine.
The more Mica withdraws emotionally, the more Clare finds herself pining for him. This part of the story bugged me a bit, simply because Clare kept wanting an emotional connection with Mica and it was obvious that he didn’t want the same thing. Mica is charming and seductive, but forget about relying on him. It turns out that he’s got a lot of emotional issues stemming from his childhood that relate to this. When those issues are revealed, I felt for him, but at the same time I was annoyed with him because I wished he would treat Clare more respectfully.
On the other hand, I much preferred Vaughn, who actually makes an effort to get to know Clare outside of what they do sexually. He and Clare become friends and it’s through this friendship that Clare learns about Mica and Vaughn’s complicated relationship over the years. They met when they were teens involved in a program for at-risk youth and although they didn’t hit it off at first, they ended up becoming best friends. That friendship evolved into something more during a trip in the desert when Mica initiated sexual contact with Vaughn, who allowed it.
Here’s where the lines become very blurred. Mica identifies as bisexual. Despite having engaged in various sexual activities with Mica over the years, Vaughn identifies as straight. But with Clare involved, Mica uses her to pull Vaughn in deeper and their friendship becomes even more complicated. I didn’t like how manipulative Mica is toward both Clare and Vaughn.
Something else that frustrated me was the way that Clare described herself falling for Mica, in a way that was doomed from the beginning. Mica is the epitome of Mr. Right Now–he’s absolutely not Mr. Right material. Despite knowing this, Clare continues wishing and hoping that Mica will text her for yet another booty call. Beyond that, she wishes he would reciprocate emotionally. There were several moments when I wanted to shake both Mica and Clare, for different reasons. Because of these feelings, I had trouble about halfway throughout the book and even debated finishing it, but decided to keep going. View Spoiler »Ultimately, Clare does realize what’s best for her, which was a relief to me. She and Vaughn end up in their own relationship, which I was glad about. I had mixed feelings about the ending, though. The way that Clare and Vaughn agreed that they’d be willing to continue inviting Mica into the bedroom occasionally didn’t really sit well with me, just because I felt that Mica had so much more learning and growing to do as an individual. Nevertheless, the arrangement seemed to make everyone happy, so for that, I was glad too. « Hide Spoiler
Although I struggled with some frustrated feelings toward the characters, the conflict was worked out carefully and didn’t feel rushed at all. Midway through, I wasn’t sure how things could possibly work out okay, but somehow they did.
I’ve found that McKenna’s stories and characters always stay with me, to the point where I’m still thinking about them days after I’ve finished reading the book. I enjoyed Downtown Devil and recommend it.
Rating: 4 stars