Megan Hart's books? She writes erotica for grown-ups. She doesn't write sex just to titillate and she holds her characters to a higher standard. They don't just aimlessly drift through their lives on the page having sex with whomever they please with no consequences attached. No, Hart holds her characters emotionally accountable, and nowhere is that more evident than in The Space Between Us. This is a quiet book, but it packed a major punch for me.
Tesla Martin is a 20-something coffee barista working at Morningstar Mocha. Having had an unconventional childhood, she lives with her friend Vic, his wife and two kids. She has a younger brother who works as a mechanic in Vic's body shop. She's also bisexual and finds herself currently drawn to Meredith, a regular who likes to come in and hold court at Morningstar. Her attraction to Meredith is put to the test though when the woman makes her an indecent proposal: have sex with her husband Charlie.
What follows is a menage relationship that has consequences for all the characters. I loved that Hart doesn't use the menage for the sole purpose of writing steamy sex and then, poof!, all the characters go on their merry way. Relationships are hard when there are just two people, add in a third and it's bound to get messy. Tesla, even with her unconventional ways, recognizes this, but it doesn't prepare her any better for the coming fall-out.
Reading this book is like being on a slow moving train heading towards a cliff. As far as plotting goes, it's a very quiet story with nothing but internal conflict to propel it forward. This story, like many of Hart's others, lives and dies on the backs of the characters. You have to really be invested in them to keep moving forward because if you are not? There's not a serial killer, hostile business takeover, or natural disaster to tide you over.
Tesla, truly, carries this story. Her relationship with Vic, her brother, Cap, and what happens to her life once she involves herself with Meredith and Charlie. Meredith is the enigma of the story, at turns charismatic and sexy, at others selfish and self-absorbed. Charlie is almost like an innocent bystander. Sure having two women might sound like the stuff of a really hot porn movie, but in reality it's complicated. When Tesla enters into a relationship with both him and Meredith, what will that mean for just him and Meredith?
This is a hard book to write a review for, and a hard one to articulate my feelings about. I'm not sure it passed my Must Re-Read Someday Test, but it affected me deeply. I felt for these characters. They felt like real people to me. Their problems, their pasts, while not necessarily "relate-able" to me, felt authentic. I started to imagine walking down the street, seeing Morningstar Mocha on the corner, and going in - having Tesla chat with me while she makes my tea latte. On a romance scale, I'm not sure I'd consider this a romance novel. It's too.....messy. It certainly has it's romantic elements, but the ending is either going to be one readers will love or hate. How will it end for Tesla, Charlie and Meredith? It ends the way I think it has to, which is to say it's not conventional.
It's not my favorite or least-favorite by Hart, but it is what I've come to expect from her work: challenging characters who make good and bad choices dealing with the emotional consequences of their actions. She's a stunning writer, and this is a stunning book. I don't know if I will ever re-read it, but I'm nowhere near the point where I want to let go.
Final Grade = A-