Ease Yourself Into MMF Romances – Part I
This is Part One of a Series
Part 1: Ménages Categorized
Part 2: How can MMF be romantic?
Part 3: How To Read Your First MMF Romance
Part 4: Where To Find Your MMF Romances
Part 5: Narrow Down Your List of Potential MMF Novels
Part 6: Keeping Track
If you’ve never, ever, picked up an erotic romance with more than the requisite single hero and heroine featured in the romance before now, but you’re reading this post, that means:
1. You’re curious about ménage stories.
2. You’re not sure where to start — what’s a mild menage? What’s too hot and might turn you off? (You’ve heard that there’s some really x-rated stuff out there, after all).
3. You might even have tried a ménage romance before, and it wasn’t to your taste, but you read enough of it, that you know you’d like to try again. You’re still curious. But you want to ease into the genre properly.
4. A lot of the acronyms, terminology and the huge range of ménage romances out there might possibly bewilder you.
5. You have no idea who is a good author for this stuff, and who isn’t, andyour favourite author doesn’t touch it.
Where to start?
That’s what this series will help do: Get you started reading ménage romances, confident that you’re beginning with the best type for you.
Although the title of the series is “Ease Yourself Into MMF Romances,” that’s because MMF romances are the most popular (by far) of all the many types of ménage romances available these days (and we’ll get around to talking about the different types in just a tick). You might decide you want to start off with a different type of ménage than MFF. But this series will still help you sort out where to start — just use the same guidelines for your choice of ménage.
However, try to keep an open mind as you read along. Don’t automatically blank out on MMF because of the two-guy thing. There are some absolutely heart-rending and emotionally-rich, roller-coaster romances out there under the MMF tag and you’ll miss out on them because you’re categorically refusing to touch MMF.
And yes, I’m speaking from experience. I had to ease myself into MMF at first. And now, after almost four years writing MMF romances nearly 90% of the time, I find straight MF romances somewhat bland in comparison, t0 both read and write. I have to work hard to keep romantic tension level high in those novels.
But now, some definitions.
Surprisingly, ménage does not mean “three.” The strict definition of a ménage is “A social unit living together.” Therefore, the ménage groups that end up living happily ever-after in romance novels are actually closer to the true definition than the temporary groups that come together for sex, then go their separate ways.
The word “ménage” that makes people think of “three” is actually shortened from “ménage à trois“…and that does mean “group of three” — although it still means a group of three that lives together.
You can have more than three in a ménage, and there are romances published that feature four and five in the group — with three heroes or four. These are called, respectively, ménage à quattro and ménage à cinque. These menages with the higher number of heroes are unusual and don’t sell nearly as well as the threesomes.
I supposed it’s possible to have a group of six or seven or even more, but I haven’t heard of a romance novel with this many featured…although Robert Heinlein described such a permanent family group in his science fiction novel series that began with Time Enough For Love and featured Lazarus Long and the Long Family. (Side note: I cry at the end of the novel, every time I read it. Damn it. For dry science fiction that was published over twenty-five years ago, that’s pretty impressive.)
I haven’t heard of a polyandrous, permanent love group in a published romance that features more than one female.
MMF/MFM/MFF and more.
As if defining the numbers in the group wasn’t enough.
Ménage romances are also subdivided by the genders in the group, and who-does-what-to-whom. As some readers refuse to read bisexual sex scenes (and I hesitate to add even that much of a defining label to it), it quickly became necessary for publishers to find a way to indicate if the men (and later, the women) in the ménage paid any sexual attention to each other, or if they focused solely on the woman and ignored the other male.
The most traditional “threesome,” the one that naturally appeals to most women, is the idea of two hot-blooded, purely heterosexual males climbing into bed with her and spending all their time concentrating on her and her sexual pleasure. I mean, why wouldn’t that idea appeal to any heterosexual woman?
So the acronym that was invented for the traditional ménage became, simply, MFM. And you can see that the Males in this threesome are nicely separated by the Female.
Very quickly, threesomes where the two men in the bed turned to pleasuring each other as well started showing up on the romance shelves. These ménages acquired the acronym MMF. With the two M’s beside each other, it’s pretty clear that there is no delineation of roles and sex play. Everyone is into each other. These are the ménage romances that outsell all others these days. They are enormously popular. I know from my own sales records and royalty statements that any of my books that feature MMF romance relationships will sell at least five times more copies than a romance of the same genre and length, but with only an MF relationship.
More recently, a second female in the threesome has been introduced into Romanceland. Whether it is a success or a marginalized specialty, the verdict is still out. But it remains a legitimate style of ménage: MFF. Don’t think that MFF is the same thing as the type of threesome that men fantasize about, however. Men generally have visions of two hot, overly-well endowed women spending their time and attention on him and his…er, nether regions, while cooing compliments. MFF in woman’s romance is a different species altogether. It is a romance first and foremost, and therefore all three in the group eventually fall in love and commit to each other, at least for now. The sex scenes feature female on female sex acts, as well as female/male sex.
In romance novels with groups numbering more than three, they tend to live in a little…well, group — of their own. But even here, before the reader reads the romance, they’re going to want to know how everyone in that group interacts. Sometimes you’ll see a romance of this type listed as FMMM or MFMM, or even MFMFMMM or some such. But once you get past three members of a group, there is no way to indicate with a simple arrangement of letters all the possible sexual activities and variations. Some of the men in the group might only play with the female(s), and some might not. Or all of them…or none of them. And there’s no romance industry standard or industry preference. Yet. The only way to figure out who does what is to hope that the blurb gives it away, and then read the book.
Ménages, and MMF ménages in particular, cross all romance genres. You’ll find them in every subcategory: Romantic suspense, urban fantasy, historical, paranormal, contemporary romance. If you have a favourite type of romance novel, it’s a sure bet there’s an MMF romance author writing in it, somewhere.