YOU, ME & HER takes place over the course of a somewhat-unconventional, potentially-controversial theatre production of Othello. As he walks in to the table-read, Nate (a white man) discovers that his being cast as Othello was in fact not for lack of black actors available to the director. He finds himself in a room full of black men cast in other roles in the play, with a director who's committed to the 'I cast you for your talent not your skin colour' narrative. This 100% triggered my diversity-hire-drama alarms. But nevertheless, I persisted. And I am SO glad I did! Yes, there are a couple "Sorry, what did this white guy just say?!" moments in the beginning, but it quickly becomes clear that there's no racial prejudice behind it; Tanya Chris is just brilliant at capturing both the uncomfortable 'Am I part of the problem? Am I about to say the exact wrong thing right now?' reality of being the only white person in a space created for people of colour, and the good-natured teasing people of colour give right back.
Fear not, Romancelandia! Stay the course! You, Me & Her is the unproblematic fave you want it to be! Despite what the synopsis says, this book is also low on drama. Nate is so secure in who he is and what he wants that there's no room for it. Any misunderstandings or attempts to create drama are quickly resolved and handled maturely.
So, it's a mfm story of Nate being brought into Sherry and Joshua's open marriage, told from Nate's POV. Sherry is wild and free and the spark of electricity that flashes between the boys, but the overall focus is on the loving m/m relationship between Nate and Joshua. There's immediate chemistry between them when they meet, and they form a strong bond. The heat between them is off-the-charts, but it's an awesome camaraderie first. The saying 'Love is friendship set on fire' comes to mind. And the sex is WILDFIRE-level. Occasionally overly-descriptive on the logistics of threesomes for my liking, but not in a way that takes away from the maddeningly sexy. And man, does this book have the SEXIEST blowjobs. My heart is racing just thinking about it! Is there an award for Best Written Blowjob? because... THIS BOOK.
But what really made it an unforgettable read is the ongoing conversation around inclusivity, and the unconditional support the group of friends in You, Me & Her have for each other. The story's a true representation of friendship at an age of discovering what's possible with what we want from relationships. -Be that monogamy, chains dangling from the bedroom ceiling, or someone to chase your dreams with. But we're not just presented with a pro-polyamory argument here. There's a conversation near the end of the story that feels so alive and urgent and necessary that I felt as if I was transported into one of those European movies where they share a bottle of wine and muse on love and culture and suddenly the world feels so much more clear and bright and possible! It's a moment that normalizes and actively models what supportive friendships of diverse sexual expressions and morality should look like. It's something I wish everyone could see.
We see alcohol addiction in two of the characters' lives: Deb begins to fall deep into dependence on alcohol while Joshua continues on in his sober life. It's so refreshing to have a character who successfully handles their recovery for the entire duration of the book. I loved that Joshua's life in this story had glorious ups and crashing disappointments that had absolutely nothing to do with if he'd started drinking again. Another depiction of alcoholism we don't see often: The dedication with which someone who's in a good place will offer love and hope and guidance to someone who's struggling. I loved that we got to see that in Joshua. And I love that because of him, the other characters got to see Deb's downward spiral in a different light. -Without judgment, and without trying to force her into anything until she was ready.
I'd highly recommend if you're into stories set during theatre productions, if you want your romance with diversity that isn't front-and-centre drama about it but doesn't shy away from it either, or if you want to see polyamory explored openly and beautifully.
One NEGATIVE thing I have to mention is that at the 12% mark there's a casual sentence thrown in where Joshua says he met his wife, Sherry, when she was underage and drunk but hey, it's apparently all good because she didn't regret it when she woke up with him the next morning. Which.... hardcore ruined things for me, obviously. But if you can block that out of your memory and continue, the story unfolds into so many beautiful things and the subject is never brought up after that mention.