The Rules – Jamie Fessenden

“Sexually, both men pushed all his buttons, much more than any of the guys he’d dated. So, yes, he wanted to have sex with them. But it was more than that.”


In a word: Read the thing! So much emotion in this book, I love it. This is the story of two men opening up their marriage to include a third man they’ve both fallen in love with, written totally in the third man’s point of view, and how they all come together to form a strong romantic three-way relationship. Hans is a college student who has been hired as a housekeeper for Thomas and Boris. It’s clear from the start that Hans has an attraction to both men, especially Boris who is constantly naked. There isn’t much time wasted in all three men deciding that they’re all very open to the idea of being together in some capacity, but even coming to that decision doesn’t make things easy. Thomas and Boris have been married and exclusive for around ten years, suddenly adding another person into their dynamic will take time. And that’s not even accounting for all the other issues. What I really liked about this book is that not everything fell into place right away with no problems. The story is as much about reworking and developing relationships as it is about three men getting it on. Hans, Thomas, and Boris are three different men who all have different needs; coming together in one functional relationship is going to take work. It’s something that they all have to want and it isn’t something they can jump into lightly. I really liked the emotions in this story, and the characters, and the humour, and the dark themes that appear throughout. At first I thought it was maybe a bit odd that Thomas and Boris all of a sudden decided to include someone else into their marriage, but it soon became clear that all these men shared a bond that deserved to be explored. I definitely recommend this one.


The Summary: (from Goodreads) WHEN HANS BAUER, a college student in New Hampshire, accepts a job as a housekeeper for an older gay couple, he soon learns the reason they’ve hired someone with no experience is that professional agencies won’t work there. Thomas is a successful businessman whose biggest goal in life appears to be giving his husband anything he wants. Boris is a writer who immigrated to this country from Russia, and suffers from depression and PTSD because of the things he endured in his native country.

He also refuses to wear clothes—ever.

While Hans is working alone in the house with Naked Boris all day, things start getting a little weird. Boris gets flirtatious and Hans backs away, not wanting to come between him and his husband. So Boris calls Thomas at work and asks permission.

At that moment, The Rules are born—rules about touching and kissing and pet names that the three men use to keep jealousies at bay, as they explore the possibilities in a new type of relationship….

WARNING: This story deals with themes of sexual assault and past abuse.


[available for purchase at]




The Trigger Warning: This book contains homophobia, mentions of sexual assault/rape, attempted rape, and a character suffering from serious mental illness.



  • The Trio: This book features three main characters who are all three very different men. Hans Baur is a college student (I think he’s in his third year) who is studying for an art degree (or whatever they’re called) and is a skilled painter. He’s hired on as a housekeeper for Thomas Fisher – an older man with a 9 to 5 job doing… something – and his husband Boris Vasiliev – 32 years old and originally from Russia – which is how they all meet. Hans is hired to work in the Fisher-Vasiliev house two days a week, where he is to clean the house and somewhat keep an eye on Boris, who is a writer and works from home. I enjoyed reading these three interacting with each other, y’know, when everything was going smoothly. These are three men trying to negotiate a three-way romantic relationship with each other, snags are inevitable. But on good days, Hans and Boris are pretty good friends. Both sometimes mischievous and playful. Thomas seems like the most put-together of the bunch, probably because he’s the one that seems to be setting most of the rules, although it turns out that he has his own insecurities and isn’t totally indestructible. I really like the dynamics when the three of them are together, and I liked the way they all played off each other. Honestly I would’ve read a much longer book of just the three of them living life.


  • Boris: Out of the three main leads I think Boris’ character is the most interesting. He’s been living in America for years by this point, but he’s originally from Russia. He still speaks fluent Russian, though only with Thomas (and later, Hans) and his family, and still keeps some Russian traditions (his name being one thing, it’s explained in the book). He’s a writer and he works from home, which is a good thing because he hates wearing clothes and he’s naked pretty much all the time. He and Hans become close right away, through playful flirting mostly, and he seems like a genuinely friendly and easy-going guy. But that’s only on the surface. Thomas lets Hans in on few things that make Boris seem mostly eccentric, but we eventually learn that there are other darker things lurking under the surface. A lot of this can be traced back to his younger days of being a gay man in Russia, which even now is not a good place for a gay person to be, never mind back when Boris was younger (he’s 32 in the story). Boris has PTSD, which brings with it a whole lot of issues that go far beyond mere eccentricities. Thomas mostly indulges him to keep him on an even keel, but even he can’t stop the bad days from happening. One thing I like is that Boris’ mental issues aren’t just passed off as quirks that he has, it’s made apparent that what he’s going through is serious and not something to be taken lightly.


  • The Relationship: Probably the most important part of the story is how Hans, Thomas, and Boris negotiate their relationship. What the whole thing essentially boils down to is that this is two men in an established relationship letting another man into their dynamic. All three of the them have to learn how to have successful relationships with each other where everyone has their needs met. I really liked how seriously this was all taken. Things might have started off seeming a little lighthearted, but it quickly becomes apparent that they all need to take things very seriously in order for everything to work. The way everything is negotiated really highlights the fact that all these men really do care about each other, and they really care about making everything work. The title The Rules refers to the guidelines the men set for themselves to keep things running smoothly. It was really nice to read a story that didn’t rely on misunderstandings to move everything forward. Rules are put in place for everyone and if they need to be changed then they are discussed and everyone is kept on the same page. I love it.


  • The Climax: At the part of this book where there would usually be a separation of some kind (the dreaded third-act breakup) we instead get a brand-new development in which Boris’ parents and older brother visit from Russia for a few weeks. It’s something that happens every few years, but this will be the first time Hans is in the picture. Until this point the only plot has been the relationship development of Thomas, Boris, and Hans. The arrival of Boris’ family brings with it a plot of sorts, and events that shed some light on Boris’ past. We’ve known since a while that Boris struggles with PTSD and other mental illness from his time as a gay man in Russia. His older brother Ilya, who Boris absolutely does not get along with, brings with him the chance to unearth some long-buried secrets. Secrets that even Thomas doesn’t know about. This was one of the more emotionally charged incidents in the story and I have so much love for it. I honestly didn’t know what to expect with Boris’ parents, but they were pretty great. It was pretty obvious from the outset that there was something up with Ilya, both who he is now and how he was growing up with Boris, but I somehow hadn’t thought about how deep his depravity ran.


  • The Feels: This book made me feel so many emotions. There were many times I teared up while reading because of the hiccups during the relationship negotiations, and the whole thing with Ilya. There were also some pretty funny moments where I almost laughed out loud, because these three guys play off each other beautifully and they do have a lot of fun together. Boris’ sense of humour, when he’s up to it, is pretty crass and he’s always good for a laugh. Then there are the tender moments between the trio, where it’s made very obvious that them getting together is a lot more than sex. I definitely wouldn’t have liked this book as much if it had all been about the sex and there had been no emotional or romantic development.


  • The Epilogue: Weddings in romance stories can be a bit hit or miss for me, but I really enjoyed the wedding in the epilogue. The epilogue takes place a few years after the main story ends and we see that Thomas, Boris, and Hans are still going strong and getting married to each other. It wasn’t too over the top or too sweet, and I just really loved it.



  • The Parents Vasiliev: I’m not even sure if that’s their last name, actually. I feel like it’s different? Anyway, Boris’ parents are awesome, by far the best parents in the book. Thomas’ entire family disowned him when he came out, and Hans’ father is barely a part of his life while his mother seems content to keep him at a distance (to me, anyway). Boris’ parents still live in Russia and they don’t visit often, but it seems like Boris likes having them in his home (aside from the fact that he has to at least wear pants when they visit). It took a bit for Boris’ parents to be comfortable with the idea of a gay son, and then again with that son being married to another man, but they did come around (which I guess is saying something since they’re elderly people from Russia). Boris never really liked their visits, but I think that had more to do with Ilya’s presence then their parents. Boris’ father is a pretty quiet guy, and I didn’t get much of a read on him. Boris’ mother was adorable, quickly taking over the kitchen when she arrived and then basically adopting Hans into the family. She was awesome. And their reactions when the whole story about Ilya came out? Fucking beautiful man.



  • The Sex: There is a lot of sex in this book. It’s not that I didn’t like it, or that it wasn’t good, it’s just that there was a lot. Also it started pretty early on in the story, which was a bit jarring for me, but that’s definitely a personal issue with me. I will say that the sexual dynamics between the men made for interesting reading. Hans, Thomas, and Boris all seem to have different sexual styles and preferences, and that all comes out during the scenes. There are a lot of scenes and different matchups with different acts. There’s some scenes between Hans and Boris, Hans and Thomas, and then all three together (I don’t remember a lot with Thomas and Boris because this story is written entirely from Hans’ point of view and he usually isn’t there when Thomas and Boris have some private time to themselves). One aspect of the sexual side of the relationship that I did like, though, is all the negotiation they went through to make sure that everyone knew where everyone stood and that everyone was comfortable with what was happening (except for that one scene, but that was less about sex and more about the characters clashing).


[The Rules was published September 6, 2017, by the author; it is only available as an ebook]

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