Pros: Very hot! Wonderful characters
Cons: A few little details
Rating: 5 out of 5
Kit Rocha’s erotic romance Beyond Shame (Volume 1) introduces us to a mildly post-apocalyptic world in which solar flares have done a great deal of damage to the world. There’s a city called Eden where the “elite” live in their carefully manicured houses, wearing their super-modest clothes, obeying strict rules. There’s to be no drinking and no fornication, and two strikes means you’re kicked out. Noelle, daughter of a powerful councilman, can’t breathe within the restrictive setting, and the beginning of our story sees her kicked out of Eden for her second offense. Outside of Eden are the sectors, each different, each outside of Eden’s laws. Sector Four is run by the O’Kane gang, and it produces most of the local liquor. Sector Four is where Noelle finds herself, and she’s rescued from an unfortunate encounter by Jasper, Dallas O’Kane’s right-hand man. Lex (Alexa), who has a complicated relationship with Dallas, takes a shine to Noelle and convinces Dallas to give Noelle a chance to prove herself useful to the gang.
I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. I almost gave this book a 4 instead of a 5 because women seem to fit into very traditional roles (waitressing, prostitution, etc.) and while the sector is extremely sexually permissive, there’s no hint of m/m material. However, within the next two books in the series these issues are addressed. (In book three there’s a woman who doesn’t fall into traditional roles, and in book two there’s the start of some m/m material.) Also, the issue of women’s roles isn’t as straightforward as it seems. For example, Rachel, while a waitress and bartender, is also a mechanic. When some of Noelle’s other talents become clear, Dallas is perfectly happy to take advantage of them even though they don’t fit a stereotypical role. Also, it’s made clear that sex is strictly voluntary–if you don’t want to have sex with someone, you just don’t. No one’s allowed to force sexual contact on someone, even if they are a prostitute, which is seen as a perfectly legitimate way to earn money (for both men and women).
The fact that the sector is so permissive about sex sets the stage for a very raunchy book! There are literal orgies. There’s polyamory. There’s sexual content in pretty much every configuration except direct male/male contact (there’s some m/m content in the next book). There’s dom/sub sex, some masochism (on the part of both men and women), sexual activity while being tattooed, exhibitionism, voyeurism… Let’s just say that if you’re looking for some fun erotica, you won’t be disappointed! I love the fact that even dom/sub sex has a strong component of pleasing the sub, not just the dom (as it should be). And introducing Noelle to all of these experiences is as much about pleasing her as it is about pleasing those who are participating with her.
The characters are surprisingly wonderful and fully fleshed-out. Noelle is inexperienced, but not the usual wide-eyed, terrified ingenue one expects from that. She has a healthy curiosity and definitely enjoys sex. Lex could have been the stereotypical temptress or the equally stereotypical motherly figure, but she’s more complex than both of those. Jasper absolutely wants to be with Noelle, but he wants to know first that she’ll fully be happy with him. He knows, after all, that she’s bound to have a bunch of hang-ups after being raised in Eden, and he wants to make sure she really feels comfortable with breaking those before they go too far. It’s sweet, and hot. There are also plenty of other intriguing characters who will presumably get more relationship material in later books in the series. Dallas and Lex, for example, have a fascinating relationship. It’s entirely unofficial, because Dallas is afraid it’ll shatter the mostly-good relationship he already has with Lex if he tries to tie her down. But that doesn’t stop the two of them from climbing into bed with Noelle and Jason for a fabulous foursome. Noelle is a strong character, perfectly capable of making her own decisions and running her own life. It’s really fun to see.
There is plot here! There’s a man running another sector who seems to have it in for Dallas, and someone may be trying to kill either Noelle or Lex. Noelle also won’t be able to leave Eden behind quite so easily. The plot definitely isn’t the focus of the book, but it does add a nice bit of tension and helps to spur on some conflicts and interesting resolutions.
All in all I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more of the series.