Monday, October 8, 2012

Beyond Shame by Kit Rocha

Why I read it:  I saw the Twitter buzz (especially from Angela James, Carina Press editor who said it was super dirty) so I hoofed it over to NetGalley and was happy to be approved for the title.  I'll just say here too that the copyright information at the front was pretty classy I thought (basically that it's okay to lend, but keep within your peer group and lend like you would a paper book.).

What it's about:  (from Goodreads)  All Noelle Cunningham has ever wanted is a life beyond–beyond the walls of Eden, where only the righteous are allowed to remain, and beyond her stiflingly restrictive existence as a councilman’s daughter. But only ruins lie outside the City, remnants of a society destroyed by solar storms decades earlier.

The sectors surrounding Eden house the corrupt, the criminal–men like Jasper McCray, bootlegger and cage fighter. Jas clawed his way up from nothing to stand at the right hand of Sector Four’s ruthless leader, and he’ll defend the O’Kane gang with his life. But no fight ever prepared him for the exiled City girl who falls at his feet.

Her innocence is undeniable, but so is their intense sexual attraction, and soon they’re crossing every boundary Noelle barely knew she had. But if she wants to belong to Jas, first she’ll have to open herself to the gang, to a dangerous world of sex, lust and violence. A world where passion is power, and freedom is found in submission.

What worked for me (and what didn't):  Angela James was right.  It's super dirty! :D  In the wild west environment of Sector 4, anything goes (so, expect some f/f action as well as multiple partners and a little BDSM play).  Dallas O'Kane rules the sector and he makes sure the women under his protection are free to choose what that they do and with whom, just like the men.  In Eden, woman (I gather) are ornaments for their fathers and later, their husbands; sex is not allowed and certainly not for fun.  Noelle does the rubber band thing a little - going from one extreme to the other, until she settles at what is comfortable and happy for her.    But, from the first, when she literally falls into Jasper's arms, she feels a special affinity for him and he for her.  It takes a while for both of them to realise that their attraction is based on more than him being her white knight that day.

I *really liked* how there was no slut shaming in this book by the people of Sector 4.
"Do you think I'm a harlot?"
She could not be serious. "No. I think maybe you're a lady who likes to fuck."
Noelle's lips twitched. A laugh bubbled up, and she jerked her hand from his leg to cover her mouth. "You say it so easily, like it's not the same thing at all."
"Because it's not. No one here is going to think you're a bad person." Seeing her mouth covered was a travesty, so he pried her fingers away and rubbed his thumb over her lower lip. "I'll show you tonight, and you'll see."
It takes a while for Noelle to understand that along with the power to say "yes" to things, she also has the power to say "no".  Ultimately, I think Jasper's earlier reticence about Noelle was about this - if she only said "yes" did that make the word meaningless?   

Jasper's insta-love didn't bother me as much as it usually would have (though generally it's not a trope I love) and I can't really put my finger on why.  It was just an accepted fact in the story very (very) early on.  I did believe he feels for Noelle something he hasn't felt before.  I liked the way he's clearly fairly alpha but he wasn't uber possessive of her either.  It seems even after their HEA they will still have many sexual adventures.

I liked Noelle's journey (now she's free, what's she going to do with it?) and I liked the glimpses we had into Dallas (rowr!), Lex, Ace (more rowr!), Rachel, Bren ( ro...  are you sensing a theme here?) and Six.  I think I'm going to like Maddox too as the series progresses.

Dallas in particularly is a very interesting character (absolutely ruthless but with a unassailable sense of honour) and his dynamic with Lex is something which outshone Noelle and Jasper from time to time.  For some reason, I didn't mind though.  :)

Because of the way the story was set up, with bits of Dallas, Lex and others, there was a sense of the book being somewhat unfinished.  This was a satisfying read, but it's clear there is a LOT more to tell.  

I also liked that Noelle didn't just cave into Jasper at the end, she actually thought about it - valued herself and him enough to sit back and make a decision.  I also liked that she took responsibility for her part of the relationship and didn't expect hearts and flowers and perfection - that she undertook to make it work too.
Jasper had hurt her. Whether through good intentions or carelessness, it didn't matter. He'd crushed something fragile, and while doing it had damaged her trust. She couldn't close her eyes and believe that he'd always know what she needed, that he'd always be there, giving it to her, no questions asked.
But maybe it had been the wrong sort of trust. Open, passive trust, the kind that was reckless to give and easy to shatter. The girl who'd been thrown through the gates of Eden had trusted blindly because she hadn't had any other choice. That kind of trust meant as little as one more yes from someone who never said no.

This time would be harder. She'd have to trust Jasper, knowing he was human. Knowing he could hurt her, even when he didn't mean to. She'd have to trust that he'd do his best, and make amends when his best wasn't enough.
What else?  I appreciated that the book wasn't overwhelmed by world building, while at the same time being curious about some aspects which weren't explained.  All in all though, I'd rather the less is more approach I think.  I'm curious to know more about the world - I got the sense that the authors know the answers even if they're not actually in the book (as opposed to some books where I've felt that no-one has a clue or "they're making it up as they go along"), so I'm happy enough to go along for the ride.  I'm definitely looking forward to finding more about this world and I can hardly wait to find out more about Lex and Dallas and the other Sector 4 characters.

Grade:  B

Kit Rocha (who is the alter ego of Moira Rogers - aka the writing team of Bree and Donna) have a most cool promotion on at present, where you can sign up and join the O'Kane gang - complete with (temporary) tattoos. You can also grab a badge just like this one to show your allegiance.  Very fun.

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