What it’s about: (from Goodreads) Adrian Maddox fled his royal life—and tragic past—in Sector One, choosing instead to join up with the O’Kanes. For years, he’s lived by one rule: love fast, love hard, and always be willing to walk away. He’s managed to guard his heart, keep it whole and untouched—until now.
They couldn’t be more different—Dylan, the brilliant, burned-out doctor from Eden who drowns his pain with drugs and self-destruction. Scarlet, the sensuous, sexy rocker from Three, a woman unafraid to embrace the world. And Jade, the whore turned spy from Sector Two, who battled addiction and came out stronger than anyone he’s ever met.
Separately, they make Mad long to open his heart, to tumble head-first into a sea of possibilities and wild love. Together, they make him burn, inside and out, with lust and unbearable, unimaginable pleasure.
Then one fateful moment shakes their world to its foundations—and leaves the sectors on the verge of all-out war with Eden. It’s the biggest fight the O’Kanes have ever faced, and Mad and his lovers are at the dead center of it. They could end up with everything they never knew they wanted—or lose it all. Including their lives.
What worked for me (and what didn’t): I was behind on the series so I’ve just binge-read Beyond Addiction, Beyond Innocence and Beyond Ruin all in a row. So I’m all caught up on who’s who and what’s happening in the Sectors. Things are changing fast and the advice I got from other readers was correct: read the series in order. You can skip over the novellas but the full length novels have too much world-building stuff to read out of order.
I think this is the most ambitious novel yet; it features four main characters who all get their HEA – with each other. It’s difficult to show enough of each character and to show each person’s relationship (singly) with each other person as well as to show the dynamic of the group and smaller subgroups. I think the author mostly did that here. I could definitely point to sections of the book where Mad and Dylan are relating (sexually and otherwise) and the same goes for all the other combinations of Dylan, Jade, Scarlet and Mad. It is an erotic romance so a lot of that relating is shown via sexytimes but I was satisfied (heh) that each partner had a separate connection to each other partner. That said, the story explicitly stands for the proposition that each individual is not enough for complete happiness for the other three. It is the magic of four which is required for true bliss. I think there was a careful line walked by the authors here and, for the most part, I think it worked.
A lot of things are going on in the Sectors, with Sector Two getting firebombed by Eden at the beginning of the story (it happens so early in the piece I think it’s fair game and not a spoiler). This leads to the Sector leaders contemplating war with Eden and much of the non-romance plot revolves around those preparations. Frankly, there was so much going on here, I think it didn’t quite get enough page time. There were some aspects of the story which felt a little thin to me.
I did like that the women were (again) portrayed as strong and capable. Much of Jade’s storyline is about finding her authentic self which she buried under a veneer as a means of protection. When she finds it, she is stronger than she even knew and the other three in the relationship need to make a paradigm shift in their thinking to accept she is not a victim.
Background for Mad is given and his complicated relationship with Sector One and his family there. I liked this very much. I’d have happily read more.
I often say that I’m not good at subtle and there have been times in this series where I know I have missed things because they were too subtle for me to parse. For instance, in the first group sex scene with all four main characters, Dylan asks Jade “how long?”. From her answer and the context of the story, I know he was referring to something sex-related but it wasn’t orgasms. But I don’t know for sure what he was referring to. It could have been sex with a person with a penis? Or maybe it was a D/s question? I’m not sure. There was no explicit answer in the book. It may well be that I am just so bad at subtle and that’s why I didn’t get it. Or it may be that it wasn’t made clear enough in the story. There were other times I felt a bit lost; the characters were talking around an issue rather than directly stating things and it was here I floundered a bit.
I enjoyed the story and felt it was a solid entry into the series but I’d have liked a lot more of Scarlet and Dylan and more of the preparation for the upcoming war. Still, what there was was entertaining and the foursome scenes were certainly creative and scorching hot.
“The hardest part of all this, of life,” he murmured finally, “is learning how to keep going. Even when you fuck up, even when you fail everyone around you. You have to let them forgive you, and you have to forgive yourself.”