Story Rating: 4 out of 5 paddles
Sting Factor (kink) 3 out of 5
This was a pleasant surprise of a book.
It’s a romantic and somewhat dark tale set in near-future post-plague Atlanta where the government has decreed that only humans with superior genetics shall be allowed to reproduce. There are differing grades of “quality”, and the lowest of these, “Ambers”, are exiled outside the better part of the city and allowed to have only one child. The Ambers have formed their own culture, its customs created out of the need to support one another. Touching is as common as breathing, sex is freely enjoyed, and cuddle-piles are a way of life. In the midst of their dystopian exile, they’ve made an interpersonal web of beautiful connections. One of the tools they use sometimes is the mingling of pleasure and pain.
Jaci is genetically evaluated and found to have one of the automatic disqualifier genes – one that would potentially lead to a lethal disability for her children. Born a Sapphire, one of the higher grades of human, she’s summarily sterilized and sent to live in the Amber zone as a non-reproducing “fallow.” Culture shock ensues. She’s assigned a roomate, hunky cop Xander, and both of them find their lives complicated when they start to fall for one another. Making things worse, there’s a serial killer murdering fallows, and Xander is the one on the case.
Xander tries to alleviate Jaci’s sorrow with sympathy, cuddling, and pleasure, while also not burdening her with his feelings for her during a difficult time. Jaci struggles to understand Xander’s behavior, and what her place is in the relationship as well as the culture.