Bliss by Lisa Henry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Clockwork Orange meets Stepford Wives with a m/m twist. Ms. Henry is a favourite author of mine. She writes out of the box. When she teams up with Ms. Belleau, magic happens. In Beulah, the population is blissfully ignorant of how their humanitarian rehabilitation works. The guiding principle of Beulah is to take ownership of one's mistakes and make a correction. Those who go through this program demonstrate their remorse for committing a crime and after they do their time to make it up to the person they transgressed against, all is forgiven. This lovely city-state contains no crime and everyone lives in similar homes so there are no haves and have nots. There isn't even any poverty with hunger. Is this utopia or what? Jaded readers like me won't believe in this mythical place. It all falls apart when crime from an outsider is committed.
Tate Patterson commits a simple assault crime. His punishment is seven year serving the person he hurt, Rory James. Rory is from the same outside city as Tate - Tophet. Rory doesn't understand how this restitution works and he's not too interested in these "Rezzies". Why would anyone want a rezzie who hurt them to be under foot all the time? Mr. Lowell, Rory's boss, and a person of influence in Beulah, will show Rory the ropes. Ropes are literally involved.
Rezzies are treated as sex slaves by many "owners". They have no free will and they must do whatever their owner orders. In addition, they must always present a happy façade - hence Bliss. The way rezzies are controlled is a bit of far-fetched sci-fi with a perverted flavour. When a group of people are able to control another through mind-control, what kind of inhuman acts could occur? How much abuse could occur? Ms. Henry and Ms. Belleau pen a love piece of corruption through dehumanization. Surprisingly, they only add a couple of darker sexual torture scenes. For the most part, they gloss over the depravities and tease a deviant reader with possible sexual violations behind closed doors. For those who enjoy the darker sexual slavery themes, this is one to whet the appetite. It's a bit of foreplay which a reader may yearn for edited taboo scenes. Perhaps the duo authors will grace devoted fans with the torments of Aaron and Tate in an outtakes novella.
What I really enjoyed about this story is the debate between right and wrong. The theory behind the rehabilitation is excellent. There are no jails and people aren't wasting money to support criminals who will not be able to re-enter into society as productive members. Instead, this program helps people to learn their lesson and pay their time. What is problematic is the execution of it. The risk of abuse is so high that it's a concept which will never work. Because there will always be a group of individuals who will use it for their own selfish desires and satisfactions. Where is the argument then? What is the cost of this kind of abuse? When one weighs it against the community as a whole, perhaps it is allowable. Because if jails are used instead, what will happen to these criminals? What other impacts will there be to the society? Will there be more crime? Will there be more poverty? The society as a whole seems to take a step back when the rehabilitation system is examined.
This story may be predictable, but it still reads smooth and sexy. The non-con sex is delicious. The characters, Tate and Rory are well designed. The world building is just right to set the mood. The evil villain in this story is devilish good and makes it an erotic read. My only wish is for more sexual violations. A bit more medical kink scenes would kick up the sexual heat. Still, the authors did an excellent job in their balance of sex and plot. If they added as much debauchery as I'd prefer, this story may end up as a porn without a plot. Instead, this is a provocative tale of how the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Recommended for kinky m/m readers who enjoy speculative fiction with sexual slavery.
*provided by NetGalley
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