I can't decide between 3.5 and 4. On one hand the premise is cool - there's actual intriguing plot and the smut is super hot & different. Dystopian erotica with an interesting premise - I dig it. But on the other hand, i feel like the main characters & setting were not fleshed out nearly enough.
The book felt very much like the Black Dagger Brotherhood series (but with a LOT more sex) - huge, muscly, dangerous-but-good men, their women, their cloistered compound for safety, marking one another, etc etc. No vampires or supernatural elements, but very much the same feel, esp as it appears each book will be devoted to the development of a single couple. But while JR Ward really fleshes out her characters & scenes, a lot of elements in Beyond Shame felt disjointed & poorly developed. Particularly Noelle's struggle to overcome her shame regarding sex and her communication with Jasper. The author also never satisfactorily explains the line between "marking" as a means of expressing exclusivity and being a collared submissive. More info, please!
And while Noelle makes a nice transition from helpless damsel to strong & self-assured, I felt like the authors (Kit Rocha is actually the pen name of two ladies) never gave us much of Jasper beyond what we see & hear him say at the beginning. I wanted a final declaration - words & insight & explanation of his silence - from him. He was all physical & silent, and not nearly enough emotion for me.
I'd love to know more about Noelle & Jasper, about the entire cast of characters actually - esp Rachel & Ace. I hope the writers are more settled into this world they've created & become more fluid in their writing style with the next installment. I really look forward to the next book.