This post contains reviews of all the books in the No Shame series:
- No Filter (Book 1)
- No Limits (Book 2)
- No Fear (Book 3)
- No Shame (Book 4)
- No Angel (Book 5)
No Filter (Book 1)
This book is part of a series, but although the romantic arc is complete, the external plot is not. Even though the back-cover text says the book ends in a cliffhanger, that’s not entirely true. Indy’s life and safety are still not secure if his past catches up with him, but for the moment, he finally has love and security for the first time in his life.
But that’s jumping ahead a bit. At the beginning of the story, Indy is very much alone and in hiding. His method of disguise is pretty unique, but when he saves someone from getting hurt during a robbery (even though it’s in the weirdest way possible), that kindness is rewarded. Noah and Josh don’t have the most traditional relationship, making it both more and less complicated to embrace Indy as part of their small family. Plenty of sexiness abounds, and I will always adore stories in which people communicate like adults instead of allowing petty insecurities and jealousy to become the plot’s basis.
Noah’s character arc frames the romance plot as he expands the parameters of what he shares with Josh and allows himself to grow closer to Indy. Though I know from glancing ahead that BDSM elements will become part of this series, this first book is relatively vanilla. It features functional polyamory, fascinating characters who are damaged but not as broken as they think they are, and enough teases about the future to have me craving more.
I look forward to continuing this series, especially to find out the full story of the bits teased in Phoenix’s novel Healing Hand. As a bonus, the structure of the relationships means that Noah and Indy will continue to play an integral role in future installments rather than being relegated to the background.
No Limits (Book 2)
This book picks up pretty near where the previous left off and cannot be read as a stand-alone. Though this book does focus more on the relationship between Connor and Josh, Indy and Noah also continue to make appearances as point-of-view characters. When Noah faces a medical crisis (brought upon by his own stubbornness), Indy flees out of fear of how deeply he feels for his new friends. He then remains distant because there is one problem he can solve for the men who have become his family (which he does intelligently and to entertaining effect).
Both Indy and Connor acknowledge that despite the changes in Josh and Noah’s relationship, the men will always be close friends who wish to remain close. However, that relationship (identified as codependent and verging on unhealthy in the previous book) does require significant alteration, especially as Josh and Connor become closer and explore previously unknown facets of their personalities that emerge as a result.
The power dynamic between Josh and Connor was already sexy as hell. Then, Connor raises himself in my esteem by insisting on learning the best way he can care for and indulge Josh by going straight to an expert (as opposed to purely Internet research). This experience takes their relationship to the next level and makes it easier for Connor to be there for Josh when the latter’s life spins out of his already tenuous control.
This series follows a delicate mix of external plot and nontraditional romance arcs. This book again ends on a non-cliffhanger, in that the immediate issues are solved, but I’m desperate to continue following the bigger picture. It doesn’t hurt that I thoroughly adore all the men so far, as flawed and imperfect as they are.
No Fear (Book 3)
Since the central external conflict of this series regarding Indy’s history and safety had not yet been resolved, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about leaving that behind to focus on a new romantic pairing. However, Phoenix does an excellent job of intertwining all the relevant stories, especially since the “new” characters are connected with our original foursome (Indy’s new BJJ teacher Blake and Josh’s younger brother Aaron).
On the relationship side, the numerous dynamics at play for these characters are far from stagnant. What starts as Blake agreeing to mentor Aaron as he develops the knowledge and life skills needed to be an out gay man and a functional adult slowly turns into something much more. Blake has plenty of reasons to hesitate over his growing feelings for Aaron. Trouble from another corner forces the men to admit their feelings for each other and defend them to other loved ones.
The angst is intense in this book as the fantastic foursome from the first two books in this series is split in four directions. However, this separation allows each man to better understand their roles in each other’s lives. This is not an MMMM book in which all four men are “together,” but instead a lovely look at the intricacies and potential of a unique polyamorous relationship when all parties focus on communication and honesty.
Overall, the many stories in this book should not quite have worked together—Aaron and Blake growing closer while Blake helps Aaron explore his newfound identity, Noah and Indy dealing with a forced separation while Indy is in witness protection, and Connor and Josh manipulating events behind the scenes to free Indy once and for all. Except, ultimately, the stories are all connected, and Phoenix does a lovely job of balancing dark and light moments and the pacing of the book to create an engaging novel.
In fact, so engaging that I threw my usual rules out the window and ended up binge-reading the rest of this series in one go rather than spreading them out between other books.
No Shame (Book 4)
Though introduced in the previous story, this book focuses on the developing relationship between Miles, Charlie, and Brad. True to form for the entire series, however, the book is also about how these characters settle into the existing framework of established relationships (in this case, the friendship between Brad and Charlie). Polyamory is still the name of the game here, but this book is also about found family and how openness and honesty can result in strong relationships no matter the dynamic.
Now that Indy is finally free, he has to learn how to finally live life on his terms. This includes solidifying the arrangement between the men he loves (and the men they love). Because of his big heart, Indy also can’t help “adopting” Miles while the FBI agent recovers from injuries sustained while protecting Indy in the previous book. Charlie and Brad are around due to Charlie escaping an abusive relationship, and it quickly becomes apparent that Miles and Brad can assist each other with specific problems.
Yes, those problems do involve sex and are both physical and mental. However, in a sex-positive household that revolves around healthy communication, the new characters blossom as much as our old favorites.
This book focuses much more on relationship drama than external conflict. However, I was invested in each of these characters, so I had zero problems with that shift in priority at this point in the series. The nontraditional but incredibly satisfying happily ever after for all nine(!) men at the end of this installment is more than worth the read.
No Angel (Book 5)
A holiday book plus a wedding? I am here for all of the self-indulgent and sexy fluff. Phoenix still manages to inject a healthy dose of plot into this otherwise light novella, which features a surprising amount of resulting angst. However, the men of this world support each other, no matter whether the conflict is external or internal to the relationship.
This novella does a beautiful job of tying off this series’ events, though it is unnecessary for closure to the original plotlines. Phoenix teases some sexy interactions between the characters that we never see on the page, so I shall live in hope for further episodes of this series (even if they are just sexy one-offs).