Janine Ashbless’s Named and Shamed is an original erotic fairy tale, set in a richly drawn fantasy world which parallels our contemporary time. The story is interwoven with mythological influences, excerpts from Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market,” and allusions to many different traditional fairytales and folktales. Janine Ashbless combines all of this and more with a light touch. Excellent writing, a wonderful narrative voice, great characters, and a strong plot move this naughty tale forward into another realm.
Named and Shamed immediately draws the reader in with the narrative voice of Tansy – a six-foot tall redhead who has found herself under a curse and an insatiable need for cock. There is no other way to put it, really, as Tansy would tell you herself. Tansy is a brilliant character, reminiscent of both the tarot’s fool and the archetypal hero. She sets upon a quest to free herself from the curse, taking the reader on a journey into a world of fierce eroticism and unapologetic sexuality, which confronts sexual deviance and kink, shatters taboos and boundaries, and ultimately frees and liberates.
One of the things I loved most about this book was the setting in Wildworld, a fictitious place that straddles both mythological and contemporary worlds, inhabited by humans and a wide range of Fair Folk, also called “Them There.” These characters are brought to vibrant life and provide an exciting and intriguing sexual and mythological context to the story. I was happy to discover that this setting is also featured in some of Ashbless’s other work. The story of how Them There is told in Wildwood. Her novella Bear Skin, in the erotic fairy tale collection Enchanted, also shares this setting.
The sexual and erotic scenes in Named and Shamed are very, very hot. The sex in this book starts within the first few pages and becomes increasingly varied and creative. There are no boundaries here, in fact, I’d say that that the story seems to delight in overthrowing limits and taboos and what may be considered sexually deviant. Because Tansy is so accepting, so receptive, so clearly enjoying her sexual adventures, she provides an interesting comfort zone for readers as they negotiate this wild and refreshing and uninhibited sexual terrain where anything, and I mean anything, is possible.
Tansy explains: “I want [sex] to be bigger than me, something overwhelming, something I have no power over. Like love, or the stars, or the ocean … that’s how the humiliating, crazy, slutty stuff works. It’s like a doorway into something bigger than myself. And a mirror, that shows me myself walking through that door. Because I know that it should be degrading, and that it’s not what I should be doing, and that it goes against all the rules, and that everyone will look down on me for doing it – and I still love it. It’s like the moment I’m really taken over, possessed, by desire. I’m touching something vast.”
Named and Shamed by Janine Ashbless is an extraordinary and unique story which explores the vast landscape of desire and sexuality as both doorway and mirror, deeply rooted in eroticism, mythology, fairytales, and fantasy. There is a good dose of humor throughout which balances the intensity of this story very nicely, and erotic drawings by John La Chatte illustrate the text.