Today I’m reviewing Cold by Brandon Shire. Let’s see…first of all, I will say I purchased this book because I was in the mood for a prison trope. I bought it looking for something angsty, gritty, and maybe the slightest bit emotionally scary, and that’s pretty much what I got. There are warnings for this book, oh yes, warnings aplenty. There’s gore, rape, attempted rape, murder, horrible corrections officers (though there are good ones too), and general anxiety.
Don’t read this book when you’re looking for something fluffy and cute because it isn’t. It was good though.
Let’s take a look at the blurb.
Book 1 of the Cold Series – A Gay Prison Romance
Prison is a brutal, heartless, and demeaning environment. No one knows this better than a man sentenced to life in prison for murder. Lem Porter is a high-profile prisoner who had a solid career ahead of him in a field he loved until he killed his brother. He has spent almost eighteen years behind bars and doesn’t have much hope left.
Anderson Passero had it all. He built a career, a name, and a relationship with a man he thought he loved. Only after he very publicly landed in prison did he realize how ignorant he’d been. He has eight months left on his sentence and he is eager to go home and put prison life behind him. He doesn’t know it yet, but he will always carry these eight months with him, and they may just help him to understand what love really means.
I don’t usually faff about the blurbs too much, but this one had the word “ignorant” in it. There’s nothing wrong with the word. It’s used correctly and everything, but around my hometown that’s what everyone says to mean something “bad”, so I kind of hate seeing it in print. (Personal glitch.)
Oh, man. What wasn’t in this story? We have a slim, small pretty man—Anderson— and a hardened huge prisoner—Lem— who has been doing long time. The slim pretty man unwittingly attracts the attention of a man who is large (but not as large as Lem), psycho, and has rapey tendencies. Lem rescues him (swoon) from this horrible man, and even kills for Anderson (call me screwed up, but that means a lot). The story propelled me along every step. I wanted to know what would happen next.
The sex is fantastic. It’s explosive and the buildup is both slow and intense. The book has one of the best solo jerk scenes I think I’ve ever read in my entire life—dirty, raunchy, and oh so satisfying.
One of my personal favorite parts of the character building in this story was that Lem has a Greenman tattoo. I super loved that and even looked around as I was reading to share my joy in it (but everyone else at my house was in bed by then).
The last things I truly loved about this book were Lem’s and Anderson’s dreams for the future. There was bittersweet hope as they told each other what they wanted to do together. And then the satisfaction that, at least in part, Lem was able to wrangle Anderson’s wish to life.
Some of the plot was predictable, but it was in that ooey gooey expected tropeish way that I actually don’t mind much. The rape. Yeah, we expect someone to get or almost get raped in prison, but this was done well. The violence. Expected, but done well. I believed it.
I’m not familiar with how prisons run, but it seemed that there was a hell of a lot of latitude to move around basically unsupervised in this book. I’m not sure if that is normal or not, but it seemed strange with the idea of prison that I have in my head.
The prison in this book was good. I mean, it was an interesting old building, refurbished insane asylum, that gave rise to some of the plot points in the book. I feel like so much more could have been done with it. We get a ghost story about the building at the beginning from Anderson’s cell mate, but then it’s dropped like it’s hot. I expected more to happen with that and it never materialized.
And speaking of Anderson, Anderson is the least Spanish name for a Spanish man I’ve ever heard. I know that Spanish parents don’t have to do an old school name, but the family in this story is painted as exceptionally traditional, so in the context of the world building it doesn’t make a lot of sense that his name is Anderson, at least not to me. With that type of family background I expected more cross cultural flavor in the story, maybe a little bit of exploration or to see some way that his traditional family upbringing had melded with modern American culture, but that didn’t materialize. It’s almost like his family background was surface glitter that we never scraped away to see the substance underneath.
We never find out why Lem killed his brother. I’m still upset about that.
I’m upset about the ending in general, in that way that I’m not exactly pissed off, but I want to read the second book right goddamned now because I want to know what happens, which really means this comment belongs in the GOOD section, not the Meh section, but I’m being belligerent about it, so here it is. I mean, I didn’t want to have to read the next book to get a happily ever after (and by all that’s holy there better be one). Please let these two have a happily ever after. I don’t think my heart can take if they don’t.
When I finished reading the book, which is kind of a bit of a cliffhanger, or at least an emotional cliffhanger, I frantically searched to make sure there was a second book or I was going to have a very grown up, adult temper tantrum at my computer. Thankfully, there was.
So, I would say this book is definitely a go to if you’re looking for something rough, but sweet, gentle, but scary. The characters are solid, the plot is solid, and at the end of the day even though you don’t get a happily ever after you can either imagine one, or go on to buy the next book.
Check out my book The Shape of Honey. It’s a gay romance between two snarky werewolves!