Author: Brandon Shire
Cover Artist: TPG Books
Publisher: TPG Books
Buy Link: Amazon
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Length: Novel (215 pages)
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by J.K. Hogan
Review Summary: Something new that changed my perception of how I view romance novels.
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.
It’s midnight, and I just finished Cold. I should go to bed and write my review in the morning. But I can’t. I have to sit here and sort out my feelings about this book. This is a book that I purchased on my own after becoming acquainted with Brandon online. I asked Wave if I could review it after I read it. I have so many mixed feelings about this book—so many feelings in general. Some would say that was the mark of a good book.
First of all, I’ll mention that this book was very well-written, which is wonderful to see, especially from a self-published book. It’s obvious that a lot of care was taken to make Cold the best book it could be.
With just eight months left of an eight year sentence, Anderson Passero is transferred to a new prison dorm. He struggles to find his place among a new set of inmates. He was an owner of a popular gay club before his conviction, and he was all over the news. Because of this, he must deal with being an out gay man in prison. He has to figure out how to survive his last eight months without getting into any trouble that would jeopardize his release.
Lem Porter had been in prison for eighteen years for allegedly killing his brother. He has been up for parole several times, but because he refuses to talk about the murder or express remorse, he is always turned down. He never attempts to sway the parole board. In fact, he’s often antagonistic to the people who would seek to help him get out:
“Or I could pull one of those ridiculous Christian organizations in here and have them tell you how I ‘found God’ and changed my ways and all that other happy horseshit they spit at you. Is that what you want? You want lies?”
Lem is transferred into the same dorm as Anderson. While they see each other briefly on that day, they don’t actually come to know each other until much later, when a violent incident brings their paths crashing together. At first, Anderson is terrified of Lem, partly because of the incident, and partly because Anderson is a little guy and Lem is basically a giant—a hot, silver fox giant. Anderson finds himself attracted to Lem despite his fear, but he can’t seem to get past it. Lem wants Anderson badly, but he has to find a way to get Anderson to look past his intimidating size and strength to see him as a person.
“Lem had just wanted to hold him, just hold him and squeeze him and show him the side of Lem that nobody saw…”
“Anderson could barely see his eyes, but what he did see was intense – a glitter of hope, a spark of desire.”
Slowly, over the last few months of Anderson’s sentence, they build first an intense attraction, and then a relationship of sorts—as much as one can have in prison, I suppose. Anderson conquers his fear of Lem, and his relationship is put forth as a metaphor for overcoming fear in his life in general.
“It wasn’t his bravery that put him on his knees. It was his fear. The same fear he carried throughout life. The same fear that had warped every decision and mistake he’d ever made.”
They have to navigate their way around guards and other inmates, as they try and keep their connection on the down-low. They also have to be careful, again, not to jeopardize Anderson’s release.
The story also focuses on Anderson’s legal troubles and his back story, as well as Lem’s, although Lem remains a mystery still by the end. This part was just as intriguing as the romance, which was a refreshing change for me, and definitely leaves the reader wanting more.
The thing that I liked about Cold the most is that it sort of defies all of your expectations—and the expectations of the romance genre in general. Some may say that it technically isn’t a romance because of the lack of a solid HEA, but it has more romantic elements than a lot of books I’ve read lately.
I was intrigued by the prospect of the main characters meeting in prison. It’s not your usual trope and, as I mentioned to Brandon, I was interested to see how he would make it into something other than tragic and/or dirty. I would have to say while, at times, it was both of those, he succeeded in making it into something else entirely.
I’m operating under the assumption that this is intended to be a serial. There are too many unanswered questions in the end for it not to be, and if it wasn’t, this might be a very different review. *In my first draft of this review, I explained the term serial. I read it back and it sounded pretty douchey, so I took it out. (if you’re unsure what I mean, I can explain in the comments)
Another thing I loved about Cold was that it had great secondary characters, from Anderson’s roommate David (my fave) and Doe, the resident queen, to César, the rapey muscle-bound bruiser. They were all fleshed out well, and they added a lot to the story. Like I said, Lem and Anderson didn’t get together until well into the book, so Anderson’s interactions with the side characters stole the show for the first half.
“You know I’m gay?”
David shrugged and moved back to his own bunk. “I knew the first day you got here. To each his own.” He looked at Anderson directly. “I don’t fuck around though.”
“But you’re such a stud,” Anderson quipped. Where the humor came from so suddenly he couldn’t fathom, but it felt good to smile for a moment.
David reddened and laughed. “Yeah, okay.”
How much did I love David?
These men had to carve out what little happiness they could find. Was it a traditional HEA? No, definitely not. But it really couldn’t have been, and still been so realistic. Anderson was getting out, and Lem had three more years until he was up for parole again. I liked the fact that Mr. Shire didn’t try and ‘make everything okay’ for these characters, because it just wouldn’t have been believable. This ended up making me more invested in these characters and, in a lot of ways, it was more meaningful for the struggle they had to endure.
So, I loved this book. It was a 5-star read for me and I would definitely recommend it if you’re tired of the same old tropes and want something different. Don’t let the prison bit discourage you from trying it out. This is one that you’ll have to make up your own mind about, because it is so different, but I recommend giving it a shot!