My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Book 1: 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.
So what did I think?
This was a masterful piece of storytelling, a brilliantly told tale that was impossible to put down.
The story is set within the confines of a prison. It is a harsh world and portrayed that way. The story is beautifully crafted and takes the reader right into the world of inhabited by Lem and Anderson.
For me this was a story of contrasts. Contrasts between characters, contrasts within characters, contrasts in the environment.
Please be aware that this review might be slightly spoilerish
Lem is a long-time prisoner, spending most of his adult life incarcerated for the murder of his brother. He is a huge man physically, tall and muscular and feared by most other inmates. However there is little sign of him being violent or providing a reason for this fear. In contrast to the stereotype of his physical appearance, he is actually a thoughtful, intelligent, college educated man. He feels a true affinity to nature and works in the prison greenhouse. He has never caused any problems in his eighteen years of imprisonment which allows him some favours with certain prison officials and guards.
In contrast, Anderson is smaller man and unlike Lem, he has experienced a lot more of life outside of prison. He had a thriving business, a relationship and a family. Anderson is nearing the end of his sentence and his prime goal is to just get through the next few months without trouble. After many years in prison without proper human contact, Lem somehow manages to break through his shell, illustrating the true power of their relationship.
Lem’s story is one of mystery. He has never admitted to why he killed his brother. He purposely jeapardises his chance of parole. I am not sure whether he is punishing himself or protecting someone but he is resigned to spending the rest of his life in prison. His feelings for Anderson are obviously so strong that he finally is prepared, after many long years, to put himself through the inevitable sadness and sorrow that caring about Anderson would bring, their parting being unavoidable.“When Anderson left, Lem would be left with the cold winter again.”
There are a few moments where the author takes us from within the prison confines to the world that Lem remembers – nature, the forest. “There was no sense in dreaming about it; he knew he would never witness that kind of beauty again.” His love for the outside is obvious in the small pleasures he derives from working in the greenhouse and waiting patiently for the bonsai to bloom. The bonsai finally bloomed for the first time in twenty years, much like Lem blooming with his feelings for Anderson.
This is not an easy or gentle story. There is an incident which is the true catalyst for Lem and Anderson being fully aware of each other. In some ways their relationship starts with a truly violent act. Anderson’s feelings for Lem must be truly strong for him to overcome his fear, start to trust and open his heart. “Lem had opened his vulnerability, touched him with something that was not just sex.”……..“He felt safe and wanted and secure, and it was the first time he really felt it in his entire life.”
There are people who are supporting both men. Anderson has him sister and his mother on the outside. For Lem, he manages to wrangle favours from the guards which allow him and Anderson to spend time together. These ‘favours’ also extend to protecting his own life. It is these favours that give the men a truly special night “I think I love you,” Anderson whispered as he heard his footsteps fade away.”
This book is intense and emotional. There is no happy ending for the men. For me there were tears. But for Anderson, there is hope on the outside. “I’ll never forget you,” he whispered as they turned toward the highway.”
I am desperately hoping that the next book is both released soon and has the happy ending that I am craving.
For more information about Brandon Shire and his books, visit his website.
Show your support and visit his website to purchase his books as the proceeds from any purchases made through those links are donated to LGBT Youth Charities.
- Cold (Cold #1) by Brandon Shire (shirleyfrancesbooksandmore.wordpress.com)