Monday, March 9, 2015
Penguin/April 15, 2014
My pounding heart went still, eerie as birds fallen silent in the wake of a gunshot.
He was big. Tall frame, wide shoulders-but not burly. His near-black hair was due for a cut, curling under his ears. Dark brows, dark stubble, dark lashes and eyes.
And he was handsome. So handsome it broke your heart.
A deck of cards was split between his hands, paused midshuffle. Some of the men wore navy scrub tops and bottoms, some navy tee shirts, a few white undershirts. This man wore a tee, with COUSINS stenciled on the front, above the number 802267. Those digits imprinted on my brain, burned black as a brand.
He watched me. But not the way the others did. If he was trying to picture me naked, his poker face was strong, though his attention anything but subtle. His entire head moved as I passed through his domain, but his eyes were languorous. Lazy and half-lidded, yet intense. A hundred looks in one. I didn't like it. Couldn't read it. At least with the horny jerk-offs, I knew where I stood. I wondered what the worst thing you could do and still only get sent to a medium-security prison was. I hoped not to ever learn the answer.
And I hoped to heaven inmate 802267 hadn't signed up for any of the day's programs.
So very different and so very good! It's not often romance readers get to see and experience the inside of a prison. As the story opens, librarian Annie Goodhouse is on her way to her first day at Cousins Correctional Facility. She, of course, is nervous. Who wouldn't be, knowing you will be in a room full of convicted criminals with only a handful of guards to protect you? But Annie wants to help and she's curious about the inmates. It's an environment not many outsiders have access to so there's bound to be some curiosity. There is also fear and trepidation. Annie has some doubts as to what she is doing and if she can really help any of these men.
Inmate 802267 catches Annie's eye right away. He stands out in a room full of dangerous men. It's the way he holds himself and the way he looks at her. Annie is very aware of his presence as Eric, inmate 802267, is very aware of her. Eric Collier has been locked up for five years on a ten year sentence. He's quiet, thoughtful but can be dangerous if pushed. I found Eric to be an interesting character but the interest, at the beginning, is more of how Annie reacts to Eric than Eric himself.
The first part of the story takes place at the prison while the rest takes place outside prison. I found the beginning to be more tense and intriguing. After the prison, the romance became far more similar to other "good girl/bad boy" romances. Annie believes in the good in Eric while Eric is still very aware of the bad in himself. It's not so much that he apologizes for himself but he doesn't think he's good enough for Annie and there were times when I agreed. He became less alpha and more subservient to Annie towards the ending.
The insight Annie give gives to her experiences in Cousins is revealing not only in what goes on in prisons but what an outsider is exposed to. Annie realizes some of her preconceptions are accurate while others, not so much.