Review: Cold by Brandon Shire

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 struggled with this review because my love for the story is all emotional, and difficult to put into words.    My favorite MC, Lem, was serving a life sentence for killing his brother. Determined to stay in prison, he sabotaged his parole interview. Why? There are hints of self-punishment, and maybe lack of hope, but no clear reason why.  The other MC, Anderson, was eager to get out, and determined to keep his head down and stay out of trouble for the remaining eight months of his term.

The two men, distinct opposites in terms of appearance, personality, and circumstances, came together in an ill-fated romance. I loved their initial observations of and reactions to each other, and when they finally got together? Yikes, time out for a cool down.

Mixed in with the hotness, though, was a sweet vulnerability that drew me in. So gentle and hesitant, with some hope and even awe, overlaid with the bittersweet truth of reality. Reality, because with prison as a background, they hardly had a chance. The small details that showed the lack of privacy, the lack of autonomy in prison life, had me cringing in sympathy. Other details weren't so small. One violent scene had me flinching but even though it wasn't airbrushed, it wasn't overpowering, either.

As the final weeks of Anderson's term wind down, there is a sense of imminent loss and sadness. Every moment is dear, but overshadowed by the reality of their situation. As expected, the ending was sad, but knowing a sequel was on the way, I was hopeful.

Side notes:
 I loved getting to know Lem through his love of nature, work in the nursery, and memories of his of old job. The scene with Anderson and the bonsai was especially touching.

The "short" business tripped me up, pulled me out of the story as I had to think about the unfamiliar meaning, and it's used a lot.

Unless I missed something, Anderson didn't know old Lem was when he went to prison, how did he figure Lem's age from time served? There were a few other niggles, but I set them aside to better enjoy the story and to wait for answers in the sequel.

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