Rating: 4.75 stars
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With eight months left on his sentence, Anderson Passero has just been moved to a new prison. With such a short time left, all he wants to do is keep his head down and stay out of trouble until he is finally released. Especially because Anderson is a little guy, and a public enough figure that everyone knows he is gay. Anderson was arrested for selling drugs at his high profile club, and, although he is guilty, he was caught up in the crime by his former lover and was in too deep before he realized what was going on. But now he is counting the days, just waiting to get out and get his life back again.
Lem Porter killed his brother 18 years ago and now is in jail for life. He has never explained why he committed his crime, and like Anderson, Lem just wants to be left alone. Unlike Anderson, however, Lem is a giant of a man, solid muscle and all power. Most people are afraid of him and steer clear, though in reality he is a nature lover and a gentle man.
One day Lem and Anderson’s paths come crashing together in a shocking and unexpected way. This event bonds them and they slowly begin to interact within the very structured confines of the prison. And then, much to Anderson’s surprise, more begins to develop between them. Even as he counts the days until his release, Anderson begins to fall for Lem, and it is clear Lem shares his feelings. But life in prison is not conducive to romance and spending time together is almost impossible. But those stolen moments begin to build into something more, even as both men know that a future between them is basically impossible.
Shire gives us such a wonderful story with Cold, so incredibly sweet and lovely even set amidst the hard world of prison. Neither man is glamorized and Shire gives a fascinating portrayal of their lives in prison. But at the same time, we are able to get inside Lem and Anderson in a way that makes us feel connected to them and their growing love, even as we know they are criminals.
I really just loved both of them. I always love contrasts in my MCs and I adored these two guys together. Lem is such a gentle giant (except when someone he loves is threatened). He is huge (6 foot 6, 300 pounds of muscle) and everyone pretty much is terrified of him and gives him wide berth. Anderson is scared of him at first too. Lem has lived his life watching people have these same reactions to him, scared of his size, assuming he is just big and dumb, and has never had anyone willing to give him a chance. And Anderson is this little adorable guy, dwarfed in Lem’s arms. His prior life was high profile, filled with big events and a city lifestyle. Yet somehow these guys just work together. I found their relationship so warm and sweet and I felt my heart breaking along with theirs as they accept that their relationship ends when Anderson is released.
Individually these men are just as fascinating. Lem is really a bit of an enigma. He has a lot of the staff at the prison rooting for him, encouraging him to actively seek parole, but Lem keeps sabotaging his chances. He has no one on the outside and has accepted he will be in jail for the rest of his life. Lem has never revealed why he killed his brother, and it is clear that this secret is contributing to his lack of desire to get out of jail. Anderson is the opposite, in that everyone knows all about his crime. Anderson trusted his lover, thought he was loved in return. But instead he was used and betrayed and caught up in a crime he never intended. But now, just as the months tick by to the end of his sentence, his old lover is stirring up trouble again, claiming to have new evidence, and a homophobic prosecutor is making noise that Anderson might be retried on new charges.
This story is just so richly done with many wonderful layers. We have the story of these two men individually, as they navigate their experiences in prison, one almost done his sentence and the other there for life. And we see the fascinating descriptions of daily life in the prison, the structure and the boredom and rules and how they can be broken. And through it all, we have this lovely relationship between Anderson and Lem, a relationship that never should have happened in this environment, but that both men find themselves powerless to stop.
I will point out that this story is not an HEA, or even really an HFN. It is the first of a series and everything is not resolved in this book. We are left with some unanswered questions and a lack of clarity as to whether there can be a future for these guys. If I didn’t know more was coming, I would have screamed at the end, but I get why the book ends the way it does and I am super excited for more. So I really thought this one was wonderful and can’t wait for the next installment. Sweet and romantic and lovely amidst the cold, hard reality of their lives in prison. This was really fabulous and I highly recommend it.
P.S. Although the contest is over, Shire shared an exclusive excerpt with us if you want to check it out.
Note: As with all of his books, Shire is donating 10% of his proceeds to GLBTAYS & Lost-n-Found Youth, Inc.