Hello everyone! Today I am so pleased to welcome Brandon Shire back to Joyfully Jay. Brandon is here as part of the Heart of Timber blog tour. I reviewed this book last week and totally loved it, along with the first book, Cold. So please join me in giving Brandon a big welcome!
As most of my regular readers know, I like to challenge perceptions. Whether they are opinions about homeless LGBT youth, blindness and eroticism (Afflicted Series), or a prison romance, (Cold Series), I enjoy educating people and destroying comfortable assumptions.
You know the type of assumptions I’m talking about? It’s those ‘norms’ which make you all squirmy inside when they’re challenged. You may have based your habits on those assumptions. You may have unwittingly molded your life according to a set of rules and conditions that were based on those astute conventions. And you damned sure don’t like it when someone upsets the applecart. Or maybe you do… maybe you like a little more romance (and diversity) than what your mama was accustomed to.
The most common reader comment for the Cold Series goes something like I didn’t think it could be so sweet/romantic/loving. But before actually reading the book, the comments are more Ew, prison romance? That’s going to be all rapey and violent. Because of course, nearly ‘every other book’ dealing with prison romance is filled with the wrongfully accused, gang-banger viciousness and over-muscled booty bandits.
But what if the main characters weren’t innocent? What if they weren’t surrounded by viciousness, but instead by people who have done their time, mellowed out, and are ready to go home?
Could you love a killer? A drug dealer? Or, are they still unlovable? Unredeemable?
Redemption is a big part of the Cold Series. So is regret. Lem is a killer – a huge man who we witness taking another life within the prison, and who took a life to get there. His first kill was his own brother, and everyone wants to know why he did it. For a man who loves nature, who is as outwardly gentle and awkwardly shy as he is, what would make him break? What would drive him to the edge and then push him over?
That question is answered in The Heart of Timber.
I’ve seen a lot of conjecture about Lem’s reasons for murdering his brother. Some of it was interesting (and plausible), and some of it was revolting. None of it was correct. Lem is a deeply passionate man, but deeply wounded too. His life story is not as easy as some would like to make it. But he is surviving anyway.
And then there’s Anderson. One of my beta readers for HoT made the comment that she still didn’t know if he was right for Lem, even after all they had been through. Honestly, I don’t either. It’s just the way the story rolled out. As we all have seen in real life, sometimes you just cannot understand why one person loves another, or what they see in them. Fortunately, we cannot dictate choices of the heart. Those choices are not ours to make. In the end, all love is criminal and all lovers suspect. It’s something we learn… eventually.
Two years after watching Anderson walk out of the prison gates, Lem has a visitor who informs him that Anderson desperately needs his help. He scoffs at the idea until he is given an offer that he cannot refuse. He doesn’t know if he is finally ready to make peace with himself outside prison, or if he is ready to face the pain he has caused, but he also understands that he will never get another chance like this.
Anderson has tried to push Lem to the back of his heart, but he cannot find anyone who can measure up to the man that Lem was. Letters he meant to send sit on the table, and the dreams he had about rebuilding his life go by the wayside as he pines for a man he cannot have. He doesn’t believe he will ever be happy again and finds it increasingly difficult to keep up the cheerful facade his family expects.
But unknown to Anderson, the women in his life have colluded to bring him and Lem back together again. Will he and Lem rekindle their love, or will they burn everyone around them by falling back to their past mistakes?