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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Protection by T. Baggins (S.A. Reid)

Absolutely stunning. It's more than I couldn't find the words to write when I finished this one, it was the fact my throat was simply closed to making sounds. I could just breath in and out while my tears were drying on my face. 

Before I begin talking about the book itself, I just want to note there's a short chapter called "Coda" at the end of the book that could be seen as an Epilogue. It's a free bonus by the author. HIGHLY emotional but SO worth the closure! 

Gabriel MacKenna has spent the last 5 years in jail and will be spending the rest of his life there. He killed. He is guilty and he is lucky he didn't get the capital punishment. Gabriel isn't a saint, but he isn't a bloody murderer or a sadist. He is who he is. 5 years are a long time to spend with no intimate relationship and though he vowed not to be involved with men, his resolve starts to falter. Especially when Joey Cooper arrives. A young attractive doctor who catches more than just Gabriel's eye. 

After their first meeting Joey detests Gabriel (to say the least). He is also scared of him but as Gabriel offers the innocent doctor something he knows he should value - Protection - Joey succumbs. A pretty face like Joey is bound to attract unwanted attention from other inmates and Gabriel - the alpha-male in prison - is exactly the man to grant Joey utter protection, yet Gabriel won't do it for free, not for money or cigarettes he gets from the guards. No. Gabriel wants something else Joey isn't sure if he is willing or capable of giving. 

Spending time together changes them both. Gabriel soon realizes he harmed an innocent a second time in his life - this time being his last - he won't harm Joey again and as promised he WILL protect him no matter the cost. Joey on the other hand while wary of the close quarters he shares with Gabriel is starting to appreciate him for his (other) qualities. Though Gabriel is uneducated he reads books, recites poems and is a good companion to chat with. Not only that, Gabriel can help him out when it comes to prison life since Gabriel is more than friendly with most of the guards (he plays poker with or renovates furniture for them since he is a well trained carpenter). As they spend more and more time together the hatred and fear from joey's part start to fade while Gabriel's connection to Joey only intensify. It's not long (but still long months) until they fall for each other. 

The author did a wonderful job capturing the small world of the prison, the inmates, the guards, and in general the structure and feel of the place. While it takes place in the 1930s it didn't feel so archaic. Sure, no prison now would lack toilets and use buckets instead.. and sure there are rules and perceptions that are very different than the ones we have today, yet I didn't feel like I was "in the past" when reading, but in a suspended present. Maybe because of the isolation of being in a prison or the fact that people will be people no matter the timing. It's best if I described it as I felt contained in prison WITH Joey and Gabriel (that might sound a bit more perverted then intended ;)). I was totally absorbed in their present - maybe that's why I didn't feel the timing as relevant. 

When I was a kid, I remember something like that happened to me, I was so immersed in a fantasy book I was quite socked to realize as I finished reading that there are NO real dragons. NO. REAL. DRAGONS. ha! 

It could have been such an easy story if Gabriel and Joey were just friendly neighbors, but they are in prison where they are not allowed to show their affection to one another (let alone sleep together..). Also it's the 1930s where gay behavior is condemned for being sick and perverted. While some guards might look away, others - won't. Not to mention that even if they can escape the guards, and the eyes and hands of the other inmates they still have quite the problem offering one another a lifetime together as Gabriel sentence is for life while Joey's - isn't.. 

I accepted and believed the way Joey and Gabriel came to fall for one another. It might be a stretch on some level but somehow it still felt believable. I loved how their romance progressed, how much they were willing to do for one another, the things they said and did that made their love story so sweet and beautiful. I enjoyed the way their loyalty and trust were building, how much they were in-tuned with one another. Near the end when options of them being together started forming their love and devotion for one another showed in the most sensitive way. 

While the beginning was a bit hard to read and accept as the romance between them started forming I was hooked and couldn't lift my head from the book. When I finished reading I felt like I was torn to pieces and half assembled somewhat enough to rise from where I was laying yet I couldn't speak. My throat was sore and I was totally mute till I went to sleep (granted it was less than an hour from the time I finished.. it WAS 2 a.m...)

There are very few love stories I react to the way I did to this one. Only this kind of strong connection, built on mistrust that turned into the most amazing loving relationship, one that literally conquered ALL can crush me this way. The last I remember was with "Special Forces" by Aleksandr Voinov and Marquesate - Dan and Vadim's love was EPIC and not only because it lasted 25 years but because of what they endured from start - through the middle - till the story was told. 

I WILL be reading more of T. Baggins. Already added all her MM Romance novels to my list (a few for next month) and will be monitoring her next published work CLOSELY.  Baggins also writes mystery / suspense under Emma Jameson but since it's not usually my "forte" I'll check it out more carefully. Interesting enough the name of the author is neither of the three mentioned - It's - Stephanie Abbot! Well, Stephanie, I'm already a HUGE fan!  

Additional Details: Kindle Ebook, 122 pages, 29 December 2014 / On GoodReads

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