Reviewed by Mandi
They say there are two types of fear – the kind that has you running far, far away, and the kind that shakes you so deeply that you can’t look away.
For me, Grayson is the second kind of fear.
I got pretty excited when I heard Annika Martin (aka Carolyn Crane) and Skye Warren were collaborating to write a dark, intense book that features a hero in prison and a heroine who is a college sophomore. I love, love, love Carolyn Crane’s romantic suspense, and I’m also hooked on Skye Warren, although she sometimes writes too dark for me. But the two of them together greatly appealed to me.
Prisoner is definitely a dark book. It starts out a little reminiscent of Hard Times by Cara McKenna. Grayson is in prison for supposedly killing a cop. He is a big, tough, intense guy. Abby is heading up an english class at the prison with the intent of getting some stories from these hardened criminals to post as an online journal for college credit. When Grayson hears this, he knows he has to get into this class and code his story so when it goes online, his friends on the outside can decipher and help him break out of prison. Abby is all innocence and shyness from the outside. She has had a hard life with an abusive stepfather and a drug-addicted mother. She has made some morally gray choices in her past which still haunt her today. She is greatly intimidated by these prisoners, especially Grayson who gets right under her skin. She is definitely attracted to him and doesn’t know what to do with herself.
Grayson we come to learn, has had a horrific past. Kept in a basement with other boys, he endured things that no child or even adult should have to endure. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail because you learn things as the story progresses, but it’s bad. However, he bonded with the other boys in that basement and as adults, they will do anything for each other. Like help one escape prison.
So Grayson escapes – and he ends up kidnapping/dragging Abby along as he goes on the run and eventually into hiding.
Usually when I finish a book, I go right to Goodreads and give it a rating and then I sit down and type out my review. With this book, I needed a few days before any of that happened. This book intrigued me, and engaged me the entire way through, but I needed to process my feelings. The romance is not…romantic. Which, I think is the point of the book. Grayson claims Abby as his right from the start. She is terrified when he kidnaps her because there really is a good chance she could be murdered by him or one of his friends. One of the main themes in this book is how bonded Grayson is with his friends, and how they always come first. This comes across very well and frightening in the book. But over time, Abby comes to trust Grayson and she falls for him. Let me note, there is a warning in the blurb that there is dubious consent, and that is true. There are times right after escape that he makes sexual advances on her that she doesn’t want (although inside her head she is okay with it). I think the hardest part is when he drugs her and then has sex with her. So – the dubious consent warning is in there for a reason.
I wish I had felt more love or romance at the end of the book. Maybe that would have been too squishy for this type of book or maybe it’s just not in Grayson’s personality or mental status to actually be truly in love. It was more that Abby is his prized possession and she is fine with that. While Abby’s parents are dead, I often wondered if she had friends or other family members that were affected by her actions? That’s never really addressed. And while there is much darkness, there are moments like this too:
“Where are we going?”
“We’re going to meet my friend in a secluded area.”
She gives me that look again. The flare of surprise – and a little bit of something else too.
“Why, Ms. Winslow, please. Mind out of the gutter.” I smile and sit back. The smile is there to put her at ease. Stone’ll want her dead. It’s going to be a problem.
Another pair of cop cars heads over the hill. “You just drive nice, okay?”
“Nicely,” she snaps.
“Drive nicely, that’s how you say it. Not drive nice.”
Oh God. Nicely. Correcting my grammar even at gunpoint. I’m so fucking hot for her, I think I might burst into flames.
My favorite part of the book is Grayson’s interactions with his friends, the other guys that were locked in the basement with him. Their love is true. They each unfailingly are there for each other, are honest with each other, bare their souls to each other. Stone in particular hates that Abby is a weakness to Grayson and wants her dead – badly. His actions with her and with Grayson are chilling. At one point Grayson is injured and Stone is set on killing Abby and the interaction between Grayson and Stone is so well done. I assume we get books for the other guys and I’m very interested to learn their stories. These guys had horrible, life-altering tragedies and now live a life of revenge and broken souls. It’s definitely intriguing.
I guess my final thoughts are: I wanted more out of the romance. But then I think of Grayson’s past and that does not lend to having a great romance in his life. So maybe what he has is totally realistic and all he can give. I spoke with another blogger that had read this and she said Grayson going against his friends wishes and keeping Abby rather than killing her is his romantic gesture. And that is absolutely right.
If anything, this book will make you think. And feel things. And now I’m totally ready for the next book.