Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “This…us…me is out of control”
Knox Callaghan has been at Devil’s Rock for eight years for murder. Due to be released soon, he is counting the days till he can walk free again and keeping his head low. Tall, dark, and deadly, no one messes with Knox… no one except the new infirmary nurse. A woman he instantly knows is too good and pure for someone like him.
Briar Davis doesn’t want to be at Devil’s Rock but when her boss asks for volunteers to come with him to the prison to help out until they can hire a new medical staff, she reluctantly agrees. When Knox is brought in for an injury, the attraction between them is instant, but Briar has no interest in a convict. A hostage situation in the infirmary changes Briar’s mind, especially when Knox risks his life and freedom in order to save her life.
Briar learns when she returns to the prison that Knox has been granted an early parole for his heroics. He is now free and she knows she will never see him again. But Knox can’t resist the sweet temptation that Briar offers. When one kiss leads to more, Knox must decide if she is better off with him or without him.
All Chained Up by Sophie Jordon is the start to a new series (Devil’s Rock) that revolves around a group of incarcerated men and the women who help to free them from their demons. A gritty, forbidden tinged romance that takes two broken individuals and paves a way to their healing. Smooth pacing and well-developed characters help to create the story that focuses on the balance between the characters’ evolving emotions and the romance unfolding.
Knox Callaghan is a strong, silent, gorgeous man whose impressive size and brusque personality makes him an island all onto himself. He regrets the decision that landed him in prison. It not only cost him everything, it also placed his younger brother, North, into the same situation. A former HS football star, Knox was a shooting star that burned up when it slammed into the earth with one rash act. In his grief over a family member, he willingly gave up his freedom. The guilt and disgust of what he did weigh heavily on him though a majority of that is because his brother got caught up in his need for revenge. Now close to the end of his time, he just wants to get out and attempt to make amends to his family who he feels he let down. A pretty nurse who is completely out of his reach is just one more thing to brood on.
He’d learned that lesson at twenty…when he had kissed his freedom goodbye.
Briar Davis is a nurse who has been the repeated victim of abuse. A survivor who keeps to herself, she has worked hard to rise above her childhood and just wants a happy life, similar to what her older sister has found. Quiet, compassionate, and seemingly malleable, Briar has a hidden streak of steel that reveals itself slowly throughout the story. She is looking for safety and security-two things a convicted felon in prison can’t offer her. Yet, his soul speaks to her and her innate need to protect rises to the surface when she sees he is the victim of violence.
Prison romances aren’t an altogether much seen trope only because it’s difficult to facilitate a romance in that type of situation. Also, strong characterization is required to convince the reader that a romance with a rightfully convicted felon can be not only possible but believable. Jordan does an excellent job of introducing the attraction in a seemingly difficult situation then creating a viable plot device to open the door for that attraction to morph into something more realistic. She makes sure we see both points of views and that the initial consensus upon our protagonist’s meeting is that the attraction is not only unwanted but faintly disgusting (at least on the side of the heroine). It’s only after the hero’s heroic actions does the heroine begin to see the hero through a different lens though she understands the attraction is largely physical and that she may be looking at him through eyes of gratitude.
She cried for what had happened, for what she had almost become. A victim. Just like her mother. And she cried for Knox Callaghan.
I enjoyed watching Knox and Briar not only take a chance on each other once Knox is released but also the journey of self discovery they each went through. Knox carries a lot of guilt and he feels he will only contaminate her with the same stigma that follows him if he tries to be a part of her life. Certain scenes only serve solidify this in his mind. Briar also struggles with her own past, not wanting to go down the same road as her mother and end up trapped in a no win situation with a violent man. I think the storyline could have benefited from a deeper examination of this couples backgrounds and the events that lead them to this crossroad.
I do wish the balance between the sexual relationship and the romance itself had also been better. I will be honest and say the relationship is almost solely built on sex. A lot of hot, delicious, up against the wall, well written, chemistry explosive sex. Knox’s commanding nature resonates through Briar very nicely however there wasn’t much growth seen between them as a couple. The sex almost overtakes over the story, not leaving enough room for readers to see when the tides turned and caused their relationship became more emotionally based.
I can be patient. I spent years in prison waiting to be free. Waiting, even though I didn’t know it then…for you.
A variety of secondary characters rounds out the story, adding depth, humor, and hints to future storylines. North, Knox’s brother, helps to vocalize the desolation and sense of helplessness Knox feels while his aunt and uncle provide a much needed soothing touch. Briar’s neighbor is a bright spot in her life as she helps to facilitate Briar’s relationship with Knox while Briar’s sister’s meddling leaves much to be desired. An interesting character, Reid, jumps out at you even though his page time in almost nonexistent. A lifer and the leader of a prison gang at Devil’s Rock, Reid offered Knox and North protection in return for their show of strength. He is slated to be the next hero and his story is inserted rather clumsily towards the end, stealing away from the pivotal moment that solidifies Knox and Briar’s future together.
All Chained Up opens the door to a new and intriguing world that regardless of some issues, has me looking forward to seeing where Jordan takes this series and it’s characters.