Series: Life Without Parole, Bks 1-3
Author: Jeff Erno
Cover Artist: Angela Waters
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 08/12/2016
Length: Novella (~ 15K-50K)
Genre: Contemporary, Gay Romance
Their love, forbidden yet beautiful, hardly stood a chance of surviving a place like this.
Trey Palmer killed his stepfather three years ago, stabbed him repeatedly with a butcher knife, and now he’s facing life behind bars. He doesn’t deny what he did, nor does he regret it. But he’s plagued with flashbacks of a torturous childhood in which he was abused by this man he finally extinguished. In prison, Trey employs a strategy of avoidance. He becomes a loner and a workaholic, steering clear of the gangs and their drama. His life changes one day, however, when a new cellmate arrives. Jeremy Banks, also in for murder, decries his innocence. With his long hair and angelic face, he’s too pretty for a men’s prison. Though at first annoying and mouthy, Jeremy begins to wiggle his way into Trey’s heart, and Trey starts to wonder if maybe the kid really is innocent. He really does seem like an angel. Their feelings for each other evolve, blossoming into something forbidden yet beautiful. But how can a love like theirs last in a place like this?
Love can bloom in places least expected and can thrive even in the darkest corners.
Jeremy Banks did not at first hit it off with his assigned cellmate Trey Palmer, but somehow the two manage to form a bond that develops into something special, something beyond anything Jeremy could have ever hoped or dreamed. He begins to really settle into his new life behind bars and volunteers as a trainer of rescued greyhound dogs. He and Trey grow closer and their relationship becomes physical, until unexpected tragedy strikes.
Some say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but how can a heart that’s broken feel anything but pain?
Waking one morning to learn Trey had been whisked away, transferred to another facility, Jeremy fears he and Trey might never see each other again. When he learns from the local news that Trey has been sent back to county to face a retrial, he doesn’t know whether to pray for his acquittal or to hope for his return. Jeremy has to forge a new path, discover a way to move on with his life without Trey. The two will likely never see each other again, but Jeremy can’t forget so easily. He turns to others for support and falls into the arms of another man, but will his new love ever really take the place of Trey?
I have been going back and forth over how to rate these books for a while now. Even as I read them my opinion went up and down more times than a roller coaster.
There’s a lot to like here. But there’s also a lot to dislike, though some of it comes down to Jeff Erno’s writing style and my particular tastes. First off let me say that I prefer books with a tight POV, focusing on one or two main characters. We don’t have that here. Instead we have a bit of head hopping and are in certain character’s heads just for a page or two and then never again.
Let me back track here and saw that I like both Trey and Jeremy as well as their torturous, star-crossed lovers type relationship. Trey is in prison for a murder he did commit—chopping up his sexually abusive step father—and Jeremy is in for a murder he claims he didn’t commit—killing his boyfriend’s father. Their relationship going from cellies to friends to lovers is engaging and interesting and the main reason I kept reading despite the issues I had with the books.
It’s their relationship that makes this series at all interesting. I wish Erno would’ve focused on them instead of jumping into the heads of so many other characters. There are scenes here that could’ve easily been removed without affecting the story such the one where a transgender inmate sucks off a guard in order to get a better cell. Yeah, it affects the story because that puts Trey in a double cell and is assigned to live with Jeremy, but that could’ve been done without actually seeing it.
Ditto for the back story of almost every supporting character. Erno jumps into their head and explains about their past for a page or two. Once or twice wouldn’t matter but it happens a lot. It adds nothing to the overall story and I ended up skimming most of it anyway.
It’s obvious Erno has done his research regarding the prison system. I have a bit of experience in corrections and a lot of what he wrote was spot on or exaggerated only slightly. My one issue in that regard is that it doesn’t exactly put correctional officers in a good light. I can think of four Cos mentioned by name. One raped an inmate, another facilitated the rape and a third brought in contraband for an inmate, got a blowjob from said inmate and purposely got Trey in trouble to force him to move to a different cell. The fourth officer is likable and decent to the inmates but overlooks infractions. I suppose this makes him a nice guy in the inmate’s eyes but he’s still not a model CO. And, if I read the signs right, I’d say he’s due to become involved with an inmate in a future book. Though this makes for interesting fiction, in real life it wouldn’t make him a particularly good person. There is middle ground between guards being total assholes and being compromised.
You may ask why I rated this at four stars even without all my complaints. I’m not exactly sure but I do know that despite the issues I read the first book, then immediately picked up the second and then the third. The fact that I had to keep reading says a lot. The ending of the third book was the worst, in a good way, because I can’t wait for the next installment. And I have to give credit to Erno for keeping my hooked through them all.
Be aware this is a serial and, though certain plot lines are resolved in each book, it’s a continuing tale that I assume won’t come to a final end until the last book. If you can deal with cliff hangers and a serial story I recommend this series.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
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