“If only. Those were two very big, impossible words.” – Brandon Shire
Blurb: 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?
Review: If you haven’t read Cold, the first book in Brandon Shire’s Cold series, it’s an absolute must-do before reading Heart of Timber, the continuation of a heartbreaking affair between Lem Porter, a man serving a life sentence for murder, and Anderson Passero, who’d served eight years in prison on drug-related charges, but who is now a free man, a man who is trying to get his life back into some semblance of order and move on from his big, impossible love for the man he had no choice but to leave behind.
I have to confess that going into this book I was a little skeptical, wondering how in the world the author was going to maneuver the lives of these men and manipulate the penal system to overcome the seemingly insurmountable odds against them, and turn it into a believable story of second chances and love against all odds. I shouldn’t have bothered worrying because Brandon Shire did all those things, employing the love of family, the influence that comes with sheer force of will (and the funds to back it up), and in the strength of Lem himself, a man who can make a reader ponder on the idea of doing something the law says is wrong, but doing it for the right reasons. Simply put, Lem is the sort of man second chances were made for and if anyone in the history of fiction has ever deserved one, it’d be him. Allowing myself the latitude to believe that went a long way toward making this story work.
Heart of Timber moves along quickly, in chunks of time that come in years rather than days, but at the same time, the relationship between Lem and Anderson takes its own sweet time, as Anderson begins to consider all the complications that stem from their intense sexual attraction, which works both for and against their differences in wants and needs. Anderson is the man who thrives on the energy of the city, while Lem is a man whose love of nature means the city is as much a prison as the bars he’d spent two decades behind.
This story went from one seemingly impossible hurdle to the next, which led to some touch-and-go moments, but again, the author skillfully wended his way through the fears and doubts until the story came to a close, an ending filled with all the hope and promise of two people dreaming of a future they can now make a reality, one begun in the cold reality of prison, years before.
There’s nothing quite like a good love story to help you lose great chunks of time out of your day as you devour it, and while this one didn’t quite match the emotional intensity of Cold, and may require you to suspend disbelief in a stranger-things-have-happened sort of way, Heart of Timber ends the way every good fairy tale ends—love wins.