I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Briar Davis grew up with a violent father, so when her boss asks for volunteers to help him at Devil's Rock, a prison, her hand doesn't immediately shoot up. When no one else volunteers, though, she thinks about the promotion she wants and how she doesn't want to be afraid anymore and suddenly she's passing through maximum security gates. Briar’s first day she meets Knox Callaghan, ripped, sexy, intense, and a convict. Knox has been in Devil's Rock for eight years serving out a murder sentence, his brother and he paid a visit to their cousin's rapist that ended badly for everyone. One look into Nurse Davis' eyes and he finds himself wanting things he knows a convict like him will never have. Even the eight years and bars, however, can't fully change the man and Knox saves Briar from sharing his cousin's fate. Suddenly, Knox and Briar have an opportunity they never thought possible, if only both are strong enough to take it.
The first in a new series, Ms. Jordan starts off with a bang. The beginning tension between Briar and Knox with the forbidden aspect, Briar's physical fear, and Knox's emotional brick wall was fantastic, I flew through the pages. They only have a couple meetings in the beginning but those moments pack quite the punch. Their interactions are drawn out but in a needful way, we see Briar's trepidation around Knox, how his brick wall cracks around her, and how they both can't help poking and reaching out to one another because of the draw they feel. The first 40% reminded me of Michael and Sara (Knox is a little darker than Michael) from the tv show Prison Break and I can see fans of the show really enjoying this part.
After Knox rescues Briar from some inmates, his second parole hearing is moved up and he is released, switching the gears of the story. Now we have Briar and Knox free to act on the feelings they had to try and suppress in the prison. The sexual chemistry that was apparent in the beginning carries over to this second part but almost to the determent of the overall story. We get a lot of sexual situations, they are done really well, drawn out with words that evoke feelings and steam but it became our couple’s whole relationship. Knox and Briar don't so much grow together, as they bang together. There are glimpses of emotional strife with Knox not feeling he is good enough for Briar and dealing with society's perceptions of ex-convicts and Briar convincing herself and her sister that she is not ending up like her mother and self-destructing with a violent man. Heavy topics that if flushed out better definitely could have added a deeper level to their relationship and the story.
Secondary characters flittered in and around the story with Knox's brother North having to survive in prison without him, Briar's sister providing a minor villain role, Briar's neighborhood gal pal that could be future heroine bait, Knox's aunt and uncle humanizing him more, and Reid. Reid ran a powerful gang in prison that Knox and his brother were welcomed into and protected them. Towards the end of the story and interjected in a somewhat awkward way, we get a lead in to Reid's future story as he escapes, makes his way back home, and finds his old gang has kidnapped the President of the United State's daughter. I think this would have worked better as an epilogue, finishing out Knox and Briar's story first, but either way, I can't wait to read it.
Briar's self-imposed sheltered personality and life and Knox's anger, determination not to mess up his life again, and stoicism, made them intriguing characters to read about while their sexual chemistry made it fun and hot. Their sexual relationship was written in a way that would at times remind me of Victoria Dahl and Cara McKenna's writing, which I greatly enjoyed. While at times the emotional aspect peeked through the sexual angst, the second half was missing it a lot. As an introduction to the Devil's Rock series though, All Chained Up has me excited for future characters and books.