Devil’s Rock, Book #1
Heat Factor: Their attraction is very physical, and the sex is animalistic (rawr!)
Character Chemistry: They give each other spidey senses, but, like, in a hot-for-you way
Plot: Convict meets nurse volunteering at the prison, rescues her, is released, and much should-they-shouldn’t-they angst ensues
Overall: It fills a specific desire and is written (pretty well) accordingly
Thanks to @Ashton.Reads over on Insta for recommending this absolutely bonkers series ages and ages ago.
As I was about ¾ into this book, I realized that, in its essentials, it is simply your hero with emotional reservations who treats the heroine to his wishy washy, hot and cold, shouldn’t want/can’t resist confusing signals (as one does) combined with your heroine who has a very specific outlook for her future because of her past trauma but isn’t exactly happy with her life for all that careful living. Also, a lot of pants feels that turn into an emotional connection. If that is not your jam, I’m not sure that this book is going to work for you.
If, however, that characterization can work for you under specific conditions, let’s talk.
Point the first: Knox is a convicted felon
He’s not in for a crime he didn’t commit, either. Knox and his brother were convicted of murdering their cousin’s (who was more like a sister than a cousin) rapist. I think the actual charge was manslaughter? Either way, it’s interesting to note that there are value judgements here – Knox is an okay hero even though he’s a criminal because he didn’t intend to murder anyone and also his fury was righteous. Right? And he’s repentant. So unlike other convicted felons who don’t deserve a HEA because they committed crimes that aren’t, uh, forgivable? Knox can have one. It helps that Knox doesn’t feel he should have a HEA (plus that drives most of the relationship tension, let’s be honest) and that Briar understands Knox’s inherent nobility and goodness before she learns the background about his charges. It also helps that the prison guards, who theoretically should be the morally upright characters are…not. At the very least, it’s an interesting thought exercise in gray areas.
Point the second: Briar grew up in an abusive household
She’s decided to volunteer at the prison because she’s trying to prove her exceptional work ethic to the doctor who employs her, but of course her sister and brother-in-law think she’s just emotionally attached to abusive men like her father. (Though her father was outwardly urbane and secretly abusive and controlling, so the overt unsavory character of a bunch of felons seems not quite the same? Anyway.) Of course when she finally sees the good in Knox after he rescues her from an attack in the prison, she knows her sister would never understand her feelings for him. From the outside, it looks exactly like her sister feared. Her sister almost seems to want to set Briar up with a provider that she can control (so as to avoid being controlled). And yet when we meet the man Briar’s sister wants to set her up with, we discover a really awful man who’s shiny on the outside and repellent on the inside…like Briar’s father. The sisterly dynamic and the underlying conflict of not only what Briar’s sister but also Briar believes to be best for her future is not novel but is thoughtfully emphasized by the fact that Knox is a felon convicted of murder who also manages to be exactly the supportive partner that Briar really wants. It’s an interesting thought exercise in social value judgments.
Point the third: the world exists in shades of gray
Knox is released from prison early because the doctor Briar’s supporting lobbied heavily to have his parole hearing reconsidered in view of his heroic(?) rescue when two other inmates take control of the infirmary with the intention of raping Briar. Nothing about him has changed – he’s still the hard, cold man, convicted of a crime that he did commit, that Briar initially met after she had to treat him for starting a fight in the mess hall. But suddenly, because he managed to keep Briar, the doctor, and the other infirmary nurse from being killed until the prison guards were able to storm the infirmary, he’s not a bad guy anymore – he’s got a good heart under his criminal carapace. In fact, Knox is just a guy who gets to live with the consequences of all his choices for the rest of his life, and he knows that the people he associates with could be tarred by his brush.
In case it wasn’t obvious: this ended up being a more thoughtful read than I expected. On the one hand, it’s your standard “physically enormous and well-endowed, emotionally constipated and damaged hero” with your “shy but determined to overcome heroine who’s just trying to make the right choices” angstfest with horny protagonists. On the other, it’s an interesting exploration of who gets what favors or punishments in life and why they do or don’t deserve them. Mostly, it stroked my id. But a little bit, too, it’s stuck in my head because it made me ask questions.
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