How did I get it: I was sent a review copy by the author.
Why did I read it: Another great premise that I couldn’t resist.
When Gabriel MacKenna enters Wentworth Prison in 1931, he promises himself two things: never to be buggered and never to turn prison queer. Tough, smart, and ruthless in a fight, he quickly makes a name for himself inside. But Gabriel, saved from the noose by a social crusader, is serving two life sentences. And life is a very long time to endure Wentworth with no comforts but prison food, card games and cigarettes. To survive endless days without the touch of another human being…
Five years after Gabriel’s incarceration, Joey Cooper arrives at Wentworth. Every convict claims imprisonment through a miscarriage of justice, but Joey is truly blameless. Trained at Oxford as a physician, the young doctor is innocent of prison culture and too handsome for his own good. Facing eighteen years behind Wentworth’s towering gates, Joey cannot hope to survive without protection. And protection is just what Gabriel MacKenna offers. At a price…
Review: This novella was not at all what I was expecting, and I mean that in the best possible sense. It was really, really well-done as well as incredibly hard to put down. As a big fan of HBO’s Oz as well as anything set in prison, I really liked the way everything was depicted. There’s a quite a bit of unpleasantness not to mention brutality to prison life. The historical setting was utilized well rather than simply being some nice window-dressing. In fact, everything seemed to really serve the story, and serve it well.
Reid does a great job capturing both men, and really putting me in the moment with them. Gabriel isn’t really a nice guy nor is he very open-minded. The way he initially treats Joey is pretty inexcusable as well as non-consensual, but as the novella continued, I found myself really liking Gabriel. In terms of both Gabriel and Joey’s actions prior to landing in prison, nothing is quite what it seems, which I really liked. Over all, they were just great characters.
Given the events that take place and the setting, I suppose it ought to have seemed obvious to me that nothing all that good was in store for Gabriel and Joey as a couple. But no matter how many times I wondered what was going to happen given the very realistic tone of the novella, it never ever occured to me that the story would probably have a very depressing and somewhat heart-breaking conclusion. What happened made sense and I wouldn’t say it got in the way of my enjoyment because I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have even read Protection had I known how things would turn out, but it did make me pretty sad. So while I’m glad I did read the entire novella, Protection definitely isn’t a good pick for those who prefer HEA (Happily Ever After) or even a HFN (Happy for Now) ending.
In conclusion, a well-written, engaging, moving, and bittersweet historical romance.
How I would rate it: 4.5 out of 5 stars.