Cold (Cold #1)

Title: Cold (Cold #1)
Author: Brandon Shire
Cover Artist: TPG Books
Publisher: TPG Books
Buy Link: Buy Link Amazon
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Length: Novel (215 pages)
Rating: 5 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by J.K. Hogan

Review Summary: Something new that changed my perception of how I view romance novels.


Prison is a brutal, heartless, and demeaning environment. No one knows this better than a man sentenced to life in prison for murder. Lem Porter is a high-profile prisoner who had a solid career ahead of him in a field he loved until he killed his brother. He has spent almost eighteen years behind bars and doesn’t have much hope left.

Anderson Passero had it all. He built a career, a name, and a relationship with a man he thought he loved. Only after he very publicly landed in prison did he realize how ignorant he’d been. He has eight months left on his sentence and he is eager to go home and put prison life behind him. He doesn’t know it yet, but he will always carry these eight months with him, and they may just help him to understand what love really means.

Cold Series


It’s midnight, and I just finished Cold. I should go to bed and write my review in the morning. But I can’t. I have to sit here and sort out my feelings about this book. This is a book that I purchased on my own after becoming acquainted with Brandon online. I asked Wave if I could review it after I read it. I have so many mixed feelings about this book—so many feelings in general. Some would say that was the mark of a good book.

First of all, I’ll mention that this book was very well-written, which is wonderful to see, especially from a self-published book. It’s obvious that a lot of care was taken to make Cold the best book it could be.

With just eight months left of an eight year sentence, Anderson Passero is transferred to a new prison dorm. He struggles to find his place among a new set of inmates. He was an owner of a popular gay club before his conviction, and he was all over the news. Because of this, he must deal with being an out gay man in prison. He has to figure out how to survive his last eight months without getting into any trouble that would jeopardize his release.

Lem Porter had been in prison for eighteen years for allegedly killing his brother. He has been up for parole several times, but because he refuses to talk about the murder or express remorse, he is always turned down. He never attempts to sway the parole board. In fact, he’s often antagonistic to the people who would seek to help him get out:

“Or I could pull one of those ridiculous Christian organizations in here and have them tell you how I ‘found God’ and changed my ways and all that other happy horseshit they spit at you. Is that what you want? You want lies?”

Lem is transferred into the same dorm as Anderson. While they see each other briefly on that day, they don’t actually come to know each other until much later, when a violent incident brings their paths crashing together. At first, Anderson is terrified of Lem, partly because of the incident, and partly because Anderson is a little guy and Lem is basically a giant—a hot, silver fox giant. Anderson finds himself attracted to Lem despite his fear, but he can’t seem to get past it. Lem wants Anderson badly, but he has to find a way to get Anderson to look past his intimidating size and strength to see him as a person.

“Lem had just wanted to hold him, just hold him and squeeze him and show him the side of Lem that nobody saw…”

“Anderson could barely see his eyes, but what he did see was intense – a glitter of hope, a spark of desire.”

Slowly, over the last few months of Anderson’s sentence, they build first an intense attraction, and then a relationship of sorts—as much as one can have in prison, I suppose. Anderson conquers his fear of Lem, and his relationship is put forth as a metaphor for overcoming fear in his life in general.

“It wasn’t his bravery that put him on his knees. It was his fear. The same fear he carried throughout life. The same fear that had warped every decision and mistake he’d ever made.”

They have to navigate their way around guards and other inmates, as they try and keep their connection on the down-low. They also have to be careful, again, not to jeopardize Anderson’s release.

The story also focuses on Anderson’s legal troubles and his back story, as well as Lem’s, although Lem remains a mystery still by the end. This part was just as intriguing as the romance, which was a refreshing change for me, and definitely leaves the reader wanting more.

The thing that I liked about Cold the most is that it sort of defies all of your expectations—and the expectations of the romance genre in general. Some may say that it technically isn’t a romance because of the lack of a solid HEA, but it has more romantic elements than a lot of books I’ve read lately.

I was intrigued by the prospect of the main characters meeting in prison. It’s not your usual trope and, as I mentioned to Brandon, I was interested to see how he would make it into something other than tragic and/or dirty. I would have to say while, at times, it was both of those, he succeeded in making it into something else entirely.

I’m operating under the assumption that this is intended to be a serial. There are too many unanswered questions in the end for it not to be, and if it wasn’t, this might be a very different review. *In my first draft of this review, I explained the term serial. I read it back and it sounded pretty douchey, so I took it out. 🙂 (if you’re unsure what I mean, I can explain in the comments)

Another thing I loved about Cold was that it had great secondary characters, from Anderson’s roommate David (my fave) and Doe, the resident queen, to César, the rapey muscle-bound bruiser. They were all fleshed out well, and they added a lot to the story. Like I said, Lem and Anderson didn’t get together until well into the book, so Anderson’s interactions with the side characters stole the show for the first half.

“You know I’m gay?”
David shrugged and moved back to his own bunk. “I knew the first day you got here. To each his own.” He looked at Anderson directly. “I don’t fuck around though.”
“But you’re such a stud,” Anderson quipped. Where the humor came from so suddenly he couldn’t fathom, but it felt good to smile for a moment.
David reddened and laughed. “Yeah, okay.”

How much did I love David?  :hearts01:

[spoiler]I will say that this book does not have an HEA or even an HFN, so if that bothers you, you may not love it as much as I did. There were also a lot of unanswered questions, which is one reason I’m assuming it is a serial. I’m hoping we’ll see Lem and Anderson again.[/spoiler]

These men had to carve out what little happiness they could find. Was it a traditional HEA? No, definitely not. But it really couldn’t have been, and still been so realistic. Anderson was getting out, and Lem had three more years until he was up for parole again. I liked the fact that Mr. Shire didn’t try and ‘make everything okay’ for these characters, because it just wouldn’t have been believable. This ended up making me more invested in these characters and, in a lot of ways, it was more meaningful for the struggle they had to endure.

So, I loved this book. It was a 5-star read for me and I would definitely recommend it if you’re tired of the same old tropes and want something different. Don’t let the prison bit discourage you from trying it out. This is one that you’ll have to make up your own mind about, because it is so different, but I recommend giving it a shot!



  • I thought this book was wonderful and I hated for it to end. There is a sequel in the works though so I’m anxiously waiting…

  • J.K., thanks for sharing this excellent review. I just finished reading Cold last night, well, this morning, (it was past three) and I’m in a zombie mood because of the lack of sleep, but it was worthy. I’ve never heard of Brandon Shire until I read a short story he wrote for the Goodreads m/m group and I looked him up. He has an amazing author’s voice, and it’s exciting to discover a new author that has so much talent. I meant, new for me. The only issues I got with Cold are that there were a few loose threads left, like you said, but I guess there will be a second book. And also, there was an essential violent scene that nearly makes Lem unredeemable, because the same vicious act was repeated over and over, and in the end, I think it was over the top. In my never humble opinion, it could have worked better without the repetition—It’s still a five-stars book.
    About the end, I was expecting it exactly as it was. We knew it was coming somehow, and I’m satisfied with it, I’m looking forward the next book and I will be recommending Cold too.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it for the most part. I agree with you about the violence, that it was hard to take. But for me, it helped with the characterization of Lem and his–until then unknown–attraction to Anderson, that he would do something so out of the scope of his personality, the way it was presented to us in the beginning. It also leaves you wondering about his initial crime. At first, I assumed he was innocent, or it was self defense or something, but then that happened and I wasn’t sure anymore. With all of that going on in my head, I wasn’t too bothered by the violent incident.

  • I knew that Brandon donated part of the proceeds from the sale of his books towards LGBT Youth charities which is the reason I bought so many of them.

    I don’t get parents who kick their kids out because they are gay, or try to institutionalize them to “get the gay out”. What boggles my mind is that this is all done in the name of religion. Bah! I’ll be a “sinner” forever with the examples of parents like these.

    • I know…My son is only five months old but I already know there was nothing that would make me not love him. As long as he’s happy and loved, I couldn’t care less who he ends up with. That’s why I want to work at the shelter…those kids need to hear that.

  • I wasn’t sure if I should include this in the review, but this was definitely a factor in me deciding to purchase this book even though I’m given books to review:

    10% of the proceeds from the sale of any of Brandon’s book are donated to LGBT Youth charities.

    One of the charities Brandon supports is in my city. It is a shelter/activity center for LGBT teens who are homeless due to being thrown out by their families. These types of organizations are so important, and I’m sure Brandon’s donations make a huge contribution.

  • J.K.

    Thank you for this wonderful review. I bought Cold at the same time as Afflicted I and II , The Value of Rain and Listening for Dust. I have only read Afflicted I and II so far but I absolutely love his prose and his characters. This sounds incredible. He told me that some of his books have no HEA but I don’t care since I don’t read just for happy endings – life is tough and very few of us get that luxury. He’s a master story teller. I’ll be reviewing Afflicted I next week. I’m so happy other readers will get to experience his work.

    • I am actually usually turned off by books with no HEA, but this one didn’t bother me at all because you see it coming from the beginning. Even as you become attached to the characters, you know there’s no way they can be together in the end, at least right away.

      I was just happy to read a story that wasn’t a trope that I’ve read over and over in the past. I’ll be looking forward to your review on Afflicted. I haven’t gotten it yet, but I’m sure I will soon!

  • I had looked at this story before, but the prison setting made me indecisive…I will now give it a try after your review. It sounds like it has alot going for it, even if there is no definite HEA. I’m sure I’ll end up wanting a sequel too, if only to tie up those ends…

    • I’m sure you won’t regret it! I was engrossed the whole time, and while I ached for the characters at the end, I didn’t really miss the HEA.


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