Title: Heart of Timber (Cold #2)
Author: Brandon Shire
Publisher: TPG Books
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Length: Novel (230 pages)
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by J.K. Hogan
Review Summary: A fitting follow-up to one of my favorite books!
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?
Heart of Timber is the follow-up to Brandon Shire’s Cold, which I loved. You can read my review here. The story picks up with what happens immediately after Anderson was released from prison, so basically right where Cold left off. I was happy about this, because I was left with so many questions after the first book ended.
We watch Anderson struggle with getting his life back together, having to rely heavily on his sister and her new husband. He also is able to somewhat repair his relationship with his mother. Meanwhile, Lem is still in prison, having a life sentence, and is rapidly losing his will to keep going as Anderson’s letters taper off to nothing.
Worried about Anderson, Gia begins scheming behind the scenes with her rich and connected husband, to try and get Lem released. That’s all I’ll say for plot summary because I don’t want to include any spoilers.
Cold was an intense, rapid-fire romance, fraught with pain and desperation. Heart of Timber was an entirely different type of story; slow to unfold, taking place over several years, with a lot of emotional struggle for both Anderson and Lem. I think it was done this way to sort of illustrate the difference between the type of relationship the two of them would have in prison, versus one they would have on the outside, with the possibility of having a future to worry about.
A prison romance wasn’t even the same breed as having a relationship in the outside world.
Anderson is forced to face something he’d always failed at in the past—having a real relationship. In prison, it had been about mutual comfort and sex, and coming to care for each other through that. But in the real world, Anderson had no experience with healthy relationships. And Lem was old enough to where he just wanted to get on with the business of living the rest of his life.
”This isn’t prison. We’re not fuck-buddies anymore. What will happen when the weather gets bad?”
Because of the differences in intensity, I wasn’t as enthralled with Heart of Timber as I was with Cold. The writing was still excellent, Brandon Shire’s voice being one of my favorites. The rational side of me found some of Gia’s interfering to be a bit convenient, sort of like a wealthy Italian fairy godmother, but the romantic side of me was happy she was there to help Anderson and Lem get their HEA.
I loved Lem in the first book, and I still loved him in Heart of Timber. I was so glad to see him get out of prison and be happy again, and I would have liked that regardless of the outcome of the romance. I was disappointed that I didn’t see as much personal growth in Anderson as there probably should have been. He was a bit selfish and unappreciated of Gia’s help, and kind of whiny—way more so than in the first book. I kind of wanted to tell him to get over himself because he was lucky he had so much help, because most people who get out of prison barely have a fighting change.
At the very end, Gia puts Anderson in his place and confronts him about his selfishness, and I think he starts to realize his problem. Though there isn’t a lot of page time for him after this realization, it is implied that he would continue to try and be better.
So, overall, while I didn’t Love this book with a capital L, I did think it was a fitting sequel to Cold. I was glad that Lem and Anderson got to be together, and get their (somewhat) happy ending. I like that things were left a bit up in the air, like an HFN, because in their situation, an HEA wouldn’t be realistic, but all of the questions from the first book were answered.
If you read Cold, then I definitely recommend Heart of Timber, especially if you were a Lem-lover like me! I love Brandon Shire’s work, and I’ll definitely pick up any of his future titles. I also like to remind folks that 10% of sales from Brandon’s books go to LGBT youth charities.