Series: Bulletproof #1
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Published by MIRA on 28 June 2011
Reading Challenges: 2013 Bachelorette Challenge
I’d previously only read Novak’s contemporary romances so I wasn’t expecting a novel that was so hard hitting. Virgil Skinner might have been sentenced for a crime he didn’t commit but he wasn’t exactly squeaky clean on the inside. Finally exonerated, he agreed to turn informer to protect his sister and her kids. He won’t grass on anyone from his former gang (The Crew) out of loyalty but he is willing to go undercover and snitch on another gang (Hell’s Fury) that is operating out of Pelican Bay prison. Surviving even a few hours in this maximum security prison is made even tougher when he meets Chief Deputy Warden Peyton Adams and the two start to fall for each other.
One of the reasons I liked this novel so much is that Novak made the most unlikely of relationships in the most unlikely place seem plausible. On paper there is no way that a Warden would get mixed up with an ex-con that has two deaths on his hands and especially not in such a high security prison. Once we start to get to know Virgil though, you can see why Peyton is attracted to him. The most famous Virgil would have to be the one who penned Aeneid, an epic tale about a Trojan who underwent significant hardship and a long journey to Italy before founding Rome. He might feel strong emotions but he will always do his duty. Now this might seem like a long bow to draw but the similarities between our Virgil and Aeneas are strong. Our Virgil is willing to put himself in a highly dangerous situation because he feels a sense of duty towards his sister and his former gang. He is assaulted a number of times and endures the pain because he thinks the means justify the end result. He’s tough and has very little experience with women because he has been locked up for so long. Watching Virgil slowly open up to Peyton was really moving.
Peyton is a bit of an odd duck as although she is a Warden, she believes that rehabilitation is more important than retribution. She believes she can make a difference and tries to treat prisoners as humans rather than pieces of filth. Peyton encounters lots of sexual discrimination and corruption at work because of her good looks and isn’t overly successful in dealing with all of it. We see her trying to compartmentalise her feelings for Virgil (with limited success) but not how that then translated into a HEA. They spent so much time apart, I would have liked to see them actually getting to know each other without the threat of imminent pain or death hanging over their heads.
The plot is fairly fast paced and when Virgil was inside, I kept waiting for something horrible to happen to him. I had to remind myself repeatedly that he should get a HEA as it was a romance novel after all but I still caught my breath as his old gang closed in. One quibble is the speed at which Virgil mainstreams himself. He is a self-confessed scary man and I think his experiences would have left a scar on him that couldn’t be that quickly healed. Second quibble is the way the situation was resolved. I would have liked Virgil’s sacrifices to have made more of an impact, especially since his life was on the line.
I really enjoyed the romance, suspense and even the representation of serious themes such as corruption. I raced through it however because I wanted to see if Virgil would be okay at the end.