Book Review | Prisoner by Skye Warren & Annika Martin

Title: Prisoner

Author: Skye Warren and Annika Martin

Series: Criminals & Captives #1

Age: Adult

Genres: Dark Romance

Publication Date: October 23, 2014

Source: The authors

Purchase: Amazon | B&N | iBooks

Synopsis: 
He seethes with raw power the first time I see him—pure menace and rippling muscles in shackles. He’s dangerous. He’s wild. He’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

So I hide behind my prim glasses and my book like I always do, because I have secrets too. Then he shows up in the prison writing class I have to teach, and he blows me away with his honesty. He tells me secrets in his stories, and it’s getting harder to hide mine. I shiver when he gets too close, with only the cuffs and the bars and the guards holding him back. At night I can’t stop thinking about him in his cell.

But that’s the thing about an animal in a cage—you never know when he’ll bite. He might use you to escape. He might even pull you into a forest and hold a hand over your mouth so you can’t call for the cops. He might make you come so hard, you can’t think.

And you might crave him more than your next breath.

"Sexy, dark, and thrilling. I loved every second of it!" ~ New York Times bestselling author Katie Reus

“Dark, sexy, and intense, Prisoner is an emotional ride that does not let go until the end. I loved it!” ~ USA Today bestselling author Kristen Callihan
My Rating: 

Excerpt

Heavy bars close behind me with a clang. I feel the sound in my bones. A series of mechanical clicks hint at an elaborate security mechanism beneath the black iron plating. I knew this would happen—had anticipated and dreaded it—but my breathing quickens with the knowledge that I am well and truly trapped.
“Can I help you?”
I whirl to face the administrative window where a heavyset woman in a security guard uniform stares at her screen.
“Hi,” I say, pasting on a smile. “My name is Abigail Winslow, and I’m here to—”
“Two forms of identification.”
“Oh, well, I already filled out the paperwork at the front desk. And showed them my IDs.”
“This isn’t the front desk, Ms. Winslow. This is the east-wing desk, and I need to see two forms of identification.”
“Right.” I dig through my bag for my driver’s license and passport.
She accepts them without looking up, then hands me a clipboard with a stack of papers just like the ones I’d already filled out.
I’ve been dreading this day for weeks, wishing I’d been assigned any other project but this one. You’d think I was being sent here for a crime. My professor—the one who’d forced me into this—warned me that prisoners were not always receptive to outsiders. Apparently nobody here is.
I complete each form, arrange the pages neatly on the clipboard, and bring them back up to the window. The guard accepts them and gives back my IDs…still without looking at me.
My hands clench and unclench, clench and unclench while the guard eyes my paperwork.
Seconds pass. Or are they minutes? The damp chill of the place seeps in through my cardigan and leaves me shivering.
Leaning forward, I read the name tag of the guard. “Ms. Breck. Do you know what the next steps are?”
“You can have a seat. I have work to do now, and then I’ll escort you back.”
“Oh, okay.” I glance at the bars I just came through, then the open hallway opposite. “Actually, if you just point me in the direction of the library, I’m sure I can—”
Thunk. The woman’s hand hits the desk. I jump. Her dark eyes are faintly accusing, and I wish we could go back to no eye contact. How did I manage to make an enemy in two minutes?
“Ms. Winslow,” she says, her voice patronizing.
“You can call me Abby,” I whisper.
A slight smile. Not a nice one. “Ms. Winslow, what do you think we do here?”
The question is clearly rhetorical. I press my lips together to keep from making things worse.
“The Kingman Correctional Facility houses over five thousand convicted criminals. My job is to keep it that way. Do we understand each other?”
Heat floods my cheeks. The last thing I want to do is make her job harder. “Right. Of course.” I shamble back, landing hard on the metal folding chair. It wobbles a little before the rubber feet stop my slide.
I understand the woman’s point. She has to keep the prisoners in and everyone else out, and keep people like me safe.
I reach down and pull a book from my bag. I never leave home without one, even when I go to classes or run errands. Even when I was young and my mother used to take me on her rounds.
Especially then.
I would hide in the backseat with my nose in the book, pretending I didn’t see the shady people who came to her window when we stopped.
A little green light above the barred doors flashes on and there’s an ominous buzz. Somebody’s coming through, and I doubt it will be a library volunteer. I slide down.  
Pretend to be invisible.
It’s no use. I peer over the top edge as a prisoner saunters through the door, and my pulse slams in my throat double time.
He’s flanked by two guards—escorted by them, I guess you’d say. But they seem more like an entourage than anything. Power vibrates around him like a threat.
Read, read, read. Don’t look.
The prisoner is half a foot taller than the guards, but he seems to tower over them by more than that. Maybe it’s his broad shoulders or just something about the way he stands, or his imperiously high cheekbones. The dark stubble across his cheeks looks so rough and unforgiving I can feel it against my palm; it contrasts wildly with the plushness of his lips. His short brown hair is mussed. There’s one scar through his eyebrow that somehow adds to his perfection.
The little group approaches the window. I can barely breathe.
“ID number 85359,” one of the guards says, and I understand that he’s referring to the prisoner. That’s who he is. Not John Smith or William Brown or whatever his name is. He’s been reduced to a number. The woman at the desk runs through a series of questions. It’s a procedure for checking him out of solitary.
The prisoner faces sideways, spine straight, the corner of his mouth tilted up as if he’s slightly amused. Then it clicks, what else is so different about him: no visible tattoos. Tough guys like this, they’re always inked up—it’s a kind of armor, a kind of fuck you. This guy has none of it, though he’s far from pristine; white scars mar the rough skin of his hands and especially his forearms, a latticework of pain and violence, a flag proclaiming the kind of underworld he came from.
The feel of brutality that hangs about him is compelling and…somehow beautiful.
I drink him in from behind my book—it’s my mask, my protective shield. But then the strangest thing happens: he cocks his head. It’s just a slight shift, but I feel his attention on me deep in my belly. I’ve been discovered. Caught by searchlights. Exposed.
My heart beats frantically.
I want him to look away. He fills up too much space. It’s as if he breathes enough oxygen for twelve men, leaving no air for me at all. Maybe if we were in the library and he needed help finding a book or looking something up, then I wouldn’t mind the weight of his gaze.
No. Not even there. He’s too much.
Two sets of bars on the gate. Handcuffs. Two guards.
What do they think he would do if there were only one set of bars, one guard?
My blood races as the guards draw him away from the window and toward the inner door, toward where I sit. His heat pierces the chill around me as he nears. His deep brown eyes never once meet mine, but I have the sense of him looming over me as he passes, like a tree with a massive canopy. He continues on, two hundred pounds of masculine danger wrapped in all that beauty.
Even in chains, he seems vibrant, wild and free, a force of nature—it makes me feel like I’m the one in prison. Safe. Small. Carefully locked down.
How would it feel to be that free?
“Ms. Winslow. Ms. Winslow.”
I jump, surprised to hear that the woman has been calling my name. “I’m sorry,” I say as a strange sensation tickles the back of my neck.
The woman stands and begins pulling on her jacket. “I’ll take you to the library now.”
“Oh, that’s great.”
That shivery sensation gets stronger. Against my better judgment, I look down the hallway where the guards and the prisoner are walking off as one—a column of orange flanked by two thinner, shorter posts.
The prisoner glances over his shoulder. His mocking brown gaze searches me out, pins me with a subtle threat. Though it isn’t his eyes that scare me. It’s his lips—those beautiful, generous lips forming words that make my blood race.
Ms. Winslow.
No sound comes out, but I feel as though he’s whispered my name right into my ear. Then he turns and strolls off.

My Review

This book was truly insane in a good way. It's a bit more darker of a read for me, but I was blown away by the story line and the characters. I'm not sure how to review this without giving too much detail away, but gosh this was perfection!

It story following Abigail Winslow and Grayson. I loved how they both had their own ideas of right and wrong and how this books goes deep into their minds and their mental being.

The forbidden romance between the two was perfect. I loved how Grayson acted like the alpha male and didn't want to change. He was strong and wild. Compared to him Abigail was sweet and tamed. He was like the key to her sexuality and life in general. He opened up her eyes and mind and to a world she never thought she could experience.

This was a very great read and I definitely have it on my re-read list for 2015.


Author Interview - Annika

How did you come up with the idea for this story?
In a lot of ways, this tale began with these two characters super-vivid that Skye and I created: this hot, dangerous felon with a dark past and this buttoned-up college girl who teaches a class at the prison. In a lot of ways, this story felt like it wrote itself from those characters as we breathlessly batted it back and forth, imagining this prison break and the way they’d get entangled.

Where do you find your inspiration?  
You know those juicy, thrilling scenes in books or movies that you just love to pieces? And you think about them long after? Those sorts of scenes, and the huge emotions around them really inspire me. I love to feel that high-point thrill, and to create books around those moments. A lot of times I start with imagining an exciting scene I want to write and the book goes somewhere else completely, but the kernel, the inspiration still remains buried deep down.   

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?  
There are themes that writers return to over and over. One of my themes I return to, even when I’m not trying, is two super messed-up people finding love with each other, and being messed up together, and loving each other for their flaws (and not getting rid of them, because to me, flaws are what make people who they are!) So I guess my message is, even if you feel like you’re really screwed up, being really and truly yourself is beautiful and you deserve love. 

What books have influenced your life most?
Early on, Nancy Drew and Harriet the Spy were really important to me. These smart, curious female characters were hugely influential. They really made things happen, especially Nancy Drew. I love the girl power aspect there. Later, before I discovered romance, I loved Somerset Maugham. He is a writer who returns again and again to the theme of the ant and the cricket (the ant works all summer and the cricket sings away, and in the end, the cricket has no food to eat) but with Maugham, the cricket wins--a lot of his books have that deep inside and I love that. More recently, I would say the ICE books of Anne Stuart really influenced my life. I feel like she broke some real boundaries with darkness. I just love that. I love her bravery. How she rides the darkness. 

Are there any new authors that have grasp your interest?
Rebecca Rogers Maher wrote this fabulous novella about two people who meet on a bridge they are going to kill themselves on. It’s just wonderful – she’s a very exciting author. I am also super loving the work of Serena Bell. She has such great characters

Why did you choose to write dark romance/dark NA romantic suspense stories? 
An author friend of mine commented recently that she thinks the most interesting stuff happens in the gray areas, in the dark moments, and I agree. Dark subjects and especially issues of dubious consent and serious criminal behavior are things I would kind of run up to and run back from, or just avoid in previous books, but I have been loving just writing into them, like riding a ship into the storm and seeing what happens. It’s really exhilarating, and also, partnering with Skye on it has been great.

Tell us something that people would be surprised you know how to do. 
Fix and run an ancient steam boiler! I even have a boiler engineer’s license. It’s actually expired now, but I carry it around anyway out of pride. My husband and I used to have a condo in this ancient building, and the city law said one resident had to have a license to operate this giant old steam boiler or the owners would have to pay all this money to a company. So my neighbor girl and I studied really hard and took the test - she was an oboist and I was a writer and neither of us were mechanically inclined, but we got an enormous amount of humor mileage out of terms like “draining the tri-cock.” And we both passed the test. And we could do minor maintenance things to the boiler.

Will you write more about these characters? 
Definitely. Grayson and Abby will likely have cameos in future books, but Stone, Nate and the rest of the guys all have their own stories – it’s just hard to know which guy to start with.


Author Interview - Skye

How did you come up with the idea for this story?
Prisoner was my first collaboration with author Annika Martin. She and I first met because I’d read her books (love them!) and she read mine. We were both in a boxed set together, MAKE ME. We were chatting over email and came up with the idea to write a book together. We knew it would be edgy, and dark, and also fun! And so, Prisoner was born.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?  
Message is too strong a word, but there are certain recurring themes in my books. Redemption is a big one, trying to atone for your past failings, believing you had overcome only to be sucked back into it, fighting to better this time, stronger this time. The other recurring theme in my books is that everyone deserves to find love. That means some very dark characters walk the pages of my books. 

What books have influenced your life most?
The books that influence me the most have a super strong voice—and perspective. Broken by Megan Hart, Comfort Food by Kitty Thomas, and anything by my cowriter Annika Martin, who also writes as Carolyn Crane.

Are there any new authors that have grasp your interest?
Most recently I really loved Push by Claire Wallis. It’s dark and original. And these aren’t new but they’re new to me. I loved the Roxie Rivera Russian protector series, because it incorporates very serious issues while still being sweet and sexy. I’m currently reading Fallen by Leslie Tentler, it’s a gripping romantic suspense. After I read her first series, she’s an auto-buy author for me.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Here’s a bit from the new material that will be in the Trust in Me/Don’t Let Go book bundle:
My stomach was growling. It always did that, because my corner was one of the darkest and most dangerous in the city. The good corners were run by girls who didn’t want to share—or by their pimps. The kind of men who picked me up terrified me, but not as much as pimps did.
The sweet tang of pot filled the air from two streets down, where some homeless guys gathered around a barrel fire. A cat cried out, sending shivers up my spine—until the sound was suddenly cut off. It was an ordinary night.
A quiet night.
Moonlight flashed off chrome and glass as a car turned the corner. It got longer as it turned—a limo.
The limo looked out of place against the crumbling, graffiti-painted concrete. I wondered if they’re lost. I hoped they didn’t stop and ask me for directions. With my luck the neighborhood matones would take the opportunity to jack them and I’d get caught in the crossfire.
The limo slid to a stop right in front of me, its engine so quiet all I could hear was the crunch of gravel.
I took a step back until I was pressed against the brick wall. My stomach grumbled, reminding me I could use the money. But this was too strange, and in my world, strange was dangerous. I would run, but that would mean turning my back. I learned early not to do that.
The car window rolled down in a smooth glide, revealing a shadowy interior.
“How much?” said a low, masculine voice from inside.
“Depends what you want,” I said, but I’m stalling. Was I really going with him? It was always a risk, getting in some asshole’s car. But this felt more intense than a ride around the block and a blowjob in an alley.
Like I might never see this street corner again.
“Everything,” he said.
Why did you choose to write dark romance? 
It rather chose me… When I first began to publish I had to books written. One I had written just for myself. The other I had written with the intention to publish. I decided to self publish both of them and see what happened. The dark book outsold

List three books you have recently read and would recommend. 
I love to read anthologies, because no matter how much or how little time I have I can get a sexy love story. In fact, many sexy love stories. It’s also easier, I think, for authors to push the boundaries in short story format, and I love seeing what they come up with. My three recommendations are The Mammoth Book of Ghost Romance, Princess Bound, and an anthology I edited, Take the Heat: Hardened Criminals on their Hottest Behavior.


About Authors

Annika Martin

I'm a pet wrangler, bookworm, mediocre tennis player and hairstyle failure. And yes, an author, but I promise not to spam you if you friend me!

I live just a stone's throw from the Mississippi with my husband and two beloved cats in a home full of plants, sunshine, books and cookie crumbs. By day, I'm a freelancer in the business world. In addition to being smutty Annika, I write urban fantasy under the pen name Carolyn Crane.


Skye Warren

Skye Warren writes unapologetic erotica, including power play or erotic pain and sometimes dubious consent. There's struggle in the sex. There's pain in the relationships. Her books are raw, sexual and perversely romantic.


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