Review originally posted here: http://thebookpushers.com/2011/06/28/review-inside-by-brenda-novak/
Publish Date: June 28th
How I got this book: NetGalley
This was my first Novak read, and I have to admit that I’m a little disappointed no one demanded I read her sooner. I really loved this book!
Peyton is the second in command at Pelican Bay prison, and the gang problems are escalating to the point that a judge was murdered. An investigation is started, and a top secret operation is established, one in which an undercover agent goes into the prison to try and get insider information. Peyton isn’t too keen on the plan, but is forced to go along with it. When she meets Virgil, she is even more determined to keep him safe, because the feelings that arise between the two of them are explosive.
Virgil’s hands are tied. He was wrongly accused and spent 14 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Now that he is out, he and his sister’s lives are in danger and the only leverage he has to protect them is to help out in the undercover operation. He will have to once again go to prison and find out anything and everything he can on gang activity. While he is resigned to his fate, meeting Peyton has suddenly given him something to live for, and the mission becomes so much more. But when people start turning and the gang after Virgil start putting pressure on the wrong people, Virgil and Peyton might be at risk of loosing more than just their hearts to each other.
I knew the moment I read the author’s note in the beginning that I would love this book. Novak admitted to writing this after inspiration from the TV show Prison Break, and who doesn’t love a little Wentworth Miller? *drool* I have to say though: WOW! The added romance into the story kept me so engaged, so enthralled with the story I couldn’t put it down.
Peyton and Virgil are the kind of characters that just kept pulling me back in, even sticking in my mind well after I put the book down. Starting with Virgil, the poor man was probably the most tortured yet honorable man I’ve ever read. He was strong willed, went through hell and back, and was kicked in every way possible his entire life, yet he still came out of it strong, noble, and with the desire to live right. There is no way that someone wouldn’t be able to fall in love with him. He was just that incredible of a character. I also truly loved Peyton. Like Virgil she was strong willed and completely trustworthy. She knew the difference between right and wrong and wasn’t afraid to fight for what was right, even if the path was a bit difficult. I think the biggest thing that really endured me to her was that although she was a warden, although she worked with hardened criminals her entire life, she still cared. She still saw them as people, still treated them with respect and fought for their rights and lives. She is the type of woman I hope we have working in the corrections offices everywhere.
I liked that their relationship somewhat tortured them a bit too. Neither one of them really wanted to fall in love with the other, but it just so happened that they couldn’t seem to stop themselves. I’ve always loved these kind of romances, but I can honestly say that I think Novak did it in the best possible way. It was rough and gritty at times, but it was also very obvious that the two fell and fell hard for each other.
I also really enjoyed the way that Novak didn’t sugar coat the violence that is in the prison system, the extensive networks and reaches of some gangs, and how easily honorable men can be turned at the hands of crazy criminals. Between the gang that Virgil was trying to infiltrate, the one who wanted him dead, and the many different nefarious sub-plots involving corrupt officials had me on the edge of my seat. The suspense was subtle while at the same time keeping me complete engaged and biting my nails until the very last page.
I can’t wait to continue on with the series and read more about Virgil’s sister, his best friend and former gang affiliate Pretty Boy and hopefully see more of Peyton and Virgil. I can say that I am definitely going to be checking out more of Novak’s work and will probably be making quite a few bookstore trips in the future.
All in all I loved this book. The characters, both the main and secondary were easy to relate to, well developed, and pulled me in emotionally. The plot continued to twist and turn and thicken at each and every page turn. Inside kept me on pins and needles and was everything I had hoped for and so much more.
I give Inside an A.