Lou: Sophie Jordan’s All Chained Up was an enjoyable romance, whose first-half kicked butt. Knox is a felon who went to prison for a crime he was truly guilty of, alongside his younger brother, which made for a change in having the hero falsely imprisoned. It made things more real and gritty because the hero had gone on a tragic journey. That one episode of violence shows what humans are capable of. The book starts off with Knox in prison where he meets Briar, a nurse, who can’t hide her fear from Knox when she treats him. Briar only accepted this job to help her chances for a promotion. She doesn’t want to be there and though she tries hard to conceal her fear it shows. It leads to some very awkward conversations between Briar and Knox, where Briar gets herself tongue-tied and twisted because she’s so physically aware of the sexy hulking vision that is Knox.
Knox has kept his head down as best as he can while in jail. To survive he and his brother joined a gang because it’s the survival of the fittest. Knox also takes the beatings from the guards, which is how he ends up meeting Briar. The tension and setting in the prison was full of life, though the tone gritty and somewhat bleak. I wished more of the story had taken part in the prison because of how strong the setting was that enabled the tension between Knox and Briar.
Has: I also felt this was an enjoyable romance, especially the first half of the book. It was tense and atmospheric, which Sophie Jordan sets up well with the characters and the love story. It was tightly paced and the attraction between Knox and Briar ignites with sexual frisson and tension. I especially loved that Jordan doesn’t shy away from the ugly side of prison life. I also liked that Knox was actually guilty for the crime, even though he regrets his past and the decisions that led him into his conviction because it dragged his brother along.
I definitely agree with Lou that I wished there was more scenes in the prison that featured Briar and Knox because I felt their scenes together added to their romance and I wanted more of them bonding together, especially in the aftermath of a very tense scene. I think they were stronger in the first half than the second half of the book, which kind of fizzled out for me in a lot of ways.
Lou: The first half of the book had that tension of, how are they going to end up together if Knox is in prison? The forbidden aspect is what added to the tension. That tension stayed after Knox got paroled, but it didn’t seem to have that same intensity. The pacing seemed off when they embarked on a sexual relationship at their hometown. They go from wary attraction to smexing all the time. Briar seems to have a magical vagina because she has like ten orgasms one after the other and Knox just keeps.on.going. In a way All Chained Up has an old skool feel to it, which sometimes strained the believability factor. At times it felt as if Briar gave in too easily to Knox, and Knox fits the possessive hero stereotype. Other than the sex, nothing really happens between the two. Knox doesn’t feel as if he can give Briar a relationship because of his past. So all they have is their activities in the bedroom. And at times the constant sex became boring.
Has: I definitely agree with you about the emphasis on the sex, which affected the emotional element of their relationship. I wanted more development between them with their past, such as Briar’s relationship with her father, which was touched on but not really delved into. I also found the sex scenes in the latter half overpowered the plot and characterisation. And while I enjoyed the love scenes, I would have liked scenes where both Briar and Knox face up to their feelings for each other because it was glossed over and rushed. For me, it especially made the ending anticlimactic because I found that a part of the development of the romance was missing, although I really enjoyed the characters and premise.
However, I really liked the secondary characters of Reid and Knox’s brother, North are interesting characters and Sophie Jordan has given hints that they’ll have their own stories in the future, which I am looking forward to. I especially liked a certain plot thread concerning Reid which makes me think his story is next up in the series and has made me curious about his past story.
Lou: Sophie Jordan has captured a setting that is strong and memorable. Both Briar and Knox have histories that could have been explored so much further. The constant sex did take away from the emotional development and I found myself losing some interest. Briar finally tells Knox he can’t keep pulling and then pushing her away and she ends up standing up to him. What I did enjoy was the very small glimpses seeing Knox readjusting to life outside of prison, and again there was so much territory that could have been explored. When Knox visits North again after an incident (which ties in with Reid and the upcoming second story in the series, which I’m still excited about) there is a vast difference in North. Again Knox feels all sorts of guilt because he wasn’t supposed to leave prison first. It was always supposed to be North.
There is one chapter done in Reid’s POV, which sets up his story. It was a little out there with the heroine being the president’s heroine. But Sophie Jordan is a great writer and I am looking forward to his story. But coming back to Knox and Briar! I was disappointed in the ending. It was such an abrupt quickie. It seems like the second half lost a lot of steam and it ended on somewhat of a whimper.
Despite the second half and its ending, I really did enjoy All Chained Up with its felon heroes premise. I’ll definitely check out up the second book in Devil’s Rock. B-
Has: I also enjoyed All Chained Up despite its flaws with the second half and the rushed ending. I thought that Briar and Knox were likable and appealing characters, and the setup of the romance was sizzling with tension that heated up my ereader. I also loved the gritty and stark tone of the prison setting which is offset in the Texas badlands, which gave the book a memorable atmosphere. Even though I found the sex kind of overpowered the plot in the latter half and the anticlimactic ending, I am definitely interested and intrigued into reading Reid and North’s stories because I loved the tone and premise of this series.
I also give All Chained Up a B-