Hell Breaks Loose
Hell Breaks Loose is the second story in the Devil’s Rock series that features a group of convicts who find romance after years of imprisonment. I read and really enjoyed All Chained Up, the first book in the series which, interestingly, defied convention to set up the second story in an unusual way. Instead of giving the introduction to the next book by using the epilogue or by tacking on a first chapter to the end as a preview, the meet and greet (so to speak) for Reid and Grace takes place as a chapter in the second half of the story. Because of this I was eager to dive into book two. If you haven’t read the first one though, no worries – each story in the series is designed to be read as a standalone.
As a young man Reid and his younger brother Zane had fallen in with Otis Sullivan, a businessman with a shady side. But while doing some of Sullivan’s dirty work, Reid had been set up to take the fall for a murder he didn’t commit. After eleven years in prison, Reid is ready to break out and make Sullivan pay. Arranging a riot that ends with him in hospital, he bides his time and escapes, quickly making tracks to find Zane, who is still working for Sullivan. But he’s in for a shock because Zane and his fellow thugs have committed the unthinkable. They’ve kidnapped the President’s daughter Grace.
Grace’s life as the President’s daughter means she has always been closely guarded. She’s been careful not to rock the boat but has dreamed of having just a few hours of freedom to herself. Carefully planning for just the right time to escape her handlers, she makes it outside – only to be unceremoniously grabbed off the street. Unbeknownst to her, she’s a pawn in a revenge plot. Sullivan had donated a huge sum of money to the President’s campaign, expecting a favor in return in the form of a pardon for his nephew, Jeremy, who was convicted of racketeering. But the President ignored Sullivan’s request and Jeremy was sent to prison for twenty years – a sentence cut short by his suicide. Sullivan wants payback and he plans to make Grace’s father suffer by having his hired men abuse and kill her. When Reid shows up searching for his brother and finds Grace too, he is horrified but resolved. If she’s his means to draw Sullivan out he won’t hesitate to use her to his advantage. His ruthless determination and hardened character make him the alpha male of Zane’s ragtag group of druggies. Reid claims Grace as his own, dragging her with him to a solitary cabin to await Sullivan’s ‘orders’. While Grace knows her circumstances have improved with Reid on her side, it doesn’t change the fact that she is still a prisoner. As they spend time together though, Grace comes to realize that Reid isn’t the man that he appears to be. And there is no denying that she is attracted to him, no matter how much this bothers her. After eleven years in prison Reid fights to subdue the lust he feels for Grace, especially once he knows the feeling is mutual. The convict and the captive – it’s a classic trope with no clear way to a happy ending.
This story delivers what it promises and it’s a page turner from start to finish. Reid has resigned himself to his stint of freedom being short lived; he plans to kill Sullivan for setting him up and he’s under no illusions that he won’t end up back in prison. Grace is a complication he doesn’t need, but he adapts quickly to the situation. But he’s not as ruthless as he appears. He doesn’t abuse women, ever. He’s a product of a poverty-stricken upbringing with a drug addicted mother and an abusive mostly absent father. The one bright spot in his life was his maternal grandfather, who showed Reid and Zane care and affection and made up for the lack of it from their parents. Reid could have gone to live with his grandfather permanently, but he chose to stay and take care of his mother. Though this eventually led to his involvement with men that turned him to a life of crime, it didn’t damage his essential goodness. It is this part of his character that Grace begins to see as she spends time with him. He takes care to keep his distance as much as possible unless it’s to protect her, and promises her that as soon as he can (meaning as soon as his revenge agenda is carried out) he’ll release her. Grace sees the kernel of truth in Reid’s eyes and knows she is safe with him.
Grace’s upbringing has been its own type of cage. It may not have been like Reid’s experience in prison, but her every movement has been tracked and her choices have not been her own. Even though she is socially awkward, she tries her best at public events, but has constantly felt like a disappointment to her parents. Her father’s term as president is coming to a close and he wants to run for re-election. For this, he wants Grace to get engaged to the man she’s been seeing (who only started dating her at her father’s behest), because it would be good for his campaign. But now she is Reid’s prisoner. Her attraction to him is inconvenient and unconscionable. She knows it’s a form of Stockholm Syndrome, their close proximity engendering in her a false sense of attraction and comfort in Reid’s presence. This is particularly the case when he lets down his guard and reveals some of his true character, that instilled by his grandfather. She is torn by her wish to escape and her wish for him to treat her like no one else has – as a desirable woman.
Reid and Grace’s attraction to each other eventually overtakes them both and there are some steamy and emotional scenes between them. Yet they both struggle to come to terms with their actions. Reid feels guilty for his attraction to a woman who is so far above him in station, not to mention the deplorable reality that she is his prisoner. Grace is initially embarrassed and ashamed of developing feelings for Reid. The story from this point proceeds somewhat predictably as Grace tries to figure out a way to ensure Reid won’t go to prison (if she’s ever rescued). Some of the decisions she makes are foolish, reacting with her heart and not her brain when circumstances arise where she can finally be in control. Things wrap up in a neat and tidy package that while appealing to the romance lover in me, come about too quickly, and the ending feels rushed. Despite this, Hell Breaks Loose is an enjoyable story that takes an impossible situation and makes a sexy romance out of it. Reid and Grace are the types of characters that prove there is more to someone than meets the eye and I’m satisfied with their happy ending.